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The “simply housing” modular house construction kit offered by the British company Tech-Wood Int. Ltd., Kent is a completely new product made of wood-plastic composites. Tech-Wood has been using extruder technology from Cincinnati Extrusion (Vienna, Austria) for a number of years to produce the necessary profiles with about 75% fibre content. The technology is custom-made for this application.
(Published on February-March 2010 – JEC Magazine #55)
The market for wood-plastic composites (WPC) has been growing steadily in Europe since 2003, when for the first time it reached a sizeable production volume of 25,0000 metric tons (MT) per annum. By 2008, the annual production had risen to more than 70,000 MT, and experts are expecting further growth of around 20% per annum for the next few years.
A growing range of applications
The application potential for WPC products exists wherever high rigidity, resistance to environmental stress and weathering are required, as well as low maintenance requirements and a maximum service life. All of these aspects play an important part in the building industry. Tech-Wood had plenty of good reasons to develop a completely new concept for buildings. Its new modular system, called “simply housing”, allows the quick, easy construction of complete houses from WPC. The first houses, with a living area of 85 m² and an entry-level price of about €21,000, are currently under construction in Europe and the USA. To produce the building components, Tech-Wood relies on well-established formulas with a natural fibre content of about 75%. With the use of long fibres, a high rigidity between 6,000 and 7,000 MPa is achieved, which is a distinctive feature in comparison to WPC materials from competitors. Profiles for load-bearing parts receive additional reinforcement with metal or fibreglass inserts to counteract plastic flow and increase their rigidity to a maximum of 10,000-14,000 MPa.
A novel market approach
As a licensor, Tech-Wood sells its technology together with Cincinnati’s custom-made, counter-rotating twin-screw extruders to interested customers on an exclusive basis. The machine manufacturer and the WPC processing licensor have been collaborating since 2002, under a cooperation agreement that has proved highly beneficial for both sides. Thanks to its ample experience with WPC processing, Cincinnati has been able to continuously optimize its Fiberex machine series. Today, the five extruder models 38, 58, 80, 92 and 135 are available for outputs of up to 1,000 kg/h. Processing units and screw geometries specially designed for WPC technology ensure optimal product attributes. Modular metering and material feeding concepts allow the processing of raw materials prepared in different ways.
Optimized degassing systems for compounds with up to 85% natural fibre content have also been added to meet the special requirements of this booming material category.