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Wood composites are developing worldwide. The North American market has led the way on the subject, and continues to be very dynamic. These composites have very attractive intrinsic properties, and are powering their way to become an obvious choice. LESCO Technology’s products illustrate this perfectly.
(Published on June 2008 – JEC Magazine #41)
The Lesco company offers an innovative wood composite material obtained by combining recycled wood waste with polymer resins to produce a granular raw material, which can be further processed into a wood-grain finished product. The standard wood composite pellets are formulated for the manufacturing of home improvement products for both interior and exterior applications.
A pragmatic approach
Incorporated in 1999, Lesco is dedicated primarily to the R&D and supply of wood composite pellets to the international market. The company has a pellet-making factory, PT Espro Batam, in Batam, Indonesia, where it produces the wood composite pellets. Its headquarters, Lesco Technology Pte Ltd in Singapore, are ideally located in the Asia-Pacific region. It has also five profile extrusion factories located in Foshan, Zhuhai, Zhaoqing, Hangzhou and Wuhan, China, and plans to set up a profile extrusion factory in Batam, Indonesia, during the first quarter of 2008. Lesco exports to local countries and to China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Pakistan, South and West Africa and Russia. The profile extrusion factories sell their products in China, Australia, European countries, Middle East countries, etc. The company started out using wood scraps from the wood industry, and environmental concerns are never far from the managers’ minds. Today, the production lines benefit from a completely secure supply.
Lesco’s research engineers are constantly striving to develop new formulations to improve pellet quality and new product applications. Their objective is to enable their customers to offer a new alternative material to the consumers in the industry at a more competitive price. The company also “reaches out” to end users to inform them of the potential uses for their products.
With its state-of-the-art granulators and well-trained staff, the company is committed to delivering quality products to its customers on time. Further to the manufacture and supply of pellets, Lesco Technology offers consulting, training, and turnkey project services.
Lesco offers its products as immediate substitutes for timber and other related products. Using the same tools as for timber, the products can be nailed, screwed, stapled, painted, milled, mitred, glued, etc. They are insect and fungus resistant, and free from natural defects such as warps, cracks, or splits. Moreover, they are lightweight and require less maintenance and no finishing. Above all, enhanced properties such as fire retardancy, wear and tear resistance, and more, can be engineered into the finished product where necessary.
The company's products are also regarded as an alternative to current plastic products. They are extruded in a one-step process without paper foils or laminates. The unique production process makes a near zero-waste factor possible. The manufacturing technology offers an array of wood-grain finishes that conventional plastic products are unable to achieve. Most importantly, the products closely resemble natural wood while retaining the excellent characteristics of plastics. The warmth and feel of timber is an attractive feature. Compared to plastic products, Lesco’s composite material is UV stable, water resistant, recyclable, and highly thermally insulating, among others.
JEC Composites Magazine: What other markets besides the building & construction industry are you planning on developing?
HARRY DUAN: There is already a vast area for development in the building & construction industry, from internal panelling, flooring, and furniture to external cladding, blind shades, shutters, decking and garden accessories including garden fencing, door and window frames, etc. Other options we plan to develop are consumer items like telecommunication components, sanitary items, furniture parts, etc. The automatic industries are also an area that we are going to explore in the near future.
JCM: What are the trends in the wood composite market in the Asia-Pacific region?
H. D.: Wood plastic composite materials were introduced in the Asia-Pacific region in the 90s. Most WPC products came from North America. They belonged to the socalled first generation of WPC products. These products neither looked like wood nor had a wood grain appearance. They were widely used in structural applications. In the 21st century, WPC evolved to a second generation of products that look more like natural timber with a wood grain effect. Lesco products offer this unique surface finish that provides the warmth and feel of natural timber, which is their main attraction.
JCM: Which countries seem to hold potential for your business?
H. D.: We hope to make inroads into India and the Middle East countries in the Asia region. Otherwise, other countries on the African continent besides West and South Africa would be worth exploring, and Europe may also be a future prospect.
JCM: Are you planning on investing?
H. D.: We will be investing in new pelletizing equipment in 2008 to double our plant capacity and we hope to reach 10 times our present capacity by 2010.
JCM: R&D is a central element in your strategy. What are your current areas of research?
H. D.: Our pellets are currently formulated for the extrusion process. We are conducting research to formulate a material suitable for injection and pressing processes. Although our products have reached an acceptable standard in terms of weathering and colourfastness requirements, we are still constantly carrying out research and development to improve in these areas.
The products derived from standard formulated pellets feature a high level of mechanical performance with fasteners, and high tensile and flexural strength. Special properties such as fire retardancy and extreme mechanical performance may be compounded upon request.
A variety of applications
Using the proprietary extrusion process, the pellets can be transformed into various home improvement products. By the end of 2007, the company had launched some 300 different profiles to the market, such as DIY mouldings, Venetian-blind slats, door frames, window frames, cladding panels, deckings, flooring, etc. All pellets are manufactured under stringent quality control to achieve consistent specifications.
Depending on the desired end application, the pellets can be formulated to offer enhanced properties such as fire retardancy, UV stability, weathering resistance and high impact strength. The wood composite is engineered with superior qualities compared to timber and plastic products, and the physical appearance of the products is by far the most appealing feature in comparison with similar wood-grain products. In addition to the above attributes, the manufacture of Lesco products offers absolute versatility in terms of design, dimensions and shapes. Colours simulating the warmth and aesthetics of natural timber are also available.
Lesco profiles have been used in many landmark projects such as the Sydney Darling Harbour (Australia), the Macao Imperial Crown Hotel (Macao), the new Jiangwan Arts Centre in Shanghai (China), and the defence department building in the Democratic Republic of Yemen, among others.
In 2008, Lesco was appointed sole supplier of wood plastic composite products for the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games and secured several contracts, especially for the construction of the Beijing Olympics Athlete Activity Centre and Beijing Olympics Forest Park.