Wood Polymer Composites
Wood Polymer Composite (WPC) is a composite material made of polymer and wood. It is used for wide range of applications in the market especially in outdoor deck floors, railings, fences, landscaping timbers, cladding and siding, park benches, molding and trim, window and door frames, and indoor furniture. It is resistant to cracking, splitting, moisture and weather; and is relatively stronger than traditional lumber. It can also be made fire proof, termite proof and resistant to bacteria. It is relatively cheaper than traditional wood alternatives thus giving it a competitive edge in the market. Manufacturers also claim that WPC is more environmentally friendly and requires less maintenance than the alternatives of solid wood treated with preservatives or solid wood of rot-resistant species. Furthermore recycled wood/plastic composite lumber is one of the prime uses for recycled plastic trash bags and waste wood fibers. Thus WPC can prove to be good alternative for traditional lumber and reduce the load on fast depleting natural wood resources.
Wood has been used by plastic industry as an inexpensive filler to increase stiffness and strength of thermoplastics and to reduce the cost of raw materials but wood plastic composites (WPC) are a relatively new material group that presently is developing dynamically worldwide with large growth rates. The average product, depending upon the requirements of strength, carries about 20-40% wood, generally in particulate form, such as wood flour or very short fibers. The polymers for WPC may be either PS, PE, PP or PVC depending upon the application. WPCs represent one of the rapidly growing markets within the plastics industry. Double-digit growth is expected through 2011 for WPCs used as replacement for treated wood in building products and related applications.
The demand for WPC has shown a rapid growth in the recent years as more and more manufacturers are producing goods based on WPC. The production of WPC in North America in 2000 was 135,000 tons which grew up to 700,000 tons in 2005. According to a report by Freedonia, demand for wood-plastic composite and plastic lumber is projected to advance about 10% per annum through 2011 to $5.4 billion.
The technology for setting up the manufacturing facility may be sourced from China at a competitive price. The machines used for the manufacturing are of basically extruders and can manufacture a wide variety of WPC profiles, solid/hollow/foam filled sheets and pellets/granules depending upon the demand in the market. The basic production lines will cost approximately $350,000 in addition to the cost of moulds. The price of land and building may vary depending upon the location.
Presently, in Pakistan there are no producers of WPC and with the relative cost of the material, it can safely be said that the Pakistani producers of furniture, fixtures and other building products will be interested in using this low-cost but more durable alternative. Furthermore, another advantage is the availability of raw materials locally. The two basic raw materials required are wood (the traditional choice) and polymer, both being produced in Pakistan. Such an initiative will not only give a comparative edge to the producer in the local market but also an opportunity to capitalize upon export potential created by the increase in demand internationally.