Wood Polymer Composite (WPC) and its infiltration into Eastern European Markets
Wood Polymer Composite (WPC) has increased demand over the recent past due to benefits that these products possess. Countries such as the US have used these products over the last decade, but some countries are currently realizing the benefits that the products have in local markets. It is therefore very important to analyze the benefits that these products have over wood products and how they can be made available to countries that have realized their potential, especially those in Western Europe.
This paper aims at analyzing the manufacturing process of Wood polymer Composite, the history of the same products and the benefits and costs that such products have over wood. The paper will also analyze the level of demand that WPC products have in Western Europe, the available opportunities and the challenges of expanding these opportunities. Finally, the paper will give a brief conclusion on the subject and give a recommendation on the same. Table of Contents Abstract 1 Introduction. 2 History. 3 How WPC is manufactured. 3 Benefits of WPC. 4 Weaknesses. 5 WPC demand in Western Europe.
6 Growth in the use of WPC 8 Countries to be targeted. 8 Distribution 9 Challenges of expanding the use of WPC. 10 Conclusion and recommendation. 11 Works cited. 13 Introduction. The use of WPC products has increased in several countries and this can be traced to the benefits that such products possess. WPC products have several qualities that make them superior to wood, and this is the major reason that makes them popular in several markets. They are usually used in the construction industry, and some countries use these products for outdoor activities. These products are also very useful in the automobile industry.
It is important to understand the nature of the Wood Polymer Composite before analyzing it further . Wood Polymer Composite is a material that is manufactured through impregnation of wood with monomers, after which the resultant product undergoes polymerization. This enables the materials to be tailored to special needs, and this is necessitated by the resultant properties that such materials possess. These include enhanced mechanical characteristics and lightness, but these will be discussed at a later stage. WPC is used for a wide range of activities and these include automotive engineering, construction and building.
WPC is used for a wide range of activities such as outdoor floors, indoor furniture, fences, railings, park benches, landscaping timbers, door and window frames among others. History. Karpov is reportedly the first person who did research on WPC and he did this during 1960. Other researchers such as Meyer, Kent and Kenaga also conducted various researches on the prospects of producing WPC in various countries. These countries include Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, UK, South Africa and Denmark among other countries.
The use of atomic energy such as gamma radiation has been a major contributor to development of WPC. The expansion of petrochemical industry market policies has also been linked to the development of WPC. These materials are relatively new to the market, especially considering the long history that wood has been used. However, their superior qualities are increasing their demand by a variety of consumers. These qualities that the WPC materials possess will be discussed at a later stage, but can be broadly classified as aesthetic and usage qualities. How WPC is manufactured.
A palleted compound is fed through a gravity bunker into extruder. This mixture is heated until it melts to form a mass that flows uniformly in the extruder’s cylinder. There is a screw present inside the extruder and this presses the melt flow through the die’s slit. The extrusion process subsequently undergoes cooling with the use of a water tank. It is afterward pulled through water by a tractor to cool it . The sudden temperature change makes the extruded blank cool and shrink. the size of the final product is not only decided by the cooling but also by the traction speed.
The extruded blank is further pulled by the tractor at a uniform speed to the handling and cutting table. The cutter subsequently holds the extruded profile and cuts it to the desired length. Benefits of WPC. Consumers are increasingly choosing WPC over wood due to the many benefits that they possess, over wood. Although they cost more than wood, they have superior features that make consumers ignore the price and purchase them. The consumers ignore the price since they reason that the long term costs of maintaining wood materials will supersede the cost of purchasing the WPC. Some of the benefits of WPC will be discussed below.
One benefit of the use of WPC is that these products are weather resistant and moisture resistant. Another benefit is that these products have natural feel, longevity and dimensional stability. They are also more attractive than the natural wood, and this is the reason that they are used as finishes to various products. This makes them more popular than wood. They are also manufactured using various colors, which makes them attractive without the need for them o be painted. These products have also the ability to retain screws and nails for longer periods of time compared to wood.
WPC products, unlike wood, are immune to termite attacks. This is one major problem that many consumers of wood products complain about, since termite attacks render the wood weak. This necessitates the need to replace such wood, which is expensive. Since WPC is resistant to termite attacks, this makes it popular with consumers. WPC is more environmental friendly than wood, and this is because of the following reason. As has been discussed, WPC products require lesser maintenance compared to wood. This means that these products last longer than ordinary wood, which necessitates fewer cases of replacing them.
This translates to fewer trees being cut and hence is more friendly to the environment compared to wood. These products are also seen to be friendly to the environment as compared to wood, since they are mixed with other products during the manufacturing process. This means that the amount of wood used to manufacture these products is relatively less, and hence helps conserve the environment. WPC products are resistant to splitting and cracking. This feature makes them have the ability to be molded into various shapes and sizes, whether or not someone has the details on the wood grains.
This is one feature that is superior to that of wood, since wood is prone to splitting when being molded. They also possess cellulose that can be as high as 70%, which makes them have similar properties to wood . Weaknesses. When WPC is being manufactured, there are many elements that are added to improve the capabilities of these materials. Such materials include adhesives and polymers and these complicate the process of recycling these materials. WPC is considered to have many impurities that make the recycling process more difficult, which means that fewer WPC materials are recycled, as compared to wood.
This has a negative impact on the environment. Another weakness of WPC materials is that they are prone to staining due to the porous nature of such materials. These materials are porous and can be stained by some solvents, which might affect their beauty. The process of altering wood to a form where it can be used more effectively when finishing exposes some weaknesses. Since nitrocellulose polymers come into contact with organic solvents when carrying out the finishing operations, this makes organic solvents to be released in air before they dry. This presents a host of problems mainly to people who work around such environments.
One problem is the danger of explosion or flammability of the solvents. The other is the potential health problems to workers due to inhalation of the vapor. When the air is released into the atmosphere, it poses a problem to the neighboring community. This final stage also presents another challenge to producers and this involves the drying process. As has been stated earlier, during this process, some organic solvents are released to the atmosphere. This solvent is expensive and some producers are not willing to ‘waste’ it, thereby ignoring the process.
Dispersing the vapor and recycling materials, in order to acquire the solvents is energy intensive and costly. WPC demand in Western Europe. The demand for WPC has risen in Europe, and this was after the success of similar products in American markets. European producers have envied their American counterparts for many years and they currently have an opportunity to reap the benefits of WPC products. The demand for these products has increased mainly because of the fact that the high purchase cost is compensated by the low costs of maintenance. This makes the products cheaper in the long run.
Their durability is also another factor that has led to massive increase in demand of these products in Europe. According to the Hackwell group, the projected growth rate for WPC products in 2009 is expected to be close to 10%, which represents increase from 100,000 tonnes that were purchased in 1999, to approximately 144,000 tonnes. This is equivalent to approximately 290 million Euro. In 2004, Germany was producing approximately 5000 tonnes of WPC each year. In 2007, Europe produced approximately 100,000 tonnes of the same product, with Germany producing 20% of this total.
When these figures are compared to those of North America, it becomes clear that Europe is lagging in the consumption of WPC. North America produced over 700,000 tonnes in 2005 and by 2010, the production is widely expected to rise to 1. 6 million tonnes. Most producers are based in countries which consume WPC the most and these include France, UK and Germany. However, there is a growing trend where suppliers establish themselves in emerging markets for these products, and these markets include Italy, Sweden and Netherlands. Currently, the major European consumer of WPC, is the automobile industry.
Germany is among the highest European consumers and uses WPC for manufacture of vehicles such as BMW, Daimer Chrysler and Audi. These companies use between 7 and 10 kg for each vehicle, and WPC is used for car parts such as headliners, acoustic panels, interior panels, parcel shelves and seat panels. WPC especially convenient for these car parts due to its good strength, lower cost, ease in processing and light weight. In fact, estimates show that 90 million Euro has been used on research by automobile industry in Germany over the last decade.
The general automotive industry consumes over 50% of the total WPC consumed in Europe. This is a stark contrast with the worldwide consumption trends, which reveal that automobiles consume less than 7% of the total WPC consumed worldwide. This means that there is a lot of untapped potential for the WPC in Europe, since furniture and construction are among the major consumers of WPC worldwide. Growth in the use of WPC There is optimism that consumption of WPC will increase in Western Europe due to certain technical innovations that aim at reducing the inefficiencies of the current WPC products.
For instance, Austria’s Melamine International developed melamine resin which is one of a kind since it can be extruded. Its thermoset is created in such a way that it allows the use of wood flour and fiber mix of 70%. This mix improves on the weaknesses of the current WPCs that are thermoplastic based. Such weaknesses include lower levels of stability when exposed to high temperatures, and they are solved through combining the product performance, and processing behavior of this thermostat. Products created using this technology are reputed to have higher resistance to scratch as well as better mechanical properties.
In Netherlands, Holland Colours has produced natural colorants which are dust free which will be used in pigmenting WPC profiles. These additives allow faster color changes to be made, as well as reduce tear around the edges of such materials. Countries to be targeted. As has been discussed, there is a major potential for the use of WPC in Europe. Most economies are growing at a fast rate and there are increasingly new investments in most of the European countries. There has also been considerable growth in the real estate and automobile industry.
This necessitates the need to develop and use WPC materials in a majority of these countries. Russia is one country which has the potential to make a major investment in this sector. Going by the success of the WPC in the US, Russia has an opportunity to reap the benefits that have been enjoyed by the US for over a decade. Germany has been seen to have invested in WPC in its automobile industry. As has been discussed earlier, Germany is among the leading WPC consumers in Europe. However, the bulk of the investment is in the automobile industry.
This has been seen to go against the global trend where most of the consumption of WPC goes to construction sector. Germany therefore has a chance to increase consumption of WPC through diversifying its use beyond the automobile sector into other sectors of the economy. Another country that has the opportunity to take advantage of the use of WPC is France. France is one of the leading vehicle manufacturers and is also Germany’s largest trading partner. France therefore should invest in WPC through importing the technology from Germany through their trade agreements.
This will help improve the automobile industry, after which WPC will be used for other industries. This will not only create jobs, but will improve the overall utility derived by the consumers from these products. Distribution When undertaking distribution activities, it is imperative that there is a form of outsourcing for the minor services and operations. Outsourcing involves delegating the minor operations or activities that a company undertakes, to a third party so that the company can concentrate on its core duties and responsibilities.
In undertaking distribution, these countries should outsource the minor functions so that they are not distracted from their core activities. One service that the companies can outsource is the maintenance of the warehouse. Outsourcing this service will enable the vendors, who are professionals in this operation, to provide warehousing services for the products that have been produced or imported. This will increase efficiency and reduce costs since the company can now concentrate on its core business. The companies should distribute the products to the clients through retailers and wholesalers.
These are people who have high information an knowledge on the market since they are closer to the consumers. There should however be as few middlemen as possible in order to prevent the prices from rising. This is also done to prevent chances of the WPC products experiencing pilferage. When selling the products, the companies dealing in WPC product should use the correct forms of advertising so that they might capture a large number of clients. They may sell the WPC products under the theme ‘saving the environment’ and organize for support from the local environmentalists.
Some people might be against these products given the fact that these products still make use of trees, but as long as the products helps conserve the environment, even if it is one tree, the members of the public will identify with the product. Challenges of expanding the use of WPC. There are several challenges that face the use of WPC, which thereby hinder investment in this market. These challenges stem from the nature of the business and also the behavior of the investors. These challenges will be discussed below.
The first challenge is that some European manufacturers are hesitant to the use of WPC in manufacture of car parts since these materials go against the European Union’s directive of End of Life, when manufacturing products . The EU requires vehicles to be manufactured in such a way that once the life of a vehicle is over, 85% of it should be able to be recovered. Such vehicles have their parts recycled and metals extracted for the same purpose. However, in spite of the legislation, the growth of the use of WPC in automobiles is still expected to rise by about 4% each year.
European environmental groups also oppose the use of WPC in manufacture of various products due to the perception that it has contents which are toxic . Another reason given by the groups include the perception that the manufacturing process emits some fumes which negatively affect the environment. There are also very few WPC manufacturers in Western Europe, since most are not willing to take the risk and experiment with new products. In Western Europe, there are only about ten producers of WPC, yet there are more than fifty such producers in North America.
Most potential manufacturers are observing the market trends before fully investing in the trade. Financial analysts believe that by the end of the next three years, may producers will have invested in the trade, going by the current market demand. There needs to be incentives that encourage entry of new players in this industry . There are also challenges that are faced due to the rising costs of wood flour. This is one of the materials that are used in manufacturing WPC. According to senior managers in the wood industry, German prices for wood flour have increased by over 30% during the past year.
This has the effect of increasing the prices of the final product which will discourage consumers from purchasing them. It is important for the German government to regulate the prices of material used in this process, since WPC products have benefits that far outweigh the costs. Conclusion and recommendation. It is evident that WPC products play a very important role in conserving the environment . Not only do WPC products conserve the environment, they have many features that make them superior over wood. These have been discussed in the paper, and it clearly proves that WPC products are better than wood.
However, the fact that these products conserve the environment, this should be a major reason why people should embrace these products. This is because the environment is very important and it goes beyond the needs of the present generation. Environmental groups should come together and look for support in order to encourage people to use these products. It has also been seen that there is enormous potential that exists in Western Europe but is untapped due to many factors. Many producers are not willing to venture into an untested market, but they should observe the model that worked for the US government.
The US economic environment is relatively similar to the economies of most of the Western European countries. This should act as an incentive for the European countries to invest in the WPC product market . The European Union should consider changing the legislation that requires manufacturers to manufacture vehicles in such a way that 85% of it should be able to be recovered. This will enable the consumption of WPC by motor vehicle manufacturers from the current 10% to approximately 80% each year .
European governments also need to offer incentives to producers willing to invest in WPC products since this will encourage many investors to venture into this field. The benefits of this investment will not only be felt by these investors, but they will trickle down to the general population. In developing a distribution means, the companies that venture into this market should aim to reduce the costs of the products as much as possible. This is necessary especially considering the fact that this is a new product in the market and high prices will discourage consumers from purchasing it .
The reduction in price can be achieved through the reduction of middlemen in the distribution process as well as outsourcing some non-core activities to vendors. Finally, it is important for all stakeholders involved to realize that benefits of such a kind of investment will not only help the current generation, but will help the future generation. The current generation will benefit from economic growth, employment opportunities and improvement in the standards of living. On the other hand, the future generation will benefit from the conservation of the environment which will ensure their future survival.