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A new report by Hackwell Group forecasts continuing growth of the European wood plastic composites industry to almost 360,000 tonnes by 2015, which represents an average annual growth of 13%, but nevertheless a slowing in growth compared with the 2005-10 period, as a result of the continuing difficulties in European economies.
According to Hackewell, decking is the largest application area with 75% of (non-automotive output), but the arguments for using WPC in other exterior and interior applications are strong. Much of the predicted growth is still expected to be in construction applications, most of which will be extruded. They say that important end-uses within the construction sector, besides decking, include siding or cladding, fencing and window applications. Hackwell report that Germany, France and Belgium are amongst the most significant WPC producing countries in Europe and what these manufacturers anticipate most eagerly are other high-volume applications besides decking.
Hackwell explain that injection moulded products have been successfully used in diverse end uses including paper manufacturing applications and musical instruments, as well as vehicle and shoe parts, whilst various other processing technologies have been adopted in the automotive sector, which takes 30% of output. They say furniture components offer considerable potential for WPC in the medium term and a number of products have already been successfully marketed.
The study forecasts that diluting expensive resin with wood flour will become of increasing economic benefit. Furthermore, it says the end products are environmentally friendly, largely free from rot and do not need painting. They are also machinable like wood and have many practical advantages including competitive whole life costs.
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