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Nova-Institut and sponsors Reifenhäuser, Werzalit, STAEDTLER and BASF welcomed over 300 participants from 21 countries and 30 exhibitors to the 4th German WPC Congress held in Cologne on the 13th and 14th December 2011.
According to Nova, the European market for Wood Plastic Composites (WPCs) has been growing at an average annual rate of 35% since 2005. They say that given the current levels of investment in expanding production and growing interest from both trade and consumers, the industry is optimistic about the future and expects continued two-figure growth over the next few years.
Nova say that in 2010, roughly 220,000 tonnes of WPCs were produced in Europe and also sold in Europe, of which about 50,000 tonnes were used in the automobile industry and 167,000 tonnes in the area of terrace flooring, fencing and cladding. More and more WPC materials are being used for furniture and office and home utensils (cutlery, compost bins, toothbrushes, etc.), along with small technical parts and casings. Altogether, however, the 2010 sales volume of these items is likely to remain below 5,000 tonnes.
Nova explains that further substantial growth is expected in every sector in the coming years. WPCs are predominantly used in applications that emphasise product characteristics such as great rigidity and low shrinkage (compared to pure plastics) and better durability and mouldability (than pure wood products). However, they say that as prices for plastics rise, it is only a matter of a few years before WPC pellets are cheaper than pure plastic pellets (they are presently 20-30% more expensive) and can then conquer mass markets.
The ‘WPC Innovation Prize’, which was sponsored by BASF Color Solution Germany, is in its third year of existence, was eagerly awaited. Nova explains that the congress’s advisory board drew up a short list of six innovations, which the respective firms presented to participants through a short lecture and other elements in the exhibition hall. The audience then voted for their favourites; Evonik, Möller and Werzalit.
1st place went to Evonik Industries for their PLEXIGLAS Wood PMMA-wood composite. Carlo Schütz from Evonik Industries explains that, in cooperation with Reifenhäuser, they developed a pure PMMA-wood composite that could be used to produce directly extruded profiles. Evonik says that the new material ‘takes WPCs to a whole new level in terms of weather resistance, colour stability, dimensional stability and technical strength’. Evonik say they have not yet decided whether to start producing decking made from PLEXIGLAS Wood itself or to do it by licensing.
2nd place went to Möller & Co. KG for their WPC noise protection profile. Michael Mette of Möller was placed second for their WPC noise protection profile. They explain the new product was a result of a joint project involving the Cracow Academy of Mining and Metallurgy, the University of Bydgoszcz and Möller-Polska. According to Möller, the WPC profile components are weather- and salt-resistant, and their simple plug-on system with profile widths of up to 6 metres saves on-site assembly work. They say the inner damping performance of the WPC material has been put to good use and combined with a specially developed surface design that scatters sound and the noise insulation system is suitable for soundproofing streets and industrial installations.
3rd place went to Werzalit Process technology for in-mould coating of injection-moulded WPC parts. Jörg Golombek of Werzalit explains that they were delighted to come 3rd in the joint project with Hummel-Formen, Reholz and the Verein zur Förderung der Kunststofftechnologie in Paderborn. He explains that together they developed a process technology for the single-step, in-mould decoration and backing of genuine wood veneer. He says that using this method it is possible to apply a genuine wood veneer to large, 3D heavily warped contours in one single step. The WPC material offers properties such as low shrinking and warping, and the company was able fully to exploit these technological advantages.
Nova explain that the Innovation Prize was awarded during an evening ceremony before the gala buffet dinner. Werner Tschersich, Managing Director of BASF Color Solutions GmbH, showed his enthusiasm during the prize-giving ceremony “We are very honoured to sponsor this year’s Innovation Prize. We are heavily involved in WPCs and are delighted to have been able to contribute to this congress.”
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