The long history of the former STA wood processing complex in Hat Yai has been well-documented in this magazine over the past 10 years or more.   Last year we introduced readers to the new building erected for Panel Plus’ planned new decor paper impregnation line (WBPI issue 1, 2007, p24) and in late 2007, we returned to see the building finished and the new sate-of-the-art Vits line in full production.   The impressive glass-fronted building required over 600 piles to be sunk to support its 96x42m steel-framed structure, which has space – and the foundations – for a second impregnation line at a later date, should the company wish to make that investment.

The construction took about six months including the piling, which sounds quite quick.   “Panel Plus has five short-cycle press lines in total – two in each particleboard factory here [the company has two separate factories on the massive Hat Yai site] and one in Bangkok,” said Ms Amporn Kanjanakumnerd, managing director of Panel Plus when I visited the factory last December.   “We have the biggest laminating capacity in South East Asia I think and having our own impregnating line will help us with quality control.”   The company has over 200 colours/patterns of decor paper in stock and in production for its clients.   The first sheet of laminated paper left the new production line on January 15th, 2007 and commercial production commenced in March.   Capacity of the line is 25 million m2 a year and the company was still ramping up to that level in December.   Vits of Germany installed the impregnation line in the purpose-built factory and also supervised the start-up of the line, with technical assistance from a consultant from Europe.   Panel Plus also hired a German specialist who is an expert in impregnation technology to assist in ramping up production and in quality control matters.   “We really put our hearts into this project in order to achieve the ‘Panel Plus spirit’,” said Ms Amporn. “We promise to add value in everything we do.”   In December, the line was running at 32m/minute, but the designed capacity – and the target for Panel Plus – is 40m/minute, depending of course on the type of paper being treated.   The line is 60.5m long and can impregnate 4ft- or 6ft-wide paper, with the maximum line width being 1.9m.   There are eight drying chambers arranged in two banks – one of three and the other of five units.   The decor paper is all supplied by European makers and printers such as Technocell, Schattdecor, Interprint and Munksjö, while resin for impregnation comes from the Dynea factory on the Hat Yai site, or from Dynea’s factories in Malaysia and Singapore.   The whole impregnation line building has an air conditioned, controlled atmosphere, with separate air conditioning for the raw paper store. The whole building is maintained with positive air pressure to prevent the humid tropical outside air from entering when the doors are opened.   “It is necessary for us to have our own impregnation lines to cope with the high capacity demand of our own short-cycle lines. This is how we integrated our value chain to bring great benefit to the customer,” said Ms Amporn. “With this facility, we are able to offer a wider design range, higher flexibility and better quality products and services.”   The new impregnation line building also has office accommodation for the production and administration staff – and a fully-equipped laboratory, where all incoming materials are tested and the resin formulations are decided.   Other changes at Hat Yai The new impregnation line is not the only new thing to see at Panel Plus’ site here as it continues to improve and upgrade its facilities.   In the past year, the company has added mat spraying before the press, as well as blow detectors after the press, to both Siempelkamp ContiRoll particleboard production lines. The supplier for all this equipment was Imal of Italy.   In another move to increase efficiency, Panel Plus has changed the ABS oil and dust burners to Körting equipment to burn 100% dust.   Another project under way at the time of our visit in 2006 was the restoration of the Vyncke energy plant.   This is now complete and the plant is completely under cover. The wood chip infeed has been modified and all the electronic controls upgraded.   Meanwhile the capacity of this plant has been raised from 3.5Gcal to 6.0Gcal to enable the line 2 particleboard press to be run at full capacity.   In another move not directly associated with production, the company has completed the construction of 11 management accommodation units in a landscaped area of the site and these now offer family homes to some of the managerial staff.   It is good to see the old STA site, reduced to a near-standstill by that company’s financial woes, coming alive again with both the original particleboard lines running full-tilt again, everything upgraded and now the new impregnation line in operation in its grand new building. The future once more looks bright for the Hat Yai complex.