Jiangsu Dongdun began its journey in the MDF industry at a time when it was a relatively new panel product in China, and one which the company’s founders felt had a bright future.

Unlike many of the major players in the nation’s panel industry, Dongdun did not start out in another, unrelated, industry or industries before building its first MDF mill but came straight in as an inexperienced operator.

That was 11 years ago and today the company has an annual production capacity approaching one million cubic metres. This is mainly MDF but also includes some particleboard lines.

Originally formed as a workers’ cooperative, Dongdun became a private company in 2003.

Its first MDF line, built in 1996, was supplied by Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co Ltd (SWPM) in 1996 and had a 10-opening hot press and an annual capacity of just 15,000m3.

Three years later, the larger line two was built, again for MDF, with a 16-opening press from the same supplier and a nameplate capacity of 60,000m3 a year.

Both these lines were built in Changshu City, Jiangsu province, where the group’s head office is still located.

In 2000, SWPM supplied another multi-opening press line for MDF, with 18 daylights and a nominal capacity of 60,000m3, as for line two.

Continuing its rapid growth, Dongdun added its fourth line the following year, choosing the same supplier and specification as for line three.

Lines three and four were located in Huaian City, Hongze County, Jiangsu province.

Up to now, the presses had been capable of producing only one panel per opening, per charge, but for line five, built in 2002, Dongdun chose a 16ftx4ft 15-daylight press – allowing two panels per charge – again from SWPM. This time the product was to be high-density fibreboard (HDF).

Located in Xuancheng City in Anhui province, this line was, for the first time, equipped with an Andritz refiner in place of the SWPM systems used in the first four lines.

This line was replicated in 2003 in Fengyang City, Anhui province, giving another 100,000m3 capacity.

Then the pace of development quickened again, with line seven being built in the same year in Huaiyin City, Anhui province. Again producing MDF, this line has an 18-opening SWPM press, an SWPM refiner, and an annual capacity of 60,000m3.

Unusually for the company, Dongdun’s eighth line came, in 2004, through the acquisition of an existing MDF line from the machinery manufacturer Sufoma, a rival of SWPM. This line has a 15-daylight 4ftx16ft press and annual capacity of 80,000m3. It is in Liyang City in Jiangsu.

So now the company had eight MDF/HDF lines with a combined nominal capacity of 505,000m3, but please note the word ‘nominal’ as we will return to those figures later.

Meanwhile, we are still in 2004 and Dongdun had not finished its investment with the acquisition of line eight.

Its ninth line was for the production of particleboard. With a 16-opening press purchased from Sufoma, debarker by Maier of Germany and dryer and boiler from M-E-C of the US, it was built in Huaian City, Hongze County, Jiangsu, as were lines three and four.

Barely pausing to draw breath it seems, Dongdun built line 10 in 2005, with a 4ftx16ft 15-opening press to make 100,000m3 of HDF. This line is in Fuyiang Town, Taihe County, Anhui province.

Also in 2005, the company made its first foray into value-adding by building not one but two laminate flooring lines, each with a capacity of two million m2 a year. These lines are located in Changshu and employ Sufoma equipment.

Coming back to that ‘nominal’ capacity for the MDF production lines, Mr Li You Yu, president of Jiangsu Dongdun and the man who has moved the company forward quite dramatically since he joined in 1998 – having previously been a manager in the plastic and electric motor industries – said the company had boosted the capacity of all of them.

“For all our multi-opening lines, our production quality is the leader in China. We have also increased the capacity of all our nominal 60,000m3 lines to 100,000m3. Thus lines two, three, four and seven have an additional capacity of 160,000m3 between them.

So our total capacity, when line 11 is running, will be nearly one million m3 [965,000m3].”

“What eleventh line?” I hear you ask. Under construction at the time of my visit in March this year was Dongdun’s first continuous production line, destined to produce thin board.

Supplied by Dieffenbacher of Germany, the line has a CPS press of 26.02m long and a width of 2.52m. Nominal annual capacity is 200,000m3. The line will be capable of producing thicknesses of 2 to 40mm but will mainly be employed for thinner board in the 2 to 5mm range.

“We aim to increase the capacity of that line by 35 to 40% as well,” said Mr Li, “But we do not want to add more than that as quality is more important to us than quantity and we want to be the best.

“Why do I think we can achieve this? Because we have a very good team which is one of the best in the wood based panels industry.”

Particleboard is also important to the Dongdun Group and in 2006, line one from 1996 was converted to produce particleboard instead of MDF. Its capacity was also increased, from 15,000 to 50,000m3 by adding a further four daylights to the 10-daylight SWPM press. All raw material for this line comes from residues from sawmills and furniture factories. Line nine still utilises small diameter roundwood for its particleboard production.

The company is currently utilising some ‘waste wood’ in much of its raw material supply. At present, for Dongdun, this mainly means small diameter wood such as branches, but for the future it is looking at a wider range of wood resources.

“Our goal is to use waste wood for our raw material. This will come from furniture factories, sawmill residues and recycled packaging wood. For instance, there are many breweries which still use wooden crates in which to pack their bottles,” said Mr Li You Yu.

“We will have to clean this wood of course and I think in future we will utilise other recycled wood, such as demolition timber and so on.”

The wood supply for each line is local to the factories in Anhui and Jiangsu provinces. “Previously, small diameter branches were just burnt by the farmer, but now they are actually encouraged to plant trees and they get a profit from the smaller diameter wood, so it is good for them and for us. Most farmers plant Italian poplar in Jiangsu and Anhui,” said Mr Li.

It appears the company has not finished its expansion plans yet either: “We have plans to buy a new particleboard line in the future,” said the president.

“We have bought our first continuous line from Dieffenbacher to increase the knowledge of our people and we will then have the know-how for when the particleboard market improves. When compared with MDF, the market for particleboard is lower than for MDF and is developing more slowly,” he admitted. “But we want to build a 200,000m3 a year particleboard line in Jiangsu province in the future, to use waste and recycled wood.”

The president also sees the two laminate flooring lines as a launching point for further investment in melamine facing or painting lines.

“There is a very big furniture market 40km from here in Suzhou City, which is the biggest furniture market in eastern China,” said Mr Li, by way of explanation.

Panels produced on line five are branded ‘Gaoli’, while those from lines three and four are labelled ‘Dong An’ and line eight’s production is sold as ‘Fu Hua’. The rest of the company’s production is branded as DongDun, including the laminate flooring. However, the company intends to consolidate under DongDun in the future.

“DongDun is a famous brand in Jiangsu province and after two or three years, it will be famous in all of China,” said Mr Li confidently.