In Part 1 of our annual MDF survey consultant Geoff Rhodes identifies new plants having opened in Turkey and more planned in Romania and Russia, as well as the US. Part 2 of the survey, covering countries outside Europe and North America, will be published in the August/September issue and will no doubt include mention of Greenply Industries’ new MDF plant in India. The 56m press is the longest Dieffenbacher continuous press in Asia.

We also report on plans by Estonian timber company AS Lemeks to establish a plywood plant and Green River Panels’ third particleboard line under construction in Thailand. Included in Green River’s decision to focus on particleboard was China’s reduced interest in MDF and particleboard’s potential in the furniture industry.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Norbord’s new OSB line is in production and ready to meet the continually rising demand for the product. The growth in demand is staggering: between 2000-2017 the European market grew by nearly 700% and in the past 10 years UK demand increased by 80%. Norbord attributes much of this growth to OSB’s substitution of plywood.

At the same time, Finnish Fibreboard is focusing on rebooting the UK’s interest in hardboard. Consumption is now about a quarter of the market peak but the company is confident of its potential and says it is already gaining market share from plywood in the vehicle lining sector.

There will always be competition between wood based panels in some markets and that spurs innovation. And that innovation is one of the reasons for panel products’ enduring – and increasing – appeal.

Our interview with Ed Elias, president of APA – the Engineered Wood Association, shows how agile the wood based panels industry has been in meeting, and even anticipating, changing and more sophisticated market demands.

This is also illustrated by companies such as Egger, whose latest décors and surfaces are the subject of our focus on surfacing. Egger’s range demonstrates how there is a wood based panel product for every need, from flooring to furniture – and that’s just in the domestic home.

It is this versatility that drives demand for wood based panels, and which will ensure their future. When we interviewed the UK Timber Trade Federation’s managing director, David Hopkins, he predicted that panel products would grow at a faster rate than solid wood, particularly because of their appeal for architects and designers. This, of course, will encourage manufacturers to continue their investment and expansion.

Finally, we would like to welcome the BioComposites Centre in Bangor, Wales which has taken over the Technically Speaking column. Each month a different scientist will write the column and we are grateful to them for sharing their knowledge.