US chemistry-based company Arclin and UK wood panels processor Trade Fabrication Systems (TFS) have come together in in a partnership that could see interesting possibilities in added-value panel products.

Arclin, well-known in the composite wood panels sector for its resins and overlays, acquired TFS on 10th November 2023.

The US company is a giant, with 12 sites across North America and an extensive portfolio of polymer technologies and engineered products for numerous industrial applications including building products, agriculture, transportation infrastructure, weather and fire protection and other industries.

In contrast, TFS, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2023, is a small panel processor with a main site in Warrington, England, and a facility in Scotland. It specialises in processing coated and laminated wood-based panel products and has approximately 50 employees.

The acquisition of TFS marks Arclin’s entrance into the panel laminating and spray coating sector, in addition to other assets key to providing finished products.

Arclin said the move was a key part of its strategy to expand its presence internationally into new regions while also diversifying its product offerings into markets that are related to its core surfacing competencies.

“TFS provides new products and capabilities to Arclin, both in Europe and in North America, thereby supporting and strengthening Arclin’s objective of getting closer to the end consumer while being a key partner in executing Arclin’s growth and innovation initiatives,” said Matt Pogue, Arclin’s president of engineered building solutions.


“We add value to panels,” said TFS managing director Howard Morris.

“We don’t buy and sell substrate, we add value to other people’s substrates and our raison d’etre is we always looking for new opportunities.”

TFS’ range of services include applying films, foils and coatings, as well material bonding and machining/processing services.

One of the key potential growth targets TFS sees with Arclin is the TFS OSB paper overlay product as a way of upgrading OSB.

“I know OSB producers are always looking at what else they can do to further the product as a plywood substitute,” explained Mr Morris.

“One of the downsides of OSB is the face quality so you either have to face it with something or coat it.”

It started R&D on this about five years ago. The pandemic interrupted the work, but it is now firmly progressing with the product.

After a conversation with Arclin about the product, TFS met up with the Arclin team at the IWF exhibition in August 2022 to discuss various business options, including a possible joint venture, with TFS making various US patent applications for products.

Ultimately, conversations progressed towards acquisition.

“Synergy-wide as a business it was ideal for us,” added Mr Morris.

“They’re looking for more traction for the type of products they’ve got and to understand the market by being involved more directly with an applicator like us. Our process potentially opens up a much bigger opportunity.

“We are flexible and can do different things – it may be putting a facing on high quality plywood for speaker cabinets or coffins. They see synergy with what we have technology wise and our knowledge of the industry and European connections because of my connections in the panel board industry.”

TFS has a good relationship with West Fraser and would like to further that in the latter’s Canadian and US operations, as well as with other market players.

“For us it also secures our future. We are in a recessionary period and our shareholders are of a certain age where they’re looking at future paths for the business.”

After celebrating 25 years of business in 2023, TFS enters 2024 with 50 staff spread between Warrington and Cowie, the latter an asset based at West Fraser doing the panel producer’s peel-off particleboard sub flooring products.

“We have been through the ups and downs of recessions, the pandemic and kept our business model and reputation.”

The takeover by Arclin also marked Howard’s son – general manager Adam Morris –becoming a director of the business, with the plan to succeed Howard as MD.

Adam has been with the business since the age of 16.

“I was doing more and more in the general running of the business with Howard, as well as throwing my hands into factory operations,” said Adam.

“I was doing 10-11 hours a day in the factory and office during the pandemic. The first day I was made general manger I was fixing a machine and covered in dust!”

Despite being a small company (TFS has an annual turnover of about £7m), Mr Morris says Arclin sees TFS as the tip of the spear for its European expansion and also making further inroads with its US customers.

“The five-year plan is to double or treble, even quadruple what we are doing now.

We see major opportunities and that is different revenue streams, maybe franchise agreements. Arclin wants the trading name of TFS to remain, so in the US or across Europe it will be TFS Ltd under the Arclin banner.

“They are basically saying we are going to give you the resources that you probably didn’t have before, and we have a bigger organisation in terms of manpower and R&D. So, we’re expected to grab hold of it now and the plan is to grow. We have had strategic meetings in Europe already.”

Mr Morris said paper faced OSB products were still in their infancy.

Typical applications are integrated vapour barrier OSB panels for the timber frame market, or site hoarding products. “It looks a bit like MDF and is a lovely flat panel.”

“So, there’s exciting growth potential. Now I have the US patents, TFS Ltd will be at the IBS show in Las Vegas in Feb promoting peel-clean technology. Mr Morris said TFS’s existing peel-clean product – a water resistant film applied to panels to protect their integrity during construction work.

“We will be at the forefront of the Arclin booth at the show. The timber frame market in the US is one of the big targets, but so is the general panel market for OSB – used for shelving and site hoarding for instance. The US market is still in its infancy for these products.

“OSB gets saturated on building sites, but for a few dollars, protected panels will save them time and money. This same pitch we used 30 years ago in the UK market is going to be the same sales pitch to the US and Canadian market. There are problems with plywood products over there as well.”

“They have so many costs associated with poorly laid floors and swelling joints and a tendency to overboard floors with materials,” added Adam.

“There’s a whole market sector built around the cost of poorly laid floors rather than doing it simply and properly in the first place.”


Talking about current market dynamics, Mr Morris reports a mixed picture.

He said UK house prices in some areas had increased and interest rates had probably reached a peak. Shares in housebuilders had also remained stable.

“I don’t think there’s as much negativity about as we thought there might be, you see good footfall in shops and restaurants. I am quite optimistic we will see some growth after Easter, but maybe not massive.

“Everything has never been as bad as they’ve told us, we read that we’re the worst country [economically] one week then the next week we’re the best, so it’s easy to be cynical.

“I don’t think we are going to be diving into deep recession in 2023. Personally I think it has bottomed out.”

Adam is also positive and says the TFS staff are excited about the future business potential under Arclin’s new ownership.

“We’ve never been a business that sits still,” he said.

“We’ve always been developing, moving forward and trying to build. A lot of the staff have been with us a long time. For them it’s business as usual but the benefits of the size and scale of the opportunity is enormous.”

Adam said that TFS had overcome many hurdles, including periods like the 2007- 08 financial crisis when it had one major client, one major product and one sector – housebuilding.

“We never did wood machining originally, but we became a one-stop shop for the industry out of needs and necessities.”

TFS now has a multitude of business services.

Mr Morris said the acquisition would ultimately lead to moving to bigger premises and more equipment. “It’s good timing.