Some 200km from Shanghai, Danyang is a city of around 800,000 people, located in Jiangsu province, and is famous for spectacle manufacture, but it is also unusual in having two MDF factories with European-made production equipment.
The first to be established was called Danhua and was built by a chemical manufacturing business of the same name, which still has a large production site in the city.
The MDF factory, which produced its first board in 1995, could claim two ‘firsts’ at that time. It was the first continuous press to come into operation in China and the first MDF mill in China to be equipped with a Siempelkamp ContiRoll continuous press. At the time of start-up, the design capacity of the line was 180m3 per day.
Since Kronospan took control of the company in 2003 that output has been increased to around 250m3 per day on average. This was achieved by increasing the efficiency of the line using the experience of the Kronospan group in MDF production on continuous press lines. The company was renamed Jiangsu Kronoshuangfeng, which translates to Krono Double Phoenix.
The second European-equipped mill is Dare Global’s.
While the length of the Kronoshuangfeng press remains unchanged from its original 12.5m, (maximum width 2.5m), a flexible infeed was added in 2004.
The line is capable of making thicknesses from 3mm to 18mm, and has produced boards up to 22mm, but its main purpose today is producing 7mm and 8mm HDF with a density of up to 900kg/m3 for laminate flooring, which is also made at Danyang as a moisture resistant board.
Another speciality of the company is 4.5mm thick HDF for the manufacture of shoe heels – a specialised product of Kronoshuangfeng whose precise formulation is a closely guarded secret.
Thin MDF is also produced for sale to producers of doorskins and cupboard backs for furniture, as well as thicker board for China’s burgeoning furniture industry, which is fuelled by strong domestic demand and substantial exports.
The vast majority of production is to the E1 formaldehyde emission standard.
The raw material for the factory is composed of small pine and poplar logs (thinnings) and branches, from managed plantations. It arrives by barge on the Nanjing to Beijing canal and is off-loaded at the factory’s own quay, equipped with several cranes.
Considering the factory was formerly owned by a chemical company, it is perhaps not surprising to find it has its own resin production facility, making melamine urea formaldehyde (MUF) glues in five reactors.
The debarker was part of the original Siempelkamp supply package, while the existing Pallmann chipper is soon to be replaced by a new Klöckner unit originally purchased for Kronospan’s other Chinese MDF mill, Beijing Sinhua, in China’s capital city, but never used there.
Chipping at Danyang is carried out on a just-in-time basis so there are no piles of chips in the yard; clean chips are vital to the company’s quality targets.
The energy plant is fuelled by bark, sander dust, production waste and coal and drives the two boilers.
The refiner is a 42in Andritz unit.
The glue kitchen and the whole resination system was supplied by Imal of Italy and forming is by CMC Texpan, also of Italy and part of the Siempelkamp group. Pre-press, ContiRoll and handling systems are by Siempelkamp, while the stainless steel belts for the press are by Berndorf Band.
An Elmed metal detector is located after the pre-press.
The control room has a mixture of the original synoptic control panels and real time graphics.
After cooling, boards are conditioned for a minimum of three days before sanding in the six-head Steinemann line.
However, as you would expect with a Kronospan factory, raw board is not the end of the story at Danyang.
The factory has a Wemhöner 4ft x 16ft short-cycle press which presses two 4ft x 8ft boards per charge and is equipped with a four-station automatic lay-up system.
There are also two brand new (in March this year) Lutong Machinery Factory shortcycle presses which are each 8ft x 4ft with manual lay-up. The company says this manual lay-up means these presses are ideal for in-register embossed effects.
Printed papers come from some Chinese suppliers as well as Interprint and Schattdecor, both of whom have printing works in China. They arrive as impregnated papers and some come from the Beijing Sinhua factory which recently installed a second Vits paper impregnation line.
The laminated panels produced on these three lines are destined for Kronoshuangfeng’s own laminate flooring production facility, utilising a Torwegge double-end tenoning system to tongue and groove all four edges with a special profile.
Kronospan has made a commitment to its Chinese business and has great plans for its Danyang facility. The company has bought an area of land adjacent to the existing site which will roughly quadruple its current area and will take its property right up to the quay. A railway spur is planned soon to come alongside the river. The new site area has already been cleared but a final decision on what production facilities will be built has not yet been made.
The important thing in the Chinese MDF market, if you want to be profitable, is to ensure a high quality of production. The man responsible for this at Danyang is Kronospan’s Eugen Kohler, who has long experience in the panel industry in both machinery supply and panel manufacturing.
“Maintenance is very important, especially for the motors and gearboxes,he says. “We maintain them as you would aircraft engines.”
Kronospan has built up quite an impressive presence in the Chinese market. It not only has two MDF factories, but also has a 70% stake in China’s biggest supplier of machinery to the panel industry, Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co.
Many people are talking of an imminent slow-down in the recent dramatic growth of the Chinese MDF manufacturing industry. They also talk of MDF taking second place to new particleboard lines in the near future.
However, demand for MDF remains strong while that for particleboard remains generally depressed.
True, there are far fewer enquiries for new continuous MDF lines currently, but this could only be an adjustment period.
What is certainly true is that the quality demands of the end-users are increasing, especially if they are exporting their production of furniture or laminate flooring. But the Chinese consumer is also becoming more sophisticated and quality conscious as home ownership rises.
That is why Kronospan says it is confident of the success of its Chinese businesses. The company can bring European know how in terms of high-quality production and it also knows how to make that quality economically, while using European equipment tried and tested in its many other mills.
It seems likely that those long-established Chinese MDF producers, using older, small capacity locally-made lines, are the ones who may have to quit the market – sooner rather than later.