At a time when many commentators were saying that the MDF boom in China was over and the future was in particleboard production, Asia Dekor decided to build a continuous particleboard line in Huizhou City, Guangdong province, in the south of china.

It was not the first company in China to venture into high-quality particleboard production using imported machinery.

Sanchazi Particleboard in Lu Shuihe, Jilin province, has a Metso Panelboard single-opening press line with a 92,000m3 annual capacity (WBPI April/May 2002, p26).

Furen has a Siempelkamp continuous press-equipped particleboard factory on the borders of Fujian and Jiangxi provinces (annual capacity 55,000m3) and another continuous line, this time from Metso Panelboard, in Fujian province. It also has a share in a Chinese-made multi-opening line in Fujian (WBPI issue 3, 2006, p20).

Dare Global built a Siempelkamp ContiRoll line in Sanming, Fujian, with a design capacity of 450,000m3/year – still the biggest in China – in 2006 (WBPI issue 3, 2006, p24).

Finally, Jilin Forestry Industry Co Ltd has a Metso Panelboard single-opening line in Fengxian Town, Xuzhou City, Jiangsu province with a 100,000m3 annual capacity (see p56 of this issue).

We first visited Asia Dekor’s Huizhou site in early 2005, when it was just that – a construction site in the early stages of erection (WBPI Aug/Sep 2005, p49) – and this year provided an opportunity to go back and see the completed project.

To briefly give some background to this company, Asia Dekor began life in the manufacture of laminate flooring, building its first factory in Shenzhen in 1995, also in Guangdong. It built a second factory in 2000, bringing its laminate flooring capacity to a total of 15 million m2.

The company then turned its attention to establishing its own supply of HDF base board for the flooring, starting up an HDF continuous production line, supplied by Dieffenbacher of Germany, in 2004 in Heyuan, Guangdong (WBPI April/May 2004, p20).

When the Huizhou particleboard project began, the then general manager, Mr Zhang Jian Yan, said that demand was there in the market and that the price of particleboard would in fact be better than that of MDF.

Today, it seems that optimism may have been ill-placed as the market has not proved to be that good and the price is currently well below that of MDF.

This seems surprising, given the lack of particleboard capacity in China generally. Or more specifically, the lack of anything like good quality particleboard, since most is produced from low-tech, old, Chinese-made lines and/or a lot of manual work.

“The price of particleboard is lower than MDF at present and the profit is lower than it was two years ago,” admitted the general manager of the completed line, Mr Jianyun Li, who joined Asia Dekor in 2000, coming from a steel construction company. “At present, MDF is still the panel which is mainly used for furniture production, but if the use of particleboard increases, so will the price.”

Asia Dekor’s line has certainly set new standards for quality, as one would expect since the line employs the latest European technology. However, demand apparently remains disappointing in a domestic furniture market still solidly wedded to using MDF.

Asia Dekor’s Huizhou line produced its first board on January 24, 2006, going into commercial production a creditable three months later.

Current capacity being achieved from the line is 20,000m3/month, thus comfortably exceeding the designed output of 200,000m3/year.

The wood for the line comes from within a 100km radius and mostly comprises small round wood such as branches (larger diameter logs go to the furniture industry).

Some clean ‘waste’ wood from furniture factories in the area is also utilised, making up about 20-30% of the whole supply. Sawmill residues account for another 15% or so, making fresh wood the major component at 50-60%. Pine and eucalyptus are the only species involved.

“We have no plans to utilise recycled wood – it is too difficult to obtain in China,” said Mr Li. “Anyway, there are many forestry companies planting trees in this area.”

Asia Dekor also has its own plantations in Huyuan, where its MDF/HDF line is located. It currently has 60mu (900ha) of eucalyptus and is expanding the area all the time.

Asia Dekor’s laminate flooring is very famous in China, according to Mr Li, and is sold under the brand name Power Dekor. This brand is shared with the Dare Global group, another large producer of MDF in China.

The particleboard produced in Huizhou is made in thicknesses from 9 to 30mm and in densities of 660 to 700kg/m3, depending on thickness. All production utilises urea formaldehyde resin, producing board to E1 emissions standard. Currently all production goes to furniture manufacturers in Guangdong province.

When the Huizhou factory was built, the local government planned that it would be part of an industrial area for furniture production, but that has still not materialised.

The Asia Dekor mill employs 280 people, most of whom live on the 228,000m2 site because Huizhou City is 27km away.

Wood preparation equipment and the dryer are reconditioned, purchased through Modul Systeme of Germany and originating from a mill in the UK.

A chip store for chips bought in from sawmills was under construction at the time of my visit in late March. The sawmills also supply low-grade waste wood for the energy plant, together with bark from Asia Dekor’s own supplies.

Raw material for production is separated in three bays – sawdust, chipped wood and recycled chips. Three conveyors run under the floor to take the material up to the vibrating sifters and wet silos.

There are two Klöckner chippers, which formed part of the Modul supply, together with three Maier flakers and two Pallmann refiners.

The energy plant comes from Vyncke of Belgium and the dryer is from Kvaerner (now part of Metso Panelboard), again via Modul Systeme.

There is one Lödige and one Imal glue blender, but the capacity is not sufficient so Asia Dekor is getting a larger-capacity one.

The former has two wind and one mechanical heads and was supplied by Dieffenbacher, which was responsible for the whole supply and installation contract for Asia Dekor.

A Cassell metal detector and an Imal mat spray precede the Dieffenbacher CPS continuous press, which is 20.1m long.

“The quality from the line is good, but I think we should have bought a longer press,” said Mr Li. “Maybe we will extend it at some time in the future.”

The press is followed by a 12-head GreCon thickness measurement/blow detection system and GreCon also supplied the spark detection/extinguishing systems throughout the factory.

There is a six-head Bison sander and an Anthon cut-to-size in-line saw installation produces mainly 1220x2440mm boards, with some 2600x2000mm and some 2440×1225 and 2440x1830mm panels.

Transport to storage at the end of the line is fully automated.

It is interesting to revisit a site which was just mud and a few steel frames two years ago and see a working production line turning out quality particleboard.

It would appear from discussions with several people in China that the furniture market is still not ready to accept particleboard in the same way as MDF. That maybe a result of years of supply of poor quality board from small family-run mills in the past, but one can’t help thinking that one day that attitude will change as more of these high-quality and higher-capacity mills come on stream.