When Medite Tricoya modified MDF was launched in England in 2011 it caused quite a stir.

The claims were big: here was a product opening up a whole new market for MDF – exterior applications based on its durability and stability credentials conferred in a fibre modification process. It was hailed as the biggest development in the panels sector for many years and would take on rival materials.

The product, branded Medite Tricoya Extreme Durable MDF, is a natural further development from Accoya modified solid wood – radiata pine – which is modified through a wood acetylation process which gives performance characteristics akin to the best tropical hardwoods.

Accoya was developed by London-based Accsys Technologies and is produced at its plant in Arnhem, in the Netherlands.

It was only going to be a matter of time before wood fibre/chips followed in solid wood’s footsteps and it was Medite, part of Coillte Panel Products (CPP) of Ireland, which secured an agreement with Tricoya Technologies Ltd – the modified wood fibre technology joint venture between petrochemicals giant INEOS and Accsys – to develop the acetylation technology in the panels sector.

The product was unveiled at the Timber Expo event in England in 2011, some two years ahead of schedule, with an agreement that saw Accsys supply acetylated wood elements from its Arnhem site to the Medite factory at Clonmel in Ireland for processing into Tricoya modified MDF panels.

The acetylation technology and product benefits have since been lauded by research bodies, distributors and customers alike and though Accsys hasn’t had a trouble-free time, due in part to high investment levels and the time taken to build the market and increase output at its Arnhem plant, demand levels for Accoya and Tricoya have been growing well.

One of Medite Tricoya Extreme MDF’s key quoted performance attributes is a 50-year guarantee against rot and decay when used externally. Typical applications in the building and construction industry include façade claddings, exterior trim applications, exterior doors, interior wet areas and outside furniture.

Tricoya demand growth
Since starting production of Medite Tricoya Extreme MDF three years ago, Coillte Panel Products has been manufacturing steadily increased volumes in order to develop various end-use markets.

"Medite Tricoya is growing in acceptance in many markets," an Accsys spokesperson told WBPI.

"The primary markets the product is selling in to date have been northern Europe and Scandinavia. We have also worked with a small number of other countries to realise some specific projects, such as theme parks in Japan, decking, combined with Accoya, in India and a large shop front project in the US.

"Where the primary focus has been to develop sales, there has been very good acceptance of Medite Tricoya Extreme’s unique characteristics," said the spokesperson.

"Its features and benefits: dimensional stability performance when compared with other wood and non-wood products; the long-term durability; reduced maintenance cycles; core material guarantee; design flexibility of an engineered fibreboard; and its environmental credentials have all served to help the product become accepted in a varied range of applications."

Accsys says sales of Tricoya MDF had met or surpassed expectations in all markets in which it had been launched, including the UK, Germany, Ireland and Holland, with customers willing to pay a significant premium over conventional MDF. In terms of producing the modified panels at Clonmel, Medite said it was not a straightforward process.

"An engineered wood panel from modified wood, which has had the cell structure changed, resulting in a wood chip with different physical properties, would be a significant challenge for any producer. CPP [Medite] has built its business on innovation, being one of the first to produce products such as Medite Exterior, Medite FR and Medite Ecologique (zero added formaldehyde board), so the task of producing Medite Tricoya Extreme has not been without its challenges," the company said.

Further investments
One of the next major steps for Medite will be to produce the modified raw material itself, rather than buy it in from Accsys’ Holland plant. It already has a licence to build such a plant with a capacity of an initial 30,000 tonnes/year – enough to make 42,000m3 of Medite Tricoya.

Medite has secured exclusive rights to market Tricoya MDF in Ireland, Holland and the UK, with non-exclusive rights to sell the finished product and the Tricoya fibre in other territories. Accsys is likely to provide significant and increasing volumes of Tricoya fibre during the new plant’s start-up period to support Medite’s market development and enable Medite to provide seeding material for other prospective licensees in different regions.

Not much information has been forthcoming about what stage the new plant plans are at, but an Accsys spokesperson did tell WBPI that development work was at an "advanced stage".

"CPP and TTL are working closely together to reach the point where a dedicated facility to produce Tricoya elements can be realised."

At the moment, the CPP Medite plant remains the sole producer of Tricoya modified wood panels, but that could change in the next few years.

As TTL’s joint development partner for Tricoya, CPP has an agreement to realise the opportunities for an acetylated wood fibreboard, part of which allows for the product to be manufactured and supplied to future potential licensees of the proprietary technology, of which Masisa in South America is one.

Masisa recently announced it would launch Masisa Tricoya Super MDF throughout Latin America, following an extended licence option agreed with TTL.

Masisa is carrying out evaluation of Tricoya, including market testing, production testing and development of end-products.

The licence extension option agreement grants Masisa exclusive production and distribution rights for Tricoya for the Latin American market, excluding Brazil, for which the sales and marketing rights are nonexclusive.

During the evaluation phase, the Tricoya product will be supplied to Masisa by Medite, with a supply agreement already agreed.

"The licence option with Masisa is a significant milestone for our company, confirming that Tricoya technology has genuine global appeal," said Pierre Lasson, TTL general manager. "This will act as a platform for further worldwide market penetration of our cutting edge technology."

"Innovation is one of Masisa’s strategic axes", said Alfredo Gili, corporate manager of Masisa’s new product development department. "It is because of this that we are constantly looking for exclusive and innovative products, which translates into an integral value offer to our customers by means of a wide range of products. In this sense, we are very happy about this alliance with Tricoya and certainly we will surprise our customers in Latin America."

Masisa has industrial facilities in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico, as well as commercial operations in over 40 countries. Its main panel products are medium density particleboard (MDP), MDF and melamine boards.

Research and development
During the development stages of Medite Tricoya Extreme, significant trials were undertaken with a number of independent third party assessors. The work was coordinated by the UK’s Building Research Establishment (BRE), with testing carried out by the WKI Institute in Germany and SP Wood Technology in Sweden to name a few.

The independent testing by BRE indicated an expected service life of 60 Years for exterior use for Medite Tricoya Extreme, with the product achieving durability Class 1 under EN 350-2, which is equivalent to teak and more durable than oak.

SP Wood Technology demonstrated the product’s ability to resist wood-destroying basidiomycetes (white and brown rot), while British Board of Agrément (BBA) assessment concluded that Medite Tricoya Extreme is suitable for internal and external nonstructural applications

More recent work has been carried out in Australia to determine the product’s resistance to termites, with good results.

Meanwhile, a number of different accelerated weathering tests by coatings companies around Europe have found that their coatings last longer when applied to Tricoya compared to conventional wood products.

Furthermore, work has been carried out to test a variety of other coating finishes, including laminating with various overlays (vinyl, melamine impregnated paper, electronic-beam-cured overlays, wood veneers and various metals). Good results are also reported for direct surface printing.

Early acceptance has been gained in applications such as high-end exterior doors, windows and joinery (often combined with Accoya modified wood), roofline products (fascias & soffits), cladding (both flat façade and profiled), shop fronts, signage and garden products.

"We see significant potential for this new and exciting product, which we believe can be used in almost all exterior environments and also extreme interior environments," said Accsys.

"Our focus has been, and continues to be on the identification and development of new applications."