Vanachai Group Public Company Ltd is headquartered in Bangkok, where it opened its impressive new office building, built in front of its old headquarters, in 2012.

This glass-fronted edifice has escalators from the car park to the reception area and on up to the fifth floor, in addition to lifts (elevators) serving all floors.

The company’s first composite panel production site was in Bangpakong, where there were two Siempelkamp single-opening particleboard lines, but these were subsequently sold outside Thailand.

In Suratthani province (the largest of Thailand’s southern provinces on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand) there are two particleboard lines under the name of Vanachai Panel Industries Co Ltd. The first was opened in 1998 and has a capacity of 1,000m3/day, while the second was started up in 2004 and can produce 1,500m3/day. Both are Siempelkamp ContiRoll continuous press lines.

There are also two MDF lines. The first, opened in 2006, produces 700m3/day, while the second started production in 2009, with 1,000m3/day capacity.

The first of these has a Metso (Formerly Küsters) continuous press, while the second also has a Küsters-type press bought from Metso of Sweden shortly before that technology was taken over by Siempelkamp, so the press effectively became a Siempelkamp continuous line.

At Chonburi in the east of Thailand, under Vanachai Group Public Co Ltd, there are two Küsters-type continuous press lines dating from 1989 and 1993, together producing around 900m3/day of MDF. There is also one doorskin line; and a Siempelkamp ContiRoll continuous particleboard line producing about 500m3/day. The ContiRoll line comes under Particle Planner Co Ltd.

At the company’s third site, in Saraburi in central Thailand, which again comes under Vanachai Group Public Co Ltd, there is a Siempelkamp ContiRoll MDF line which was originally built there by a state-owned company, Thai Plywood, about 15 years ago.

As of 2012, it also has a four-feet wide continuous press line from Dieffenbacher subsidiary Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co Ltd (SWPM) for making particleboard.

The Saraburi site has a laminate flooring production facility which has an older line from Torwegge that Vanachai bought from Asia Dekor and moved, first to its Chonburi site, and then to Saraburi when it added a new Homag line in 2012. Total laminate flooring capacity is six million m2/year. The company also has two foil laminating lines from Wemhöner – one is 6 x 8ft from Germany and the other is 4 x 16ft from Wemhöner’s factory in China.

All this, including the latest SWPM line, gives the group a total capacity of 1,140,000m3/year of particleboard and 900,000m3/year of MDF, said Phumsakdi Chullavullibha, assistant managing director of Vanachai Group.

Resin for all the Vanachai factories comes from Vanachai Chemical Industries Company Ltd, which is located in Rayong, about 180km from Bangkok, and was established in 1994.

It produces about 176,000 tons of urea formaldehyde resin per year as well as 28 million m2 of melamine impregnated paper, on a Vits of Germany impregnation line.

The latest production line
With its purchase of the SWPM line through Dieffenbacher, Vanachai became the first to buy a 4ft line in Asia outside China – and through Dieffenbacher.

"We only want to produce 4 x 8ft panels so we chose a four-foot-wide line," explained Mr Wanthana Jaroennawarat, managing director of Vanachai Group. "With this line, we don’t need a book saw, we just cut eight feet lengths off the four feet wide board."

Vanachai used its own experience to order much of the rest of the line separately, directly from suppliers it had used before.

As part of the main contract, Dieffenbacher supplied the forming head, from its Finnish factory, and SWPM supplied everything from after the former to the sanding line, including the Imeas sander from the Italian company’s factory in Suzhou.

The energy plant was purchased direct from Vyncke of Belgium as Vanachai has always used that supplier for all its lines.

"From the chipper to the glue blender, we ordered the equipment direct from the suppliers," said Mr Wanthana.

Thus the chipper came from Hombak, the flakers from Pallmann and the screening from Pal. All gluing, and the quality control equipment, came from Imal. Most conveying equipment was of local supply, except for the chain conveyors, which Vanachai bought direct from Trasmec of Italy. The dryer was again purchased direct by Vanachai, but from a local supplier.

Paying attention to safety, the company purchased all fire protection equipment for the press, and the whole production process, direct from Firefly.

The site at Saraburi, 100km from the centre of Bangkok, was purchased from Thai Plywood three or four years ago, together with the ContiRoll MDF line, and covers a total of about 300rai (48ha). The MDF and particleboard lines only account for about 100 rai each, so there is room for expansion on this site.

The SWPM ContiPlus continuous press is 38.5m long and of course 4ft wide, as already established.

Daily designed capacity of the press line is 800m3 and the line is contained within a purpose-built production building.

Small roundwood is fed into the chipper line by a static crane with a grab. Eucalyptus forms about 90% of the wood used, with the balance being mixed hardwoods, all from a radius of about 200km and delivered by road.

A vibrating conveyor from Carrier sorts the logs into order before they enter the Hombak chipper, which is also preceded by a Cassel metal detector to protect it.

There are three Pallmann flakers and flakes are then dried in the locally-supplied drum dryer.

There are three Pal screens to sort the flakes into surface and core layer material, which then passes to two separate silos.

The Imal glue kitchen and blenders are followed by the Dieffenbacher three-head Classiformer.

A Weko mat spray precedes the continuous press to dampen both top and bottom surfaces of the mat.

The press line has been built at ground level, although the control room is at first floor level.

There is an Imal-equipped laboratory, where all properties of the boards are carefully tested and recorded.

Unusually, the hydraulic and thermal oil system is located behind a screen wall at the side of the press hall, rather than being enclosed in a room with a roof.

After the continuous press, there is an Imal thickness/delamination detection system.

After cooling and sorting, the master panels are transported by fork lift truck to the Imeas sanding line. Thicknesses produced are 9 to 35mm and the master panel that comes off the end of the production line is between 1830 and 2750mm.

The first board was produced on this line in November 2012, with commercial production commencing in January 2013. The production is mostly for the domestic market, so is mainly E1 and E2; the Chonburi site offers E0 for special requirements.

The future
"We have 100 rai of land left at Saraburi and we will build at least one more line, in maybe two years’ time," said Mr Wanthana. "It will be either MDF or particleboard, according to the market at the time.

"The factory building for the four-footwide line is the same size as for an eightfoot, so there is also plenty of room in there."

The managing director added that the Thai market had been fairly stable for domestic furniture makers, but furniture for export had seen falling consumption.

"For that reason, we are running at about 70% capacity at present, but I think markets will improve after 2014," he said when interviewed in April 2013.

"There have been three big new MDF lines started up in Thailand in the last year, as well as Dong Wha’s line in Vietnam, and that was unfortunate timing," said Mr Wanthana.

"However, in two years’ time, the new ASEAN Economic Community should be established and that will give us a bigger market.

"Meanwhile we are looking at more downstream processing. We have a big capacity in panels now and should concentrate more on value-adding."

Melamine facing is the most likely route for Vanachai, he said. The company has a direct printing line from Bürkle which is around 10 years old, but it is only used for a small door production unit in the group.

"Direct printing is not popular in the South East Asian market – they prefer melamine faced board," he said.