Moderator Ian de la Roche, Forintek Canada Corp said, "The veneer industry has evolved into the most important component of the wood products industry. We’ve seen veneer used as a substitute to launch other products." The 40 presentations were moderated by James Shaw, Tom Williamson, Jim Dangerfield, Christian Blyt, Rémy Marchal, Paul Jaelrich, Shigehiko Suzuki, James Funck, Patrick Dronsky, Robert M Khudson, and Rick Massey.
 Softwood plywood challenged
Tom Williamson, vice president, APA, warned, "The major challenge facing softwood plywood is to develop markets that will ensure the longevity of this 100-year-old industry. While production peaked at almost 20 billion ft2 in 2000, the growth of OSB in the past decade has severely impacted the plywood industry. There has been a significant growth in imports, particularly from South America. He said LVL growth has been primarily in beam and header applications. Wall sheathing is a big growth market. Raised wood floors are performing better in floods; he said Louisiana builders all favoured plywood in storm rebuilding. Repair and remodelling is a steady market for plywood. Non-residential is a growth opportunity.
He said the pallet market opportunity is phenomenal, "But it’s a tough nut to crack". Competition is from plastic. He said a plywood pallet can last for years, but lumber pallet life is as short as one month. However, he predicted industrial uses as key to the future of plywood. Mr Williamson predicted that softwood plywood production will continue to decline to approximately 15.5 billion ft2 by the end of the decade with plant closures inevitable as OSB production grows by almost 9 billion ft2 by 2010. Also, he said the North American plywood industry is "facing unprecedented threats" from imported plywood. "On the other hand, the North American LVL industry is projected to expand to almost 140 million ft3 by 2010." However, the threats of new structural composite lumber products, pressures on veneer supply and the possibility of imported LVL all cast a cloud over this prediction. Tatsuya Shibusawa, of Japan’s Shizuoka University, said plywood has been the main wood based panel in Japan, although per capita plywood consumption has been half that of the US and Canada. Annual plywood supply is about eight million m3, with about half imported. About 70% of the domestic production is softwood.
Jim Campbell of TECO, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, US, said the South American plywood industry has approximately 200 wood product manufacturers, mostly concentrated in Brazil and Chile. He added that most Brazilian plywood manufacturers own their own forestland and use sophisticated plantation management practices. They use principally slash and loblolly pines. About half the Brazilian and Chilean plywood exports go to the US. He said that US plywood plants have decreased from 88 in 2000 to 69 today. Mr Campbell explained that the exchange rate and 8% import duty, coupled with current low prices for panel products in the US, will continue to exert a negative influence on Brazilian exports to the US.
Sandy Chen, Forestry Tasmania, Australia, reported that the Chinese plywood industry is still very fragmented; leading companies only account for 10 to 15% of the total market share. Because of substitution with other wood based panels, such as MDF, blockboard and particleboard, plywood is over-supplied and larger producers look to the export market for survival. China’s plywood production increased from about six million m3 to about 14 million m3 in 2005 and Chinese plywood exports have increased significantly. Mr Chen expects that Chinese plywood will take a larger share of the international market during the next few years. It could create cooperative opportunities between Chinese plywood manufacturers and international producers including partnerships, joint ventures and consultations. Peter Carter, Technology Commercialisation, CHH Fibre-gen (a Carter Holt Harvey business), described a system to determine wood stiffness, both in standing trees and in the mill yard. It measures speed of sound as transmitted in the wood. He defines stiffness as density multiplied by velocity2, with green density fairly constant. A sensor/microphone detects frequency from a hammer blow to log or tree. The MOE increases as a square of velocity. Outside of logs have the highest stiffness. Acoustic velocity increases with age. Mr Carter said the system results in improved ability to meet orders with higher grades and profit.
Philip Beaty, Nexterra Energy Corp, said the price of natural gas in North America is the highest in the world, equating to US$20 to US$25 per thousand ft2 of product. He said modifying a dryer can save US$2m for a 2.9-year pay-back on investment with a greenhouse gas reduction of 12,000 tons/year. A stainless steel hot air exchanger takes air from a dryer at 150OF, heats it to 750OF, and returns it to burn the pollutants. Brad Wang, Forintek Canada Corp, advocated computer simulation models for veneer processing, emphasising that conceptualising the problems and identifying applicable theories are success essentials. Models of green veneer sorting and veneer drying can assess the impact of green veneer sorting strategies and drying on productivity and energy consumption. Louis-Etienne Denaud, ENSAM, Cluny, France, reported on studies of on-line peeling control sensing forces, vibrations, and sound measurements. Microphones are used to pick up lathe sounds. He said lathe operators are often already attuned to these. He concluded that there is a strong link between forces and vibrations or sound and that the correlation coefficients between local maximum or minimum signal values were quite often significant.
Jean-Paul Aucoin, Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Edmonton, Canada, reported that his company has developed new methods to produce faster-curing resins for plywood and LVL. These consist of internal and external catalyst systems and new cooking methods. They have improved press cycle times, moisture tolerance, and allowed for lower press temperatures. Conroy Lum, Forintek Canada Corp, said: "Adhesive standards play an important role in glued wood product standards. Product standard committees, when referencing adhesive standards, should be aware of the scope and intent of the adhesive standard. Committees responsible for adhesive standards have the responsibility of understanding how their standards are used. LVL is one product where coordination will help in standardising requirements". B J Yeh, APA, said a number of changes to adhesive standards in engineered wood products are being considered. Among these are adhesive performance at elevated temperatures. Separation of qualification requirements between dry- and wet-use adhesives will provide flexibility in selecting appropriate adhesives for intended applications, while balancing manufacturing costs. Frédéric Simon, CTBA, France, said the European tendency for bonded products is to reduce formaldehyde emission coming from all types of glue used. This has resulted in more polyurethane adhesives and polymer isocyanate for load-bearing structures, for example. Alan Potter, Forest Research Opportunity BC, Vancouver, outlined the history of OSB, with the first mill using aspen in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. "It is now a global market," he said. Next step was breaking down a log and reconstituting it into a structural lumber product. This was accomplished by MacMillan Bloedel in their Parallam process. Parallel strand lumber came next. The current stage is PSL with somewhat shorter strands and pressed in a conventional thermal press. "Ultimately we will be making an integrated system," Mr Potter predicted.