Demand for WPC products (Wood Polymer Composites) is growing in Europe. The first Vaporetto landing stages along the shores of the Venice Lagoon have already been converted and others are to follow. The change-over from pure wood to virtually indestructible WPC is going ahead almost unnoticed. The name WPC stands for “Wood Polymer Composites”, a new material with all but limitless applications. The Upper Austrian extrusion specialist Technoplast of Micheldorf is at the forefront in the development of this decking material.
Europe is waking up: This material has already been in successful use for decades in the USA. In Europe the situation is different: there has long been a preference for the processing of pure wood here in panelling, fences or cover profiles for the garden or terraces. “The Europeans are very conservative in this respect, but the advantages of the wood-plastic-material coupled with the natural appearance are bringing a turnaround”, Rudolf Wessely, Global Key Account-Manager at Technoplast explained.
The unique project on the lagoon city is being implemented together with the Venetian Bizeta Group that has already received Italian state awards for the development. The profiles are marketed under the product name “Greenwood” in Italy. In addition to the decking profiles with their pure wood appearance that are being produced for the Vaporetto stations, stakes for use in landing stages and the buildings of Venice are also being produced. “These stakes in the water have had to be replaced about once every five years until now, because the timber was eaten away by sea creatures. The introduction of the new WPC material has now given them a service life that stretching out over at least two decades”, Rudolf Wessely reported.
The background to the success of the WPC material with its virtually endless application possibilities is in addition to the fine wood appearance, the wide availability of sawdust and wood shaving wastes that have frequently been simply thrown away as useless in the past. Additional factors include the saving of PVC that is made plus the very robust nature of the material. Rudolf Wessely: “Depending on the application indoors or outdoors a wood proportion of between 50 and 70 percent can be produced.”
Technoplast has played a pioneer role in the field of WPC investing a million euros and a major research effort in this technology and in the development of extrusion tools for wood extrusion over the past eight years. The production of WPC is expected to grow significantly in Europe over the next few years: 70,000 tons were produced by the end of 2007, while the experts reckon on an annual output of over 200,000 tons by the year 2010. Within ten years the annual output could well reach 800,000 tons.
In the USA too, the traditional home of wood extrusion, demand is also increasing enormously with a current estimated annual requirement of one million tons. An interesting side issue is: The Europeans are now beginning to enter the US market, because they can produce a higher wood extrusion quality, opening up a far wider range of applications for the material.
Another example of innovative applications in Europe is also from Upper Austria: Technoplast has developed a new hollow chambered profile for slat bases and frames together with cooperation partners KE Kelit and Sembella. The big advantage WPC hollow chamber profiles bring is the significantly higher resilience they have compared to wood products.
Source: Technoplast Kunststofftechnik GmbH &Co KG, Pressemitteilung, 2008-04-06.