Wood-plastics composites (WPC) are a new group of materials that are generating interest in both the UK and overseas. The term ‘WPC’ covers an extremely wide range of composite materials using plastics ranging from polypropylene to PVC and binders/fillers ranging from wood flour to flax. These new materials extend the current concept of ‘wood composites’ from the traditional compressed materials such as particle-board and medium density fibreboard (MDF) into new areas and, more importantly, a new generation of high performance products.
The first generation of ‘wood composites’ were a combination of recycled wood flour or chips and binders. These were ideal for relatively undemanding applications. The new and rapidly developing generation of WPC ‘wood composites’ have good mechanical properties, high dimensional stability and can be used to produce complex shapes. They are tough, stable and can be extruded to high dimensional tolerances. The new WPC materials are high technology products for the most demanding applications.
The most common types of the new WPCs are produced by mixing wood flour and plastics to produce a material that can be processed just like a plastic but has the best features of wood and plastics.
The wood can be from sawdust and scrap wood products. This means that no additional wood resources are depleted in WPCs, waste products that currently cost money for disposal are now a valuable resource – recycling can be both profitable and ethical. The plastic can be from recycled plastic bags and recycled battery case materials although in demanding applications new plastics materials are used. The recycling ethos is to use materials recovered from short life cycle applications in long life cycle applications.
WPCs can produce the final shape through extrusion processing. This maximises resource efficiency and gives design flexibility for improved fastening, stiffening, reinforcement, finishing and joining.
WPCs are wood products that need no further processing.
WPCs are weather, water and mould resistant for outdoor applications where untreated timber products are unsuitable.
WPCs are plastic products with exceptional environmental credential and performance.
WPCs have a wide range of applications. They can costeffectively replace wood products in applications such as furniture, doorframes, decorative profiles, in fact anywhere wood shapes are used. They can cost-effectively replace plastic products in applications such as window frames, cable trunking, roofline products and cladding, in fact anywhere that plastics shapes are used.
1. They are true hybrid materials and combine the best properties of both wood and plastics.
2. They use low cost and plentiful raw materials. Wood waste and recycled plastics become assets instead of liabilities.
3. They are competitively priced and are competitive with traditional materials such as timber, MDF and PVC-U.
4. They are easily produced and easily fabricated using traditional wood processing techniques.
5. They are available in a broad range of finishes and appearances.
6. They are easily recycled after use.