For pontoon operators and Venetian homeowners, marine borers cause a yearly problem in the canal-filled streets of Venice, Italy.
To remedy this, two companies have introduced wood-plastic products to replace the age-old timber-made poles that make up many of the boats and homes. These innovative replacements are just one example of the growing European wood composites market.
Beologic NV of Zwevegem, Belgium, last year introduced its wood-plastic composite poles in Venice. Technoplast Kunststofftechnik GmbH also has hopped on board, supplying extrusion machinery to Salzano, Italy-based Bizeta srl to make its Greenwood-brand range of composite poles and decking.
Both Bizeta and Beologic's products are being installed during refurbishment of the homes and boats.
``Previously, the poles have had to be exchanged every five years, as the wood is attacked by marine creatures,'' said Rudolf Wessely, Technoplast key account manager. ``With the new WPC material, the life increases to more than two decades.''
Micheldorf, Austria-based Technoplast said it has invested 1 million euros ($1.54 million) during the past eight years on development of tooling and technology for wood composite extrusion. It justifies this investment on its growth predictions for the European market, which it says will rise from 154 million pounds in 2007 to 441 million pounds by 2010, and possibly as much as 1.76 billion pounds by 2018.
Based on this growth, VHI, a German wood-based panel industry trade association, has created a quality seal for composite decking products. The seal sets testing methods that include requiring a minimum of 50 percent of the wood content to be sourced from sustainable forestry production. The group hopes the new qualifications will win over customer confidence, reduce product liability risks and enable product comparison.
Companies overseeing the VHI quality seal include Deceuninck NV, Kosche Profilummantelung GmbH, MÃ¶ller GmbH & Co. KG, Novo-Tech GmbH & Co. KG, Rehau AG + Co., Tech-Wood Nederland BV and Werzalit AG + Co KG. VHI, formally known as Verband der Deutschen Holzwerkstoffindustrie e.V., is based in Giessen, Germany.
German terrace decking market value grew from 153 million euros ($236 million) in 2003 to 262 million euros ($404 million) in 2007, and is expected to reach an estimated 351 million euros ($542 million ) by 2010, said VHI President Peter Sauerwein, citing B&L Markdaten research, at Nova Institut's wood composite congress in December.
While wood composites only accounted for 6 percent of the 2006 market, they are expected to outstrip overall market growth as a result of the environmental discussion over the tropical woods that make up the decking market - 54 percent of the total.
Rehau has entered the growing wood composite market with its Relazzo-brand decking. The company, headquartered in Muri, Switzerland, worked with composite decking specialist HÃ¤ussermann to develop the material with 60 percent wood fiber and 40 percent polymer.
Already a producer of composite profiles for more than two years, Novo-Tech has invested in a new, 6.2 million euro ($9.6 million) wood composite decking production plant at its Aschersleben, Germany, headquarters to make Megawood ``Barfussdielen'' (``barefoot decking'') as a PP-based wood composite product. With as much as 75 percent colored wood-fiber content sourced from German sawmills, the plant came on stream last September.
Equipped with an Entex eight-spindle extruder feeding an Entex ESE 120 single-screw extruder, the new plant has a capacity of 22 million pounds a year, with plans in place to expand to 26 million pounds in the future.
European-produced wood composite compounds also are finding their way into the United States.
Hooglede, Belgium-based Deceuninck NV brought its Twinson PVC-based wood composite compound for siding to its Monroe, Ohio, extrusion plant, along with the Kodiak polyolefin-based line made with 50 percent recycled wood flour.
Though popular in the United States, PVC has just a 14 percent market share of wood composites in Europe and 8 percent in Germany, according to Hackwell Group and Nova Institut estimates.