Lightweight panel materials are in high demand among ready-to-assemble furniture manufacturers and are gaining more converts in other segments of the wood products industry on a daily basis.

Innovations in the area of manufacturing, edgebanding and fastening of lightweight panels have created vast opportunities for companies to create special designs while controlling costs and weight. Lightweight is not only an environmentally smart choice, but also means lower material and transportation costs and less strain on employees' and installers' backs.

A variety of lightweight panels are available. The most widely used lightweight panels are made up of a paper-based honeycomb material sandwiched between two thin particleboard or MDF panels. Lightweight panels, defined as panels lighter than 500 kg/m3, strive for high mechanical properties similar to particleboard or MDF combined with much lower weight, an aspiration that has been met with the new lightweight panel products on the market today.

Despite their light weight and hollow cores, lightweight panels nowadays can largely be processed on standard equipment using standard processes. While special fasteners need to be employed, they can typically be inserted and processed using standard equipment.

Lightweight technology does enable manufacturers to offer their customers new design ideas. It also enables manufacturers to go after new markets that they never considered in their domain.

Many industry experts agree that lightweight panels could be the next big thing in the industry. Besides promises of lower costs (not restricted to raw materials, but including transportation, manufacturing and installation costs) the technology brings new freedom to the design and engineering of wood products. That lightweight panels use less materials and energy to make and transport, making them essentially a "green" product, can only help with their appeal for consumers and producers.

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