Particleboard and MDF consumption is projected to grow in North America through 2016, buoyed in part by the strengthening of the U.S. housing market and positive indicators of improvement in the furniture and related industries. Figures from Resource Information Systems, Inc. (RISI) project particleboard consumption to rise 10 percent in 2015, to 3.29 billion square feet, and grow 11 percent in 2016, to 3.64 billion square feet. Similarly, MDF is projected to hit 2.97 billion square feet in 2015, a rise of 9 percent, and jump to 3.28 billion square feet in 2016, up 10 percent.

Panel producers are gearing up, with already two companies announcing multi-million plant investments this year.

Uniboard announced Feb. 5 that it will invest more than $53 million at its Val-d’Or particleboard and thermally fused laminate (TFL) facility as part of its plan to increase productivity and upgrade key

production areas. The company produces particleboard, MDF and TFL from mills in Val-d’Or, Sayabec, Mont-Laurier and Laval, Canada.

Uniboard President and CEO James N. Hogg said the project will enable the company to enhance its engineered wood and value-added product offerings. “Over recent years, Uniboard has invested heavily into product development, launching new color collections including North America’s first registered embossed thermofused laminate panels as well as expanding our successful NU Green range of low and no-formaldehyde products,” he added.

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This followed the Jan. 26 news from Arauco that it will invest $30 million to grow the particleboard and TFL capacity at its mill in Bennettsville, SC. The new technology is expected to be in place by the fourth quarter. Arauco said increased dryer capacity will help it to improve its particleboard production by 60 million ft2, on a 3/4-inch basis annually. Arauco also will add a high-tech fast-cycle press for TFL production.

“These capacity and value-add investments translate into improved product sourcing options for our customers, and in turn, generate additional long-term jobs for this manufacturing complex and the Bennettsville community at large,” said Mike Reardon, regional manufacturing director.

Also announced in January was Arauco’s planned purchase of Suddekor’s paper treating business in Biscoe, NC, giving the company the ability to impregnate decorative paper with melamine based resin for the production of its TFL panels. The Biscoe facility will supply Arauco’s five laminating centers located in Albany, OR; Bennettsville, SC; Moncure, NC; Sault Ste. Marie, ON, and St. Stephen, NB.

“The investment in treating decorative papers provides us with the opportunity to better manage an important part of our supply chain,” said President Kelly Shotbolt, “and it’s part of a vertical integration strategy that will further develop our TFL program by enhancing our ability to deliver new and innovative products to our customers.”

Based in Santiago Chile, Arauco manufactures composite wood and TFL panels, plywood, millwork, lumber and pulp. The company consolidated its Canadian and U.S. operations in July 2014, and now has its North American headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

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