BAY CITY, MI -  A synthetic wood-like offering, Eovations, said to perform more like the real thing than wood-plastic composites, has moved into production following a launch last fall by Universal Forest Products (Nasdaq: UFPI).

Last November, Universal Forest Products formally announced the Eovations technology was producing a fiberized composite more durable than wood at a former Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill in Alabama. Eovations said last year it would invest $7.3 million in production operations in the plant, with the intent of opening 12 lines and 90 employees by the end of 2014.

Eovations technology has its roots in material science research by Dow Chemical with the Polymer IRC at the University of Bradford UK. Ownership of Eovations technology was transferred to Eovations, LLC, an affiliate of Universal Forest Products, in 2010. The technology can either be licensed for production, or Universal Forest Products will manufacture components using it, which is the purpose of the mill in Alabama.

The Eovations extruded oriented technology employs a patented process producing a fiberized thermoplastic-mineral composite that replicates the fibrous structure of wood, says the company. It uses a proprietary extrusion/drawing process to combine mineral particles with a thermoplastic matrix, creating a fully-fibrous and molecularly-oriented lineal composite system.

Eovations says it equals or improves upon the  strength, dimensional stability, environmental durability, aesthetics and workability properties of wood and oversomes strength and other limitations of wood-plastic composites.

It features strength, durability, aesthetics and workability properties that Eovation says makes the composite material a strong candidate to replace wood, wood-plastic composite, plastic and metal in both structural and and other applications, such as building products, outdoor and landscape structures and furnishings, truck beds, railroad ties, and structures like docks, park and recreation installations, and agricultural applications.

“The possibilities created by Eovations technology extend significantly beyond traditional applications for wood and wood-plastic composites," says Dick McBride, Universal Forest Products GM operations. "This remarkable lineal material can be used almost anywhere a lighter, stronger, longer-lasting material is needed."

Processes based on Eovations technology can employ a variety of polymer and mineral raw materials and a wide processing window enables finished composite properties such as density to be customized for specific applications. The appearance of the finished material can also be tailored, with a variety of surface textures and a range of colors incorporated during processing.

Claude Brown, Eovations VP of technology and innovation, said fabrication with the composite is almost identical to traditional carpentry.

“The material can be machined, milled, cut and drilled using basic carpentry skills and common woodworking tools," Brown says. "Fastener acceptance and hold is excellent using conventional nails, screws and staples. Variations of the composite readily accept common paints, allowing durable, attractive finishes to be applied during product manufacturing or in the field.”

Universal Forest Products already offers other wood-alternative products, as well as lumber and engineered wood products for construction, specialty wood packaging and components.

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