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How to add value to MDF panels

Vermak Makina, the leading exporter of flat-lamination lines from Turkey, offers several solutions to manufacturers of MDF panels.

By PRAVEEN DHORE

The use of medium density fibreboard (MDF) is increasingly finding market acceptance over plywood globally, and India is no exception. The Indian market size for MDF is estimated to be 3.2 million cubic metres, valued at ₹3,400 crore in 2023.

The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15-20% to ₹6,500 crore by 2026, according to a research report. Industry experts estimate that the MDF-to-plywood ratio in India will improve to 50:50 by the year 2030.

This presents a strong growth potential for the MDF industry in India. It is expected to gain market share of low and medium-grade plywood, which now constitutes 85% of the plywood market in India.

MDF has become a preferred choice for furniture manufacturers as it gives very high-quality finishing. It is suitable for precise machining techniques. It is apt for manufacturing modern, branded, low-maintenance furniture.

It is also suitable for the entire range of home furniture such as modular kitchens, wardrobes and others. It is priced competitively against premium quality plywood.

Changing demand

Many big players are entering in MDF manufacturing, and existing players are increasing their capacities. Currently, nearly 20 new MDF plants are planned in India in various regions for different capacities.

Once the mother board (MDF) is ready, the most common way for value addition is using short-cycle press to manufacture pre-laminated MDF. Manufacturers of MDF buy multiple numbers of short-cycle presses for lamination, where impregnated melamine paper is the only laminating material that can be used.

However, in the modern furniture-making process customers are asking for lamination with diverse materials such as decor foils, veneers, thermo-plastic foils, high-pressure laminates, acrylic sheets, PET and PP foils.

Changing customer preferences demand that MDF manufacturers offer laminated boards with any of the above-stated materials, with design variations and in a relatively small quantity.

Limiting manufacturing to only melamine-laminated boards compels the customers to look for alternative manufacturers. This results in less customer loyalty, reduced product basket, and increased competition even for pre-laminated melamine boards.

Common mistakes

MDF manufacturers in other parts of the world use other surface finishing technologies such as flat lamination and UV coating to ensure customer engagement for the long term.

The gluing technology used in flat lamination is PUR lamination, where the bonding is better even when exposed to moisture.  PUR lamination provides superior water resistance compared to urea-formaldehyde resin, making it suitable for applications where moisture exposure is a concern.

PUR is considered to be more environmentally friendly as it emits lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). PUR adhesives, which are free of urea formaldehyde, are the need of the hour from a health and ecology point of view.

In India it is very common to produce high-gloss, matt-finish boards with short cycle presses and high-gloss press plates. The cost of these press plates is very high and need refurbishing or replacement after a certain number of cycles.

Worldwide large MDF manufacturers are shifting to use transparent film on matt-finished melamine pre-laminated boards to produce high-gloss surfaces. This can be done on the well-designed flatbed lamination lines using PET transparent films.

India has already started moving toward world-standard furniture and specialised surface finishes. The demand for anti-fingerprint, soft-touch, super-matt, high-gloss PP foils, acrylic and veneer finishes is increasing.

The solution

The trend among MDF producers in Europe is to have a quality flat-lamination line along with short-cycle presses. This allows them to offer value-added panels using any of the materials to their dealers.

Apart from offering a larger product portfolio, there is very high flexibility to use various laminating material in one single line with any specific minimum production quantity requirements.

Along with melamine pre-laminated boards, MDF manufacturers can make trending products to lead the market. Flat lamination ensures you make high-gloss panels with less investment, reduced running costs and space requirements.

All these options can be done in one flat-lamination line with a small investment. In fact, now there are quality PVC foil manufacturers in India as well.

Considering these factors, India will see a higher demand from MDF manufacturers for quality flat-lamination lines. India has the technology experts to offer such lines and take care of after-sales service by trained engineers.

Vermak Makina, a leading exporter of flat-lamination  lines, offers several such solutions to manufacturers of MDF panels. The Turkish supplier is represented in India  by Pune-based Aadhunik Woodworking Machinery.

 

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