How a proper management of wood waste supports the production of high-quality MDF panels

Medium Density Fiberboard – MDF in short – has emerged as a widely used and super versatile material in the global construction, furniture, and interior design industries, almost every piece of furniture we buy these days is made out of MDF panels that may be sourced out of recycled or raw material wood. This wood product, apparently easy to manufacture, has gained popularity for its durability, affordability, and adaptability and has been gaining market share in the past years. With this article, we wanted to explore the current state of the global MDF panel market, the production sources and show you an example of wood screening with the Hexact stationary system at work in an MDF panel company. Let’s dive in.

What is medium density fiberboard

The birth of medium Density Fiberboard goes back nearly 100 years, in California where William Mason, in an attempt to find a method to use discarded wood chips, forgot to shut down the machinery overnight. So the next day, he found a thin durable sheet that the equipment had continued working through the night. MDF is, in fact, created today by breaking down wood fibers and combining them with resin which next are compressed into panels. But what is the MDF market size?

Some numbers on the MDF panels’ market size

According to the latest Research and Markets report, the global MDF market is experiencing steady growth, driven by increasing demand and consumption in the construction and furniture industry. Rising urbanization and the trend towards sustainable and cost-effective building materials are also key growth drivers. By 2030, the market size is expected to reach 67.64 billion USD at a CAGR of 6.9% from here on out. In terms of production markets, according to data in 2017, China is the largest producer of MDF panels, while Turkey and Germany lead the way in Europe. Now, the question is: where does the wood for the MDF panel production come from?

How is MDF produced? Is MDF made of waste wood or raw material?

The MDF panels manufacturing process relies on wood fibers as a key component, so the panels can be made of both waste wood or raw material. The industry has increasingly embraced recycled wood fibers as a sustainable alternative to virgin timber, but the truth is that raw materials are also highly used. Some reports state that, at least in Europe, medium-density fiberboard panels are mainly made out of recycled materials, which is always the preferred solution. When possible, this sustainable approach used by manufacturers not only reduces the demand for virgin wood but also minimizes the environmental impact associated with logging.

On the other hand, some MDF panels are still manufactured using raw materials, typically sourced from sustainably managed forests. A report funded by the European Union in 2022 states that today “there is no commercially viable method to recycle post-consumer fibreboard into new fibreboards. Consequently, fibreboards are made mostly from refined virgin wood, i.e. wood harvested from the forest and processing residues from sawmills and plywood manufacture”. However, post-consumer fibreboards can be turned into other industrial products, so less and less wood waste should end up in landfills.

As the market evolves, the proportion of recycled wood in MDF production will likely continue to increase, further reinforcing the industry’s commitment to sustainability. That being said, which is the best way to prepare waste wood for the production of MDF panels?

Mechanical screening of wood waste for the production of medium density fiberboard

For the production of MDF panels, the use of innovative screening solutions in the recycling and treatment process of wood to obtain high-quality recycled fibers is central. The screener plays a crucial role in ensuring that the wood fibers meet the required quality and production efficiency specifications for the production of MDF panels. Mechanical waste wood screening trough our DDS (Dynamic Disc Screening) technology provides a thorough cleaning process to separate the material from contaminants such as dirt, aggregates, plastics and other impurities. Moreover, as waste wood is never a homogeneous material considering the many applications and sources, our screening system works the various fractions according to the operator’s requirements.

Let’s see a brief example of two Ecostar stationary screeners, an Hexact 8000 and a 6000 in an MDF plant where waste wood is being treated for the production of MDF panels:

  • High Production. The client treats with our 8000 Hexact stationary screen around 60 T/H of waste wood coming in non-homogeneous sizes. Generally, an 8000 Hexact screening system can treat up to 200 T/H of wood, operating at a high speed of 1 m/sec, thus waste wood is processed quickly and effectively.
  • Different screening fractions with both screens: The first screen, Hexact 8000 separates, waste wood mixed with materials such as plastics, rags, and paper and aggregates, into two fractions:
  1. 0-50 mm destined for MDF production;
  2. > 50 mm processed by another shredder. The Hexact 6000 screen treats the latter fraction, which has already been processed by the shredder, further to remove any contaminants from the wood and thus obtain an additional fine fraction that continues its cycle in the production plant. The wood screening ensures a consistent particle size, meeting the client’s requirements, which makes its way into the MDF manufacturing process, contributing to the overall durability and performance of the final product.
  • Low energy- consumption. Both screens are equipped with 7,5 kW electric motors (4 for the Hexact 8000 and 2 for the Hexact 6000). Thanks to the Dynamic Disc Screening technology, the Ecostar screening systems benefit from low energy consumption reaching 22,5 kW for 100 T/H of treated waste wood.
  • Less wear of the grinder. By including a screening system before the shredder, you can reduce wear by 30% of the shredder thanks to the resizing of the material by the screen.

In essence, the screening machine has a great impact on the quality of the waste wood fibers that go into the production of MDF panels, so the chosen technology to do the job properly is of utmost importance.

Finally, as the market keeps growing we are curious to see where the MDF panel  production is headed and how much of the recycled waste wood is going to make the final cut.

If you are searching for a screening system for your waste wood plant and are curious to know more about our product, do not hesitate to get in contact with one of our managers. You can leave us a message here and we will contact you as soon as possible.