Fuel costs and eco-friendly characteristics are pushing lightweight panels into the market and inspiring lots of interest. They are also easier to handle for both retail and commercial customers.
Lightweight panels can often run 50 percent of the weight of solid wood products without sacrificing structural stability or strength. The lighter weight makes the ergonomics of handling the parts much better. "You can have a final product that is thicker, even massive, without the associated weight," Charlie Olswold (President of OFC Panel Processing) says.
The panels have an eco-friendly benefit as well. The honeycomb paper used inside the panels is a recycled product, which can add to LEED points. The filler for lightweight panels is a honeycomb material. It arrives flat, and then is stretched into its proper shape and any moisture is removed from the paper to ensure the honeycomb holds its shape.
Also as fuel charges continue to escalate, it makes lightweight panels look much more appealing and effective. Weight will become a bigger and bigger issue for manufacturers. Lightweight panels is a product that can be flat packed and boxed and the manufacturer can ship a whole lot more with the same dollars. A lighter truck uses less fuel.
Modern kitchen design using lightweight panels
(Source: Egger Holzwerkstoffe Austria)
The process of making lightweight panels is fairly straightforward. The manufacturer begins with a paper honeycomb material with a 5/8 inch cell. The honeycomb is then put through an expander, which heats the material to remove moisture, thus ensuring the material holds its shape.
The honeycomb is then placed within a frame which is backed with hardboard or thin plywood. It is then run through a Torwegge PWT 100 and PUR adhesive is applied to the edges of the honeycomb material. As the component exits, a top panel is then placed over the glue-covered honeycomb and the entire panel is run through the Torwegge again, securing all the pieces into one component.
Components are then set aside to cure for at least four hours. They then go to a Weeke machining center and then on to one of two Homag edgebanders.
Resource: OFC Panel Processing