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Laser treatment transforms MDF producing startling image of rare wood grains

Researchers at WMG at the University of Warwick have devised a way of using a laser that transforms MDF giving it a surface finish that looks like some of the most expensive wood grains. 

The “LaserCoat” research project is a collaborative research effort consisting of eight academic, research and commercial organisations and part-financed by the Technology Strategy Board.  

WMG researcher Dr Ken Young said: “MDF is a superb and highly versatile material. It’s easy to work with and cheap. It is usually made from waste material so it is much kinder to the environment than using real wood. But normally it looks rather dull in its raw state. Until now there has been no way to liven it up other than painting it. 

“Using lasers to produce a wood grain in MDF could help bring a more natural quality into homes and businesses without the financial and environmental cost of having to use new wood.” 

The technology also has great potential for commercial use as it is very hardwearing and can be used for flooring or other applications where cost is an issue but where looks are important too. It can mimic a vast range of real wood grains, it can produce logos, decoration, or even coloured and shaped decorative surfaces using a powder coating version of this new laser technology. Mick Toner, Factory Manager of Howarth Windows & Doors sees significant benefits from the new technology for his business. “We would love to use MDF for the glazing beads in doubling glazing but customers do not like the look of raw MDF.” He said: “This LaserCoat technology will provide a grained look that will delight our customers, give us much more manufacturing flexibility and cut the cost of the raw materials four-fold.” 

He added: “MDF is also an ideal material for providing the thermal insulation required for modern doors. Our customers are increasingly using translucent coatings on their doors which are not aesthetically pleasing on MDF panels – the LaserCoat technology cuts through this problem providing an attractive surface for MDF no matter the coating used.” 

Notes to editors:

·        WMG, an academic department of the University of Warwick, is a provider of innovative solutions to industry, supporting some of the most advanced research, development and training projects in the world. 

·         The ‘LaserCoat’ project is supported by the Furniture Industry Research Association and the Timber Research and Development Association. It is part-funded by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

·         The full list of partners in the programme is:

  •         FIRA - The Worlds Leading Independent Furniture Technology Centre can meet the needs of the complete furniture industry supply chain.
  •         TRADA - the Timber Research and Development Association - is an internationally recognised centre of excellence serving the timber and woodworking industries.
  •         Sonneborn & Rieck, a major producer of innovative, high technology coatings for wood, metal and plastics
  •         Norbord Ltd is one of the world's largest producers of engineered wood-based panels.
  •         Exel Industrial UK Ltd offers the largest and most diverse Paint and Powder application equipment and fluid pumping range available.
  •         Granwax have, for nearly a century, been manufacturing quality Floor Finishes and Maintenance Products
  •         Howarth (Timber) Windows and Doors ltd are the UK’s leading manufacturers of high performance softwood windows and door sets

·         Pictures are available from Peter Dunn, details below. 

For further information contact:             

Zoë Howard, Head of Communications, WMG
02476 524721 or 07824 540845 
Dr Ken Young, WMG
024 7652 2764 or 07775 534 345
Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager, University of Warwick,
024 76 523708 or 07767 655860

PR15  PJD 10 March 2008