These are not ‘bhoosa boards’, as they have been made out to be
The global furniture industry was almost entirely based on the usage of solid wood with metal and other joineries. It was during the 1970s that particle board was developed in Europe to increase the yield of productive furniture from wood.
While solid wood uses about 40% of the total wood that comes from a tree, Particle Board (PB), MDF and similar engineered wood panels generally use up to 90% of the wood. The increased utilisation of timber, along with the creation of a commoditised product such as particleboard, enabled the development of a whole new industry with a focus on low costs and high efficiencies.
Plywood (which continues to be popular in USA and India besides other regions) was another offshoot of the engineered wood industry. Still, it suffers from the problem of low utilisation, high glue usage, and uneven surfaces. Hence it was relegated to the background in Europe.
IKEA, the iconic Swedish home furnishing company, played a significant role in the development of the PB industry. The company came up with the big breakthrough concept of flat-pack furniture, which was incredibly efficient in transportation of goods across large distances (up to 50% of the cost of furniture till then).
During the 80s, IKEA introduced hollow constructions in furniture based on existing door industry technology. During the 90s the concept was refined, and now the focus is on lighter, more material-efficient constructions due to sustainability, cost and material availability. Currently, there is an ongoing development of specialised board materials, both in developing existing
boards and in finding new constructions and technology.
Also referred to as Panel Wood or woodbased board, engineered wood is used extensively in the furniture industry, and to a lesser extent in the construction industry. Various kinds of engineered woods can be treated as a commodity, with a high level of standardisation in terms of size, construction and mechanical properties. All types of engineered woods are made from different species of wood fibre (typically softwoods such as pine, spruce and eucalyptus). As timber is more expensive and scarce, the demand for alternatives is gaining popularity
Types of Engineered Wood Panel
A generic term to describe any substantial, flat, rectangular, piece of board generally manufactured from wood chip, flake or particle. Typically it is sold in the size of 1200 mm x 2400 mm, of 12/18/25 mm thickness.
This is a generic term used for a composite panel, primarily composed of cellulosic materials
(usually wood). Generally, it is in the form of discrete pieces of particle as distinguished from fibres which are bonded together with a bonding system which may contain additives.
Medium Density Fibreboard
MDF is made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residual into wood fibres, combining it with wax and resin binder and forming into panels by applying high temperature and pressure. MDF is generally denser than plywood. It is made up of separated fibres, and can be used as a building material, quite like plywood. It is stronger and much denser than particle board.
High Density Fibreboard
HDF is similar to particleboard and MDF, but is denser and much stronger and harder because it is made out of exploded wood fibres that have been highly compressed. The density of HDF is usually 800–1,040 kg/m3. It differs from particle board in that the bonding of the wood fibres requires no additional materials.
Oriented Strand Board
OSB is a type of engineered wood similar to particleboard. It is formed by adding adhesives and then compressing layers of wood strands (flakes) in specific orientations.
These are thin slices of wood and/or wooden sheets, usually thinner than 3 mm, that are glued onto core panels (typically wood, PB or MDF) to produce flat panels such as doors, table-tops and panels for cabinets and parts of furniture.
A material manufactured from thin layers or plies of wood veneer, that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another.
Advantages of Particle Board
Before making a case for PB as an option for usage, it is essential to acknowledge and understand the reasons for the material’s relatively poor reputation in the Indian market. The first entry of PB as a material was in the form of cheap imports from China. The imports mostly consisted of boards made on small multi-daylight presses.
These boards were of poor and inconsistent quality and were found to be difficult to use by carpenters. The Indian furniture industry, which was dominated (over 90% at the time) by the unorganised sector, developed an aversion to the material, with many contractors and architects referring to it as bhoosa board, which literally translates to ‘made from hay’.
First, it should be clarified that PB is not made from sawdust or hay, but from solid wood particles held together by glue and compression. With the right quality of PB, appropriate usage of surface materials (lamination), proper tools for processing (edgebanding, drilling, milling) and in the right applications and usage, PB can be an excellent material to work with for furniture.
A case in point is the fact that over 70% of IKEA furniture uses PB as the base material, including kitchen cabinets. PB manufactured through ContiPress technology, which is used by German machinery manufacturers Dieffenbacher and Siempelkamp and their partners, is a high-quality, consistent and durable product.
When this PB is suitably laminated (pre-lamination is a good option) and worked using the right tools, sealing all open surfaces, particularly the edges, then it can be used in a variety of furniture applications such as beds, tables, book-cases, shelves and display as well as kitchen cabinets.
Advantages of PB & MDF
- Low cost – $ 200/m3 (~`25/sft for 18 mm board
- Excellent for a variety of surfaces and finishes, including hard laminates (earlier known as SunMica), pre-laminated PB (paper & MFC) and veneer.
- Light-weight in construction and easy to transport
- Sustainable material (particularly if raw material is agro-based such as sugarcane bagasse, cotton/wheat stalk or Bamboo based)
- Resistant to humidity (P3 grade) if well sealed on open surfaces (edgebanding and silicone application)
- Can be used for book-cases, shelves, cupboards, wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, beds, tables and seating furniture (combined with other materials)