Particleboard is a non-structural panel made from the waste residues created in the manufacture of other wood products. It is generally used for industrial purposes as a raw material in the production of finished goods, such as ready-to-assemble furniture or cabinets. Particleboard is either hidden from view in a finished product or covered with a decorative coating such as a wood veneer or resin-impregnated paper.
Particleboard is produced from small wood particles bonded together with a resin (glue) under heat and pressure. Residues such as sawdust and planer shavings from sawmills are generally used. Particleboard is usually bonded with a non–water-resistant glue, making the product unsuitable for exterior and high-humidity environments.
The most important characteristic of particleboard is a smooth surface that will permit the efficient attachment of a coating. A smooth surface can be achieved through either a “multi-layer” composition (usually three or five layers) in which finer particles are deposited in the surface layers and coarser particles make up the core, or a “graduated” composition in which there is a continuous transition from the finest surface particles to the coarsest core particles.
Particleboard is generally produced in thicknesses ranging from ¼ inch to 1½ inches. Larger panel sizes can be produced, but the panels are typically cut to 4x8 feet for retail purposes. The technology used in the manufacture of particleboard is well-developed technology and produces a low-cost product.
Particleboard has a variety of industrial uses, including components for furniture, cabinets, toys and games, and as floor underlay in construction, mobile home decking, shelving, and door cores.
Particleboard and medium-density fibreboard (MDF) compete for the same markets. Particleboard is generally of lower cost but also of lower quality than MDF. Surface quality on both flat surfaces and edges is not as high as with MDF, and particleboard tends to swell more when exposed to water.
Most North American particleboard mills are relatively old and costly to maintain, and as a result North American production is slowly declining as demand shifts to other products and markets. However, technological innovation and the use of recycled material and other waste products makes a rapid decline scenario very unlikely.
In 2012, Canada produced 800,000 cubic metres of particleboard, compared to 1 million cubic metres in the U.S.—almost 45% of total North American production.
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