Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

FP7

I-PAN Report Summary

Project reference: 308630
Funded under: FP7-ENVIRONMENT

Final Report Summary - I-PAN (INNOVATIVE POPLAR LOW DENSITY STRUCTURAL PANEL)

Executive Summary:
I-PAN stands for INNOVATIVE POPLAR LOW DENSITY STRUCTURAL PANEL and its main objective is the design of a breakthrough wood-made lightweight panel, adopting recycled for about 50% of its volume and 50% poplar wood. To this purpose, a novel manufacturing process has been designed and innovation to existing resins has been defined in order to require less energy during the drying and pressing process, minimizing VOC emission and reducing the overall cost of production.
The main challenge for the light wood-based panel industry was to reach higher level functional characteristics of Lightweight Strand Board (LSB) by engineering traditional wood based panels through innovation to the OSB manufacturing process as well as by continuously increasing the efforts to manage and use valuable resources in a sustainable manner throughout the entire life-cycle. Recovery and recycling of wood residues also formed an integral part of the eco-efficient utilization of resources.
The I-PAN project developed and demonstrated the environmental benefits obtained from its advanced solutions by:
• reducing the pressure on forests from which the raw materials are derived, by optimizing the utilization of selected poplar plantations to allow a 7-8 year poplar growth cycle;
• reducing the quantity of wood going into the overall process, thanks to the use of about 50% of recycled wood (top part of poplars);
• reducing the waste and consumptions throughout the entire manufacturing process, starting from an optimal use of raw material to the several steps needed for wood treatment and final product output;
• reducing the quantity and presence of hazardous and volatile chemicals by developing a new formaldehyde-based resin suitable for bonding recycled wood;
• reducing the carbon footprint by innovating the production process and decreasing the number of felled trees.
• enhancing the EU competitiveness in the eco-friendly global market.

These general objectives have been achieved through the following specific goals related to the project activities and WPs:
• saving energy in key production steps and thus a consistent reduction of CO2 emissions;
• Research on suitable existing glue to be employed in the manufacturing phase, in order to reduce the use of toxic or harmful solvents and contaminants, which might be inhaled or contaminate the air.
• Recycling about 50% of the wood and without wasting the lower parts of the poplars, thus greatly reducing the pressure on primary raw materials

The target to utilize 50% recycled wood has been partially reached as the panel has been produced, but when board properties were tested in the laboratory, they failed to meet the expected requirements. Further tests were conducted and a board with 30% recycled wood was produced with satisfactory properties. We nevertheless believe that this target may be achieved in future with a modification to the type of resin.
Project Context and Objectives:
Wood is one of the most valuable resources for humans and it has been an important construction material in human history. With the advent of the scientific and industrial revolution, the engineered wood (EW) sector is substantially advanced both in terms of higher quality wooden materials, both in terms of production and manufacturing and panels and plywood represent about 12% of total volume.
The woodworking industry is a very relevant sector in Europe, consisting of more than 100,000 companies, employing about 2 million people, thus accounting for nearly 2% of the manufacturing value added in Europe and in 2004 EU15 production totalled 45.6 million m3
In this regard, wood-made panels have a relevant role and the I-PAN project aims at providing novel and highly environmental friendly solutions in the field of engineered wood (EW) based boards.
The most important heavy EW in the market is the Oriented Strand Board (OSB) which, over the last decades, has replaced plywood in many sectors connected with the structural panel market becoming basically the reference panel worldwide. Whenever lightness does not represent a critical advantage, OSB panels represent the material of choice, with well-regarded properties.
The concept of the I-PAN project is to boost the utilization of traditional wood-based panels, by engineering their properties to match lightweight applications requirements, reducing the manufacturing cost along the overall process, allowing a highly sustainable approach at the same time. The virtuous circle allowing a sustainable manufacturing process will range from a reduction of raw material process inputs to the use of re-cycled material and minimization of wastes along with innovative technologies enabling savings in energy consumption and the reduction in the emission of pollutant compounds.
I-PAN project has developed and demonstrated the environmental benefits obtained from its advanced solutions by:
• reducing the pressure on forests from which the raw materials are derived, by optimizing the utilization of selected poplar plantations to allow a 7-8 year poplar growth cycle;
• reducing the quantity of wood going into the overall process, thanks to the use of about 50% of recycled wood (top part of poplars);
• reducing the waste and consumptions throughout the entire manufacturing process, starting from an optimal use of raw material to the several steps needed for wood treatment and final product output;
• reducing the quantity and presence of hazardous and volatile chemicals by developing a new formaldehyde-based resin suitable for bonding recycled wood;
• reducing the carbon footprint by innovating the production process and decreasing the number of felled trees.
• enhancing the EU competitiveness in the eco-friendly global market.

As a first step, the I-PAN consortium was intensively involved in the definition of requirements related to the overall process and technologies for an innovative production line (derived from OSB technology) that could provide a brand new EW product, light strand board, (LSB) at a lower cost per unit and dramatically reducing the environmental impact.
The core research activities to be developed along five Work Packages (WP3-WP7) focused on three areas of innovation, each of them impacting specific steps of the traditional OSB manufacturing process in order to re-engineer it with the main purpose of introducing innovative and greener technologies and final product sub-components e.g. Resins (WP3), Strands drying, handling and metering (WP4-WP5), Blending and Mat Forming (WP6-WP7). WP3, led by CHIMAR, focused on introducing innovation into existing urea-based resins, with the aim of using less energy during the drying and pressing process and producing lower volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
Within WP4 the new slim strands characteristics, as the main basic component to obtain the final LSB, has started to be defined by IMAL, IBL by considering the selected poplar wood peculiarities, the quality of the re-cycled wood introduced in the process and the production plant’s innovative features required for slim strands treatment. Starting from the definition of the strand characteristics to be achieved as the output of the initial steps of the process, the partners IMAL, IBL and STELA defined the characteristics of the drying plant innovations developed in WP5.
WP6 is actually directed towards designing and implementing an advanced blender system aimed at respecting the structural properties of the slim strand and to achieve important savings in resin consumptions through a more effective and efficient distribution over the surface of the strand. Finally in WP7 the research activities on Mat forming were performed, by benefiting from the knowledge and intermediary research outputs of the other WPs above described involved in the phase 2.
Some of the strategic and technical aspects of the project have been summarized in this work package, and with the state of the art as the starting point, we proceeded with:
- Analysing and experimenting new solutions to improve flake production by varying flaker knife angle
- Improving the blending process with the experimental introduction of a high pressure resination system to reduce resin consumption
- the analysis of the layout and mat forming equipment to prevent flake break up and to consequently produce a mat with the flakes remaining as integral as possible [theoretical dimensions: 20-40 mm wide and 80-100 mm long and less than 0.5 mm thick.
- Planning the implementation of an optical system at various points of the plant to continually monitor flake size and related shift, without flake breakage and specific algorithms to make an approximate calculation of the surface area passing through the process to then correlate this characteristic to the concept of material weight/resin weight applied. Furthermore, by analysing flake break up when the mat is being formed, it is possible to intervene on flake orientation, laying them perpendicular to the various layers to obtain technical characteristics with the same thickness
Within the phase of Impact analysis, dissemination and exploitation, appropriate exploitation activities for the commercial exploitation of technologies supporting the innovative greener process and the final resulting product (LSB) were performed. Exploitation strategy definition and implementation was supported by coherent dissemination activities.

Project Results:
The I-PAN project has developed and demonstrated the technology and environmental benefits obtained from its advanced solutions by:
a. reducing the pressure on forests from which the raw materials are derived, by optimizing the utilization of selected poplar plantations to allow a 7-8 year poplar growth cycle and encouraging the cultivation of poplars or its clones to contribute to the reduction of C02 emission into the environment;
b. reducing the quantity of wood going into the overall process, thanks to the use of about 30% of recycled wood (top part of poplars);
c. reducing the waste and consumptions throughout the entire manufacturing process, starting from an optimal use of raw material to the several steps needed for wood treatment and final product output;
d. reducing the quantity and presence of hazardous and volatile chemicals by developing a new formaldehyde-based resin suitable for bonding recycled wood;
e. reducing the carbon footprint by innovating the production process and decreasing the number of felled trees.
f. enhancing EU competitiveness in an eco-friendly global market.
g. Producing a new glue to be employed in the manufacturing phase, to reduce the use of toxic or harmful solvents and contaminants, which might be inhaled or contaminate the air.
h. Producing a new type of panel - LSB poplar panel – which can be a creditable substitute for plywood panels in both economic and environmental terms
We shall now address the various points in a little more detail:
a. reducing the pressure on forests from which the raw materials are derived, by optimizing the utilization of selected poplar plantations to allow a 7-8 year poplar growth cycle and encouraging the cultivation of poplars or its clones to contribute to the reduction of C02 emission into the environment
The presence of IBL Spa as one of the group’s partners has a strategic value as it is part of the Bonzano industrial group who is also actively involved in the business of poplar cultivation in Europe.
IBL is still located at its original premises, in Coniolo, province of Alessandria, along the Po river, in the Italian heartland of poplar cultivation. Over the years, besides having enlarged the historical plant in Coniolo, the Group has established a new company in Hungary called Derula which strengthens the productive capacity of IBL. In Hungary the Group also has access to a supply of FSC® certified poplar plantations which satisfies 2/3 of its internal production demand.
The development of poplar cultivation and research on the various clones is also sustained by the local area as the Research Unit for Intensive Wood Production (Unità di Ricerca per le Produzioni Legnose Fuori Foresta (former ex-Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura) http://www.populus.it/ is just a few kilometres away from the IBL facility in Coniolo, and which supports the group in its research into technical and scientific solutions to improve the production and quality of the poplar tree, and to identify clones that will always be suited to production and environmental requirements.
The application of the research carried out by the Research Unit for Intensive Wood Production (Unità di Ricerca per le Produzioni Legnose Fuori Foresta (former ex-Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura)) has enabled an initial research to be performed on poplar clones for use within the environmental contest where the cultivation is planned to take place.
After the experimentation, IBL Spa plans to disseminate the results achieved to the Italian and European Agricultural industry in order to sustain and amplify poplar cultivation with the intent to increase the amount of resources available for the groups’ industrial work process as well as offering a contribution to the improvement of the surrounding environment.

b. reducing the quantity of wood going into the overall process, thanks to the use of about 30% of recycled wood (top part of poplars and production waste);
The initial target of the tests conducted on OSB panel production, was to produce a panel where 50% of the material was taken from the top part of the poplar and 50% from the work process. This target however was not reached due to unsatisfactory technical properties. We proceeded by varying the percentage of recycled material and found that a 30% recycled content provided the same or superior technical qualities to the OSB panel currently produced.
During work package 8, we tried taking 50% of the material required for the production process, from the top part of the poplar tree and from production waste and rejects [mat trimmings, strands discarded along the process due to breakdowns or maintenance]. The panel produced met aesthetic requirements but did not meet the technical requirements. As a result, several resins produced by the partner CHIMAR were tested with various combinations of recycled materials until a board was produced from 30% of recycled material but which met the technical and product requirements.

The research on resins and recycled material mixes (waste) to be used will continue after the project ends as we believe it is possible to produce a board from 50% recycled material because, in addition to the positive environmental impact it would have, there would also be the economic advantage of being able to save about 20% of the cost of the material used.
Before the top part of the poplar can be used, it has to go through the flaking, drying, screening and blending processes which are to be verified on field in order to identify the correct recipe to produce a product which nonetheless meets the technical requirements and which is less expensive than the board currently produced.
c. reducing the waste and consumptions throughout the entire manufacturing process, starting from an optimal use of raw material to the several steps needed for wood treatment and final product output
The participation of IBL in the consortium has had the advantage of having a real production line available for testing the various solutions for handling both the waste and/or recycled material correctly. The top part of the poplar tree is handled in a similar manner to the poplar logs in the chipping process and the only difference is the division at the screening process as the size of the flakes produced are smaller than those produced from poplar logs.
This part of the process has enabled the utilization of part of the poplar tree which would not normally be used, together with the recovery of waste and rejects from the production process, and as a result to significantly reduce the amount of fresh wood going into the process for the production of OSB panels.
After a series of production process steps (chipping, drying, screening and blending), this raw material coming from the recovery/recycling is used in the mat forming process – forming area, and placed in the centre of the mat. In this way a good part of the mat, and hence the board is made from material that has been recovered or recycled from the process.
d. reducing the quantity and presence of hazardous and volatile chemicals by developing a new formaldehyde-based resin suitable for bonding recycled wood;
We followed two different routes within the project to reduce the environmental impact of the production of OSB panels, working (a) on the type of resin applied in the process and (b) on the application of the resin itself on the flakes.

(a) Thanks to CHIMAR’s participation in the consortium, specialists in the production of resin for industrial use, various resin samples were developed for the on-field testing of the production of both OSB panels as well as the innovative LSB panel. The effect of reduced board density (in the range of 450-500kg/m3) on the overall performance of the MUPF-bonded LSB has been applied. The deterioration of the board properties, due to the reduced density of the LSB, was compensated by increasing the resin load. The lowest possible resin addition at the lowest possible viscosity was examined. A PF-resin system was developed and its use in lab scale LSB production was examined too.
It was proven feasible to produce OSB compliant with the standard requirements for OSB/3 grade as well as the E1 formaldehyde class using poplar strands of I-214 clone on the production line and a binder system of MUPF resin with special additives. The press temperature was reduced by more than 10% without increasing the press cycle. The lower the density of the panels, the worse the panel properties. It was concluded that the optimum resin load was determined during a pilot or an industrial scale trial.
The press temperature and the press cycle for the PF-LSB were the same as those for the MUPF-bonded LSB. The use of specially developed hardener was proven essential to obtain PF-bonded LSB with properties meeting the standard requirements.
We have conducted tests on the utilization of resins designed from research carried out by CHIMAR with good results as the reduction in formaldehyde is well superior to initial expectations in both the production of OSB board and the production of LSB utilizing different compositions of material recycled from the top part of the poplar or the re-processing of production waste.
The curing performance of both MUPF and PF resins used for the production of poplar LSB was studied via DSC thermal analysis. Both straight resin samples and samples containing resin plus hardener were included in the DSC study.
The results achieved through the application of the research conducted on the resin are that:
• It is feasible to produce OSB meeting the standard requirements for OSB/3 grade using poplar strands from the I-214 clone and a binder system of MUPF or PF resin with special additives. Both the developed PF and MUPF resin systems met the I-PAN objective of poplar LSB panels with formaldehyde emissions satisfying the most stringent European Standards as per EN 13986 (the E1 formaldehyde class).
• In both MUPF & PF-bonded LSB, the press temperature was reduced by more than 10% without increasing the press cycle, thus meeting the I-PAN objective of curing the resin at a lower temperature than that of the conventional resin systems by up to 10% and consequently a lower energy demand.
• The developed PF and MUPF resin systems met the I-PAN objective of compensation of strand moisture content ≥ 3.5%.
• It was found that, the lower the density of the poplar LSB panels, the worse the panel properties were. Increasing the resin load can compensate the deterioration of panel properties. The optimum resin loading was to be determined during a pilot or an industrial scale trial.
Traditional drum blenders distribute resins as a function of the residence time of strands inside the drum that results in poor resin distribution. A new blending system has been designed to achieve two main goals: (i) no damage to slim strands; (ii) distribution of the resin as a function of the strand surface, to get a better resin distribution and save resin. Furthermore, other features have been introduced so as to avoid both downtime for cleaning and also solid glue blocks in the process. A high pressure resination system has been implemented specifically for the OSB production process, to reduce the amount of resin used per square metre of board produced – at least 10% less than what is normally used in the process - and a visual monitoring of flake distribution has been set up to intervene manually, in the first place and then automatically, in the flake (strand) mat forming process to improve flake orientation and hence to achieve better technical properties. It has been possible with the application of the high pressure resination technology to reduce the resin addition percentage with respect to standard resination processes by about 10% as, when high pressure is used, a mist is produced which sticks to the strand thus reducing the amount of resin required and improving the relative distribution of the resin over the strands.

e. reducing the carbon footprint by innovating the production process and decreasing the number of felled trees.
The LCA analysis performed has highlighted, at the facility where we installed and implemented parts of the pilot line, that the system has a lower environmental impact with respect to similar processes present in most of the facilities in operation throughout the USA.
Furthermore, the utilization of the top part of the poplar tree and the reintroduction of waste/rejects into the production process, reduces the need for fresh wood and so, we can say that we reduce the number of poplar trees required for the production of OSB board, per unit of product and consequently improve the environmental footprint of the production process.
The LCA analysis has also shown an improvement for most of the environmental impacts assessed and has permitted the assessment of the Best Available Technology (BAT) to allow improvements to the process that can be applied throughout the world (belt dryer, high pressure system for the resination process) and has rendered the partners much more aware of the impacts which the production process can have on the environment as may be seen in fig.3 (please see the PDF "IPAN_Final Report_final version_v2.pdf " attached.
f. enhancing the EU competitiveness in the eco-friendly global market.
The solutions adopted by the Consortium within the scope of the I-PAN project were designed and developed by the individual partners involved in relation to their own market.
These solutions have consequently been processed and industrialized so that the project logic may be exported outside their own country. In this way, STELA, IDP and IMAL in particular, have embraced the experience and exported the technological solutions experimented at I-PAN outside the European Union. Stela has exploited the experience acquired with the belt dryer, to try and promote the application of this kind of dryer, which has lower power per unit requirements and which above all protect the strand from breakage in the case of OSB production.
IMAL has exploited the I-PAN experience to install, after a suitable industrialization process and pre-series, dozens of high pressure resination systems as well as some solutions on the optical monitoring of mat formation.
IDP has designed and presented various innovative conveying systems throughout the world.
These solutions boost competition within the European industry and export “green” technology as the message of recycling wood from the production process and reducing the amount of resin added to the blending process through high pressure systems, and resins with low formaldehyde content, to attenuate the impact which the production of wood based panels has on the environment.
IMAL has also transferred technical knowhow from OSB board production to the production of wood based panels in general by utilizing the logic applied in the trials implemented at the I-PAN facility. This implies reviewing the logic applied in the realization of solutions installed at IBL and proceeding with the industrial pre-series.
These solutions reduce the percentage of resin applied in the process and hence with lower formaldehyde emission levels with the same amount of resin used.
Moreover, the diffusion of the solutions adopted within the scope of the project by the partners will contribute to decreasing environmental pollution within Europe and throughout the world in general, and above all will boost competition within the European industry with benefits in terms of employment and wellbeing as well as sending out a signal to the world of new eco-sustainable technologies.

g. A new glue to be employed in the manufacturing phase, in order to reduce the use of toxic or harmful solvents and contaminants, which might be inhaled or contaminate the air.
The resin developed and produced by CHIMAR has also been utilized in the tests conducted at the IBL facility and in IMAL to produce both OSB and LSB panels. The results achieved with the new resin and its application demonstrate a reduction in formaldehyde emission into the environment with respect to the formaldehyde-based resins currently available.
It is to be remembered here that formaldehyde-urea based resin has been declared as carcinogenic and hence should shortly be replaced with other types of resin [we also tried producing boards with MDI resin at IBl with successful results but with an increase in costs).

i. A production of a new type of panel - LSB poplar panel - which can be a creditable substitute for plywood panels in both economic and environmental terms
The production of a new type of board proved to be an arduous task but we managed to produce it in the end.
The panel produced from both fresh and recycled poplar has numerous advantages over its main competitor: plywood.
The LSB panel is lighter with technical properties that are superior to those of plywood. Furthermore, it is also less expensive [about 20% cheaper].
This type of panel made from poplar, could permit various targets to be reached if it were launched on a worldwide scale:
• Poplar could be produced through intensive cultivation as it could be used after approximately 5-7 years;
• Poplar trees grow rapidly and hence absorb C02 more quickly than other species of trees;
• The whole tree may be used in the new process;
• We have research centres on poplars in Europe as well as a tradition of poplars;
• The poplar panel produced in this manner costs less in terms of transport with respect to plywood and hence requires less power in the management of its logistics;
• It may be laminated and as a result it can be extended to industrial and civil applications.


Potential Impact:
As already mentioned, the I-PAN project will have significant impacts not only on the project partners, but also on the European wood industry, on the environment and on society in general.
First of all the I-PAN partners will gain a relevant advantage with respect to their competitors, since they will produce, through an innovative and environment-friendly production process, a novel OSB panel with a more competitive final price and using a new formaldehyde-based resin, characterized by a lower use of toxic and harmful solvents and contaminants.
These aspects of the I-PAN project will ultimately have a positive effect on the European industries engaged in the production of LSB panels: the dissemination activities performed within the project have given the possibility of informing the most relevant stakeholders and the wide audience of the advantages introduced by poplar wood and by the use of recycled wood, obtaining a final product with the same structural properties and aesthetic qualities as those of traditional panels.
As regards the environmental aspects, the innovative OSB panel produced from poplar wood grown in selected poplar plantations and the use of about 30% of recycled wood and of the top part of the trees, usually discarded, will definitely reduce the pressure on forests. The novel panels will also have the advantage of being lightweight, thus reducing the carbon footprint related to their transportation, and will use a new formaldehyde-based resin suitable for bonding recycled wood, reducing the quantity and presence of hazardous and volatile chemicals.
Lastly, all the above mentioned achievements will have a positive cultural impact on European citizens, supporting the EU policies and strategies in the field of waste, sustainable growth, green circular economy and CO2 reduction.

1.4.1 Market scene and impact
Market figures
The largest market for wood based panels is located in the USA, Japan, Germany, France, Sweden and the Nordic countries. Russia produces approximately 2% of the European production of wood based panels. The European market for wood products for the building industry over the least 3 years, has grown due to LVL products, fibre panels, beams and similar. In north America, LVL beams are the most popular products of this kind. Today the panel market is beginning to see the first rays of light out of the recession tunnel. Confirmation of the signs of recovery in the European zone, which from the building industry will flow over into the sector of semi-finished wood-based products as well, comes from figures published by the EPF (European Panel Federation), the European federation which brings together panel manufacturers from 25 member countries, for the production of particleboard, mdf, osb, hard and softboard, with plywood as a new entry; an industry which counts an overall sales volume of approximately 22 billion euro a year, employing over 10 thousand workers and with over 5 thousand ongoing businesses.
In the interim, before the new edition of its annual report goes into circulation, EPF highlighted back in May at a press conference which took place during the Interzum in Cologne, production and market trends for the different types of wood based panel.
In an evolving European scenario, which is expected to stabilize in 2015, the main hurdle to overcome still remains the constant increase in the cost of raw materials, as well as the availability of wood which remains critical within the western European Union.
The figures from FA0, provided in the following table, show how the wood based panel industry has developed around the world over the last couple of years.
Going into the made in Europe panel world in detail, Mr. Döry, president of the EPF, has anticipated some provisional 2014 data for each of the categories that come under the EPF. With regard to particleboard, production capacity (excluding Belarus and Ukraine) reached 39.5 million cubic metres last year with a slight increase of plus 0.4% with respect to 2013 and an analogous slight estimated decrease (this has yet to find confirmation) for 2015.
As production capacities fall in industrially mature countries like Belgium and Spain, the expansion underway in Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic is in sharp contrast; a trend which is expected to be confirmed for this year as well with a further decline in Belgium and Portugal.
European particleboard production is mainly destined for the furniture industry with a share of 68 per cent, followed by the building industry (including doors and application in the flooring industry) with 25 per cent.
Again according to the provisional EPF figures, European production of particleboard (equivalent to 29 million cubic metres in 2014) rose by an overall 2 per cent last year, with an estimated further rise of 0.5 per cent for 2015.
The OSB panel is the most fortunate product on the European market at the moment in this unstable climate. The production capacity has grown steadily since 2005, to reach a 1 per cent rise in 2014 and a further estimated increase of over 10 per cent for this year; the OSB production capacity in Europe in 2014 was 5.6 million cubic metres (excluding Ukraine). A trend which is also reflected in a further expansion of the lines and production facilities with an additional production capacity in Belgium (2014), new facilities in the process of being set up in Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Poland (2015) and other projects for expansion in Hungary and Ireland (2016). What is currently helping to boost the positive trend for the production of OSB panels are major building and construction projects: according to the Epf estimates there has been an increase of 2 per cent in the production recorded in 2014 to reach a share of 4.8 million cubic metres of panel.
Market opportunities for the I-PAN consortium
Within the I-PAN project two patents have been filled (paragraph 2.2), which will allow the consortium to extend in the near future (about 2 years) the solutions adopted to other production facilities, ensuring a competitive advantage over other manufacturers and other wood-based panel production solutions, and at the same time encourage industrial stakeholders to promote the cultivation of poplars and the production of light OSB panels.
According to the market analyses performed by the project partners in WP8, the OSB panel is being used more and more in the building and packaging industries and will be used even more so if a lighter product is launched on the market and at a unit cost that can compete with its direct competitors [PB board or wood].
The building industry in particular could represent a remarkable opportunity for the novel I-PAN panels, due to the growing need in Europe of comfortable dwelling at low building costs. The idea of building houses with wooden structure, a concept which was not well received initially in Italy, is gradually spreading and it is now possible to find some completed (or under construction) houses built from wood. The novel I-PAN OSB panel could represent the answer to these market needs, with its excellent technical properties in terms of insulation (comparable to an insulating panel), resistance, elasticity and furthermore versatility (the surface of the LSB panel may be coated with paint or decorated with melamine-based papers) with a unit cost that is approximately 20-30 % less than plywood.
Project partners believe that it will be possible in two years’ time to produce another OSB panel facility where the patents and the technologies adopted in the I-PAN project could be exploited (production of an LSB panel, innovated mat forming system and optical monitoring), with significant benefits for each of them, as summarised in the following table:




Partner Activities carried out Expected market benefits
IMAL Engineering and construction of plants Possibility of selling more competitive plants using the two patents that have been granted, increasing its annual sales volume by approximately 15M€ and employing 5- 10 new technicians
CIAOTECH Consultants on LCA, research projects and dissemination Greater international visibility in terms of communication and wider contact with companies
CHIMAR Research on resins Development of resins that tend to have a formaldehyde content which is almost nil and possibility of selling the research studies
ECS Software development Greater knowledge of the wood industry
IBL Production of plywood panels Possibility of launching in Italy OSB panels and LSB panels produced locally and diversifying the product sold
IDP Engineering company on the logistics area of the work process Greater knowledge of the wood industry and of the problems related to conveying operations
STELA Design and manufacture of dryers Acquisition of the experience gained in I-PAN and transfer to other plants with economic benefits for STELA and environmental benefits for the planet
UNIMI Advanced research at university level Possibility of commercially exploiting the algorithm obtained in new installations

1.4.2 Socio-economic impact
The woodworking industry is a very relevant sector in Europe, accounting for nearly €230 billion of manufacturing added value in Europe [EPF, European wood factsheets]. Engineered wood (EW) represents a highly relevant segment, where a wide range of products are processed and used in many applications, from building components to furniture parts. EWs include a variety of different types of panels, particleboard (PB), medium density fibreboard (MDF), plywood and oriented strand board (OSB).
With regard to the social aspect, even if the I-PAN project aims at technologically evolving a sector which occupies a small niche of the wood industry, it will have important effects not only in this specific sector but on the woodworking industry in general, demonstrating the applicability of new technologies and the possibility to use recycled wood ensuring at the same time the highest quality of the final product.
In a sustainable economy where it is necessary to reduce the consumption of resources, and in addition to reducing consumptions, resources also need to be recycled over and over again, an economic, social and productive approach, aimed at producing recyclable products, is needed and with low manpower requirements as the technological contribution raises the value of the product and consequently, requires the work process operators to have greater technical skills.
The new technologies introduced within the scope of the I-PAN project, some of which are protected by industrial patent, will augment the industry’s technical knowledge and competitiveness, create a predictive maintenance system on the process to reduce the utilization of the resources and hence waste, fully exploiting what nature can produce, and create new job opportunities.

1.4.3 Environmental impact
The I-PAN project has introduced significant innovations both in the production process and in the final product. The environmental benefits of the proposed solution have been widely explored by the I-PAN consortium through the LCA analysis performed within the project. The objective of the analysis was the comparison between the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of the innovative I-PAN products and the GWP of the traditional ones.
The more relevant aspect regarded the use of the poplar wood and the introduction in the panel of about 30% of recycled wood.
Poplar is a renewable source and can be used to replace material with a high carbon dioxide content, and poplar wastes are an excellent biofuel, therefore the whole of the tree is used (no production waste).
Moreover, poplar cultivation is the most advanced form of tree cultivation in the world, managed through strict environmental standards and usually located next to the production sites, therefore exhaust emissions caused by transport are consequently strongly reduced. The use of the most innovative cultivation techniques aimed at making the most of its natural strong points granting constant quality. Poplar wood shows in fact a series of features which make it suitable to be transformed into plywood and block board panels as: light weight; light and plain colour; excellent ratio between specific weight and mechanical features; ease of work.
However, the most interesting characteristic that makes poplar wood suitable for industrial purposes is its environmental friendly nature since, like all fast growing species, it has an excellent capacity to purify the water from harmful toxins and the air, releasing oxygen and holding carbon dioxide, which remains then stored in the logs and afterwards in the OSB panels realised with them.
Besides the use of poplar, the I-PAN project has demonstrated the technical feasibility of OSB panels made from recycled wood coming from the upper part of the trees usually discarded, thus greatly reducing the pressure on primary raw materials.
Another fundamental innovation introduced by the I-PAN project has regarded the use of glues with low formaldehyde content. Formaldehyde emissions have been recognised as having harmful consequences on human health; however, formaldehyde is widely used in the wood industry in the form of phenol-formaldehyde (PF), melamine-formaldehyde (MF), melamine-urea-formaldehyde (MUF) and urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. The I-PAN project has paid special attention to the formaldehyde content of the OSB panels, and its final product is in line with the most stringent and demanding European and international regulations.
As regards the production process, the innovation has concerned the drying system technology, allowing for a more efficient and less energy- consuming process. By reducing the temperature of the drying process, the I-PAN production cycle results greener with respect to competitor solutions, and leads to a significant reduction in CO2eq emissions.
Finally, also the transportation phase provides environmental benefits, since the I-PAN OSB is lighter than traditional ones, thus resulting in further CO2 emissions savings.
To conclude, the production of the I-PAN panel has an impact in terms of GWP which is significantly lower (about 50%) than the production of a traditional OSB panel. The greatest benefits are related to the use of recycled wood, which avoids the production of wastes and their subsequent treatment and which represents one of the most important innovations of the I-PAN process. Even the transport phase entails considerable advantages, related to the lower weight, about 30%, of the innovative I-PAN panel in respect with traditional OSB panels.

1.4.4 Cultural impact and dissemination activities
The cultural aspects are very important as it’s actually thanks to culture that we can continue to think of living on this planet. Our society, oriented towards an economic consumerism linked to anachronistic concepts such as the PIL, must look, in cultural terms, towards a circular concept of the economy, a sustainable PIL, where nothing is wasted and everything is used x times in different forms and applications.
The I-PAN project has given high importance not only to the achievement of significant environmental benefits, but also to the dissemination of the obtained results, in order to raise the awareness of people towards these pivotal themes.
The most relevant initiative has been the involvement of students at the final conference, since the new generation represents the best target for dissemination activities that aim at raising the awareness towards the environment valorisation and respect. However, several dissemination activities has been performed, dedicated not only to the most relevant stakeholders, but to the society in general, as described in the following table.

Please see in the PDF "IPAN_Final Report_final version_v2.pdf" a detailed list of dissemination materials and activities.
List of Websites:
Project website address: http://www.ipanproject.eu/
Partner n° Company short name Country First Name Surname Telephone Fax Email
1 IMAL Italy Lauro Zoffoli +39 059 465568 Lauro.zoffoli@imal.com
2 IBL Italy Enrico Bonzano enrico.bonzano@ibl.it
3 CTECH Italy Marco Romeo +39 3467962277 m.romeo@ciaotech.com
4 STELA Germany Tobias Latein +49 08724899 +49 01759346337 latein@stela.de
5 IDP Spain Juan Carlos Rives 0034902431289 - info@idp.es
6 ECSC Spain Raul Del Coso dir.proyectos@softcomputing.es
7 UMIL Italy Fabio Scotti +39 0220330053 +39 0250330010 fabio.scotti@unimi.it
8 CHIMAR Greece Eleftheria ATHANASSIADOU +30 2310424167 +30 2310424149 eathan@ari.gr


Contact

Zoffoli, Lauro (General Manager)
Tel.: +39 059 465500
E-mail
Record Number: 182275 / Last updated on: 2016-05-13
Information source: SESAM