Material Properties - Manufactured Board


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Manufactured board is a material category comprised of man-made materials that are derived from wood. Often known as Engineered wood, organic fibres or thin veneers of wood are adhered together to make a composite material. Typically they are made up of softwoods and hardwoods used for timber production, often made from the  waste materials. As they are engineered, it allows for the material to have a far greater tolerance and typically uniform grain as it does not exist. Equally, large sheets of manufactured board can be made without a concern for the size limitations found with natural timber and produced to an exact thickness, typically - 3, 6, 9,12 mm etc.


MDF, or Medium Density Fibreboard, is a commonly used engineered wood that is made from fine particles of timber, much like sawdust. The particles are mixed with a bonding agent or resin and compressed under high amounts of pressure and heat. This gives MDF a dense material structure and a smooth even surface with no visible grain. Typically, MDF is comprised of 82% wood fibres, 9% resin glue, 8% water & 1% wax

As a material, it is incredibly easy to machine, rigid & stable, but lacks moisture resistance to damp and humidity. It is typically used for its very low cost over softwood alternatives and is found in flat pack furniture, toys, kitchen units and internal building construction. A key concern with the widespread use of MDF is the resin, urea-formaldehyde, is considered a human carcinogen, meaning the particles when worked may cause damage and irritation to the body


​Plywood is an engineered wood constructed of alternating layers of timber veneers (thin layers) from either softwood or hardwood. The layers are known as 'plies' and are bonded using adhesive so that the grain of each veneer is rotated 90° from the next one. This is known as 'cross-graining' which; prevents the material from splitting when nailed from the side, reduces expansion and shrinkage, ensures a consistent high strength across all directions. Typically, plies are joined in uneven numbers to  reduce warping with the outer plies having the best aesthetic qualities

Due to its high material strength it is often used in construction for both interior and exterior applications, with marine grades of plywood having greater resistance to wear and moisture. Flexiply is engineered to bend and form curved parts  using thinner plies making it suitable for more organic furniture designs. As with MDF, Plywood contains urea-formaldehyde as well as phenol formaldehyde (marine ply). The level of formaldehyde emission is graded on a scale using the letter 'E'. Plywood graded as E0 is therefore effectively emission free


Chipboard, also known as particleboard, is made from coarse chips of timber which have been mixed with a bonding agent or resin and compressed into sheets. Due to the rough and uneven surface texture this creates it is often laminated with natural timber or polymer such as melamine formaldehyde. As a material it has excellent compressive strength but lacks moisture resistance and the edge are prone to chipping is not coated. It is however a very low cost, less aesthetic alternative to plywood but lacks its strength and density

​Due to its construction, it is prone to expansion and discolouration when exposed to moisture and is therefore treated or coated when used in humid or outdoor applications. Commonly, it can be found in low cost furniture, kitchen worktops, flooring and fire doors. Chipboard is available in higher density options for different applications but where greater moisture resistance and durability is required, Oriented Strand Board(OSB) is used which is comprised of layered larger 'flakes' of timber