11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium: Automotive branch focusing on wood – opportunities for the wood-based materials industry

Braunschweig / 5.11.2018

From 10th to 12th October 2018, sector representatives from science and practice met at the Grand Elysée Hotel in Hamburg to discuss topics relating to wood as a material. Formaldehyde, the potential of wood-based materials within the automotive industry, and future challenges for the sector formed the focus for the 345 participants from 32 nations. The intensive technical discussions generated by the presentation sessions made this year’s event a resounding success - once again.

Professor Dr.-Ing. Bohumil Kasal, Institute Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI, and Kris Wijnendaele, Technical Director of the European Panel Federation (EPF), welcomed the participants on the first day of the event. In his welcoming address, Jens Kerstan, Senator for the Hamburg authority for the environment and energy, highlighted the importance of the use of the raw material wood with regard to climate change. According to Mr. Kerstan, wood also plays an important role for the City of Hamburg: firstly, as a material for lightweight additions to existing buildings and, secondly, in the location of the internationally recognized wood industry study program.

In the opening presentation, Dr. Jan Bergmann, Managing Director of Sonae Arauco Deutschland GmbH, reported on the current economic situation of the European wood-based materials industry as well as on political and industrial changes. The industry is facing major challenges, said Dr. Bergmann. Examples include waste-wood recycling and the shortage of skilled workers, which are constantly gaining in importance as a result of demographic change. Furthermore, there is a need for improvement in the communication concerning the compliance with regulations and the accuracy of measurement methods. A coordinated European representation of the interests of the partners from the wood-based materials industry is therefore urgently necessary.

In a total of 22 specialist presentations, the speakers from industry and research addressed, amongst other subjects, product and adhesive developments as well as process and plant optimization. The bandwidth of further topics ranged from emissions to recycling and on to “recommendations for action”, in order to improve the acceptance of wood use among the general public.

As a representative of the furniture industry, Dr. Christian Ullrich from Nobilia talked about increasing product quality through the in-depth analysis of process capability and performance in the production of kitchen components. Michael Wolff, Wolff Management Solutions, emphasized in his presentation the importance of long-term strategic planning and the implementation of derived measures for the wood-processing industry.

The subject of formaldehyde continued to be of topical interest at the event: Professor Dr. Tunga Salthammer, Head of Department for “Material Analysis and Indoor Chemistry” at the Fraunhofer WKI, comprehensively addressed formaldehyde sources and concentrations in indoor areas. “The political measures for the limitation of formaldehyde are currently facing a dilemma. On the one hand, intensive political efforts are being undertaken to enforce ever-lower limits for building product emissions and indoor air concentrations. On the other hand, secondary sources in indoor and outdoor areas are not being taken into account,” said Prof. Salthammer. Venla Hemmilä, IKEA, informed the sector regarding the furniture manufacturer's measures for a further reduction in formaldehyde emissions by 2020. One of the crucial questions is how the goal of observing a maximum value of half of the natural wood emissions can be hereby achieved.

For the first time, the automotive industry was also represented at the Symposium. Dr. Fabian Fischer, Volkswagen AG, elucidated the suitability of wood-based materials and their requirements for structure-lending components in vehicle construction. By means of the research project For(s)tschritt, which Volkswagen AG is carrying out in collaboration with, amongst others, the Fraunhofer WKI and the University of Kassel, he explained the automotive manufacturer’s current research projects which are connected to the natural product wood, and also discussed the potential of wood-based materials within the automotive industry. Wood-based (multi-material) lightweight solutions enable cost savings and a unique environmental footprint through the utilization of a natural material. The challenges for the application of wood-based materials lie in, amongst others, complex 3D geometries and the mechanical properties of the components, their accuracy of fit and their hygroscopic and thermal properties. Dr. Fischer called upon the representatives of the wood-based materials industry to contribute their problem-solving expertise to lightweight automotive construction.

The breaks were used by the participants for intensive technical discussions, networking and to obtain information regarding new research work within the framework of the poster exhibition. Eleven companies presented their current services and technical solutions in the accompanying technical exhibition.

Very well attended were the two evening events which, as a framework program, formed an extension of the presentation event. On the first evening, the participants met in the Grand Foyer of the hotel at the invitation of the exhibiting companies and the iVTH e. V. Following a long-standing tradition, Sasol Wax once again organized this year's reception on Thursday evening, which took place in a relaxed atmosphere in the internationally known music club “Gruenspan” on the famous Große Freiheit street in the heart of the St. Pauli quarter.

The European Wood-based Panel Symposium is staged every two years by the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research WKI and the European Panel Federation EPF, with support from the International Association for Technical Issues related to Wood iVTH e. V. and Sasol Wax. This year, around 56 percent of the participants came from Germany, 34 percent from other European countries and 10 percent from overseas. The event presentations can be ordered in digital form from Ms. Heike Pichlmeier, Fraunhofer WKI via the E-Mail address info@wki.fraunhofer.de. The costs for this amount to 50 euros. The 12th European Wood-based Panel Symposium will take place from 30th September to 2nd October 2020, once again in Hamburg.