A new wood product, called E-MDF, has been developed by Warwick Laser Systems. Working in partnership with FIRA International, the company undertook and successfully won a bid for a grant from the Technology Strategy Board to carry out market research to gather information about its commercial viability.

E-MDF is created using new laser processing technology which allows a scanned image of any woodgrain to be permanently etched onto the surface of MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard), giving it the look and feel of real timber.

E-MDF does not require any additional materials, which sets it apart from the current options for achieving a wood finish, such as laminating wood veneers and foil wrapping. The process will offer manufacturers and homeowners a middle-market alternative to high-end solid timber products and low-end existing MDF products.

E-MDF shares the same benefits as MDF, a wood fibre-based material used in construction as a reliable and cheaper alternative to solid timber. Made from compressed sawdust, it does not suffer from the irregularities of real timber, such as splits and shakes, therefore minimising wastage.

Sue Calver, project manager for FIRA, says: “The current options for giving MDF a ‘real wood’ finish are limited, so the advantages of E-MDF are clear. The laser process not only gives MDF the realistic appearance of real wood, the grain pattern is etched into the surface so it also feels like a real wood-grain.

“FIRA’s key focus is to engage with a variety of stakeholders, specifiers and consumers in the relevant supply chains to assess market demand, potential market size, and projected capacities required.

“This is a really exciting project and FIRA is proud to be working alongside Warwick Lasers to help bring this new technology to market.”

Currently, MDF pieces with a width of up to approximately 180mm can be processed, but a modification to the technology would allow larger pieces to be produced.

The ‘Smart’ grant, awarded to Warwick Laser Systems last year, has allowed FIRA to research the market segment of stakeholders expressing a desire for this technology to be made available. This will enable Warwick Lasers to achieve a commercially viable operating speed.

FIRA says that anyone seeking further information, or wishing to take part in market research, are welcome to call Sue Calver or send an email.