Medium Density Fibre (MDF) Part 1
MDF: Advantages and the Environment
What is MDF?
Medium density fibreboard, or MDF, is a reconstituted, engineered composite wood product. It is made from wood waste fibres glued together with a resin combined with heat and pressure. Like particle board, MDF is essentially produced from the chips and leftovers from the lumber yards and the processing of the tree. However, with the success and popularity of MDF in addition to particle board, specific tree plantations have been planted to produce MDF. These plantations use particular fast growing species of trees. In either instance, the lumbar is either already chipped or goes through a chipping process. The chipping process will use a disk chipper with typically 4-16 blades that are configured to produce small, uniform wood chips. The chips are checked for defects and washed ready for use and mixing with resin and undergo the heat and pressurising to producing the MDF board.
MDF has many advantages over plank wood, particleboard, or high density fibreboard. It is cheaper than wood and high density fibreboard, more dense then particle board and the easiest of these to work with. As the wood fibres used in its manufacture are uniform and fine, the finish can be very smooth and suit a number of applications such as frameworks for construction or home furniture products. This results in a number of specific advantages of using MDF.
When MDF material is cut, the end remains smooth instead of jagged or rough like particle board or wood planks. This means that finishing times are reduced and when used with other MDF parts, they can easily match to form right angles or joins. The smooth finish will also accommodate a coat of primer and a couple of coats of paint very well, leaving an attractive, finished surface unlike other composite wood products.
Due to its strength and composition, MDF can be just as, if not more versatile than a natural wood plank while able to support a wider range of joining types than particle boards. MDF will handle nailing, glue, screws, staples and many other connecting solutions without compromising the structure. However, the edge of MDF is vulnerable to splitting when screwing into the edge of a board.
MDF also has a mild reaction to moisture that will avoid warping in high-humidity applications such as bathroom furniture while natural wood and particle board particularly, can dry out and crack or swell and expand or even collapse if particle board.
MDF can be produced from a number of resources, woods, scrap, recycled paper, bamboo, carbon fibres and polymers, steel, glass, forest thinning and sawmill off-cuts. Often these off-cuts will be disposed of through dumping, landfill or burning. For example, wood mills will always produce leftover scraps during the debarking and striping process that would otherwise be dumped in a landfill or burned on site in furnaces. As MDF can be made from these waste products, it can provide a more efficient use of the resource and waste. While this waste can be used to create particleboard, MDF is often seen as a better alternative as it is more durable and can be applied in more uses.
The core environmental issue with MDF is the resin used in the manufacturing process however, greener products with less or non-toxic binders are now being produced and introduced into the manufacturing process.
This use of recycled materials and plantation timber in the manufacture of MDF will reduce the demands on our remaining forests. This has resulted in the use of MDF being promoted over hardwood and recognition of the conservation value in areas where hardwood exists, or has been previously logged. Additionally, fast growing renewable resources alternative materials are being introduced such as straw and bamboo which will further reduce the demand on specifically wood based resources.