Panel producer Sonae is diversifying into the wood-plastic composites industry after signing a licensing deal to commercialise new technology in Europe.

Sonae has signed a licensing deal with New Zealand-based Crown Research Institute Scion to manufacture and sell the latter’s technology, which enables production of wood-plastic composites with long wood fibre reinforcement.

“Our company has been interested in this technology for a few years, and our successful trials with plastic processing operations have given us the confidence to introduce this new material to Europe,” said Christophe Chambonnet, Sonae’s chief marketing and sales officer.

Sonae has named the technology’s product “WoodForce” because of the strength the material combination gives to traditional polymers.

“As one of the world leaders in wood technology, with over 10 million tons of wood processed annually, Sonae Indústria needs to have an important role in the future of the wood sector,” added Mr Chambonnet.

“I have no doubt that we are creating a new future by mixing wood fibres with thermoplastic polymers and a new perspective on the use of the wood fibre.”

Wood plastic ‘pellet’ composites produced by the technology can be fed easily into conventional extruders and injection moulders and processed as bio-based fibre reinforced plastics.

“In addition to the high performance of this product, what’s also exciting is the fact that the technology can easily fit into existing manufacturing and processing chains,” said Scion’s chief executive Warren Parker.

“The wood fibre-rich dice will be sold to wood plastic composite manufacturers and compounders.”

Applications for the material include decking, fencing, pallets, furniture, appliance housing, computer peripherals and even automotive parts.

Sonae also has the right to negotiate with Scion for other regions.