Modelling and Optimisation of MDF Hot Pressing
Thesis DisciplineChemical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
There are four big medium density fibreboard (MDF) plants in New Zealand with a total production capacity of close to one million cubic meters per year. A significant quantity of boards (nearly 3% or about 30,000 cubic meters per year) is rejected due to defects such as weak core, low modulus of rupture and elasticity, low internal bonding and delamination. The main cause of these defects, is lack of complete understanding of the inter relationship during the hot-pressing stage between the initial inputs such as temperature, moisture content, platen pressure and its impact on the properties of boards. The best solution is to develop a mathematical model to assist in understanding these relationships and to solve the equations in the model by using advanced software. This will reduce the number of expensive experiments and will enable us to see some of the parameters, which are otherwise difficult to visualise. Several earlier researchers have tried to model hot pressing of wood composites, mostly either for particle board or oriented strand board (OSB), and only a few are for MDF. The type of numerical methods used to solve the model equations and various assumptions, changes from one investigator to the other. The non-availability of source code to convert the mathematical equations into programme, is one of the reasons for this model development. To improve the productivity of MDF plants in New Zealand, there was a need to develop a computer programme which can include all the latest findings and can remove the defects which are present in earlier models. This model attempts a more complete integration than in the previous models of all the components such as heat transfer, moisture movement and vertical density profile formation in a one-dimensional model of hot pressing of MDF. One of the important features added in the heat and mass transfer part of the model is that the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) equation given for solid wood was modified to be applicable for the MDF fibres. In addition, this EMC equation can cover the complete range of hot pressing temperature from 160ºC to 200ºC. The changes in fibre moisture content due to bound water diffusion, which was were earlier neglected, was considered. The resin curing reactions for phenol formaldehyde and urea formaldehyde resins are also incorporated into the model, with the energy and water released during the curing reaction being included in the energy and mass balances. The validation of the heat and mass transfer model was done by comparing the values of core temperature and core pressure from the model and the experiments. The experimental value of core pressure and core temperature is obtained by putting a thermocouple and pressure transducer in the middle of the mat. The experimental core temperature results show qualitative agreement with the predicted results. In the beginning, the core temperatures from both experiment and model overlap each other. In the middle of the press cycle, the experimental core temperature is higher by 10ºC and by the end the difference decreases to 5ºC. The vertical density profile (VDP) is a critical determining factor for the strength and quality of MDF panels. The earlier concept of ratio of modulus of elasticity of the layer to the sum of modulus of elasticity of all the layers in the previous time step, given by Suo and Bowyer (1994), is refined with the latest published findings. The equation given by Carvalho et al. (2001) is used to calculate the MOE of different layers of the mat. The differential equation of a Maxwell element given by Zombori (2001) is used to measure stress, nonlinear strain function and relaxation of fibres. The model gives good agreement of peak and core density at lower platen temperature at 160ºC but with the increase of platen temperature to 198ºC, the rise in peak density is comparatively higher. There is a distinct increase in predicted peak density by 150 kg/m³ in comparison to the experimental result, where the increase is only by 10 kg/m³. There is a large decline (50 kg/m³) in core density in the experimental results in comparison to only a slight decline (13 kg/m³) in the predicted results. The use of Matlab provides a very convenient platform for producing graphical results. The time of computation at present is nearly 20 hrs in a personal computer with Pentium four processor and one GB RAM. The model can predict properties of a pressed board for the standard manufacturing conditions and also the new hot pressing technologies such as the use of steam injection or a cooling zone in the continuous press. A comparative study has been done to show the advantages of using new hot pressing technology. The present model will become an important tool in the hands of wood technologist, process engineers and MDF manufacturing personnel, to better understand the internal processes and to improve production and quality of MDF boards. This theoretical model helped in developing better understanding of internal processes. By using it, we can analyse the impact of platen temperature, moisture content on the core temperature, core pressure and density profile. It gives better insight into the relationship between core pressure and delamination of the board. The model is also able to predict the internal changes in the new hot pressing technologies such as the steam injection pressing and the use of a cooling zone in a continuous press. Using the simulation results, the exact time needed for the complete curing of resin can be calculated and then these results can be applied in the commercial plants. If the pressing time is reduced, then the over all production of both batch press and continuous press will increase. The second part of the project is the development of an empirical model to correlate the physical properties from the MDF board to the mean density. The empirical model is simple and straightforward, and thus can be applied in commercial operation for control and optimization. The empirical model can predict peak density, core density, and modulus of rupture, elasticity and internal bonding within the limits in which those relationships are derived. The model gives good results for thickness ranging from 10 to 13.5 mm and density ranging from 485 kg/m³ to 718 kg/m³.