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Learning curve for woods

Materials Cutting Edge

FOOTBALL fans may wish they could bend it like Beckham, but shaping solid wood is a bind to manufacturers. Putting the material under pressure to achieve a new shape can cause it to crack or break.

Manufacturer BLP claims to have solved the problem. Its multi-layered veneer product Thermaflex can, says the firm, be supplied as straight sections for the customer to shape or pre-formed to a curve.

'It started off as a solution to a problem, ' said BLP technical director Peter Clarke. 'A customer asked us to produce a pre-curved piece of lipping for a piece of furniture. We manufacture veneers anyway, so we applied a high-pressure laminate to veneers on a flat plank that can be formed to the curve required, rather than having to apply veneer to a pre-bent piece of wood. The method is stress-free as the veneer layers float on top of each other.'

Instead of adding pressure, the material is then heated up so it can be shaped. Mr Clarke believes the method will produce less waste because, if the first result is unsatisfactory, it can be heated again. A minimum thickness of 6 mm can be achieved.

With the material already in production, Mr Clarke anticipates the fit-out industry could make wide use of it in areas as diverse as retail units and boats.

'Column cladding is a good example.

That is much easier to apply already curved, ' he said.

Bend me, shape me: wood has been notoriously difficult to shape in the past, but BLP says Thermaflex can be bent into almost any shape (inset)