A southern Germany company called JELU with a long history in wood processing has developed a proprietary wood-plastic composite (WPC) and now has a capacity of 45,000 tons. One of the customers is a German toymaker called Buggi that makes Lego-like interlocking bricks.
JELU’s newest product—launched last week at the trade show Fakuma—is a totally bioplastic material using polylactic acid (40 percent) and wood fibers. The company also offers composites based on polyethylene (oil-and sugar-based), polypropylene, thermoplastic starch (TPS), and other plastics. The fibers are either wood fibers or cellulose fibers.
Company officials say there are several tricks to its trade. One starts with wood selection. Specific grain sizes are used. Wood types are not mixed. JELU also developed compounding machinery that helps create fusion between the wood and plastic.
In another interesting twist, the product is sold as granulate, not pellets. The granules are approximately as big as a peanut: 4.5 x 10mm. JELU says that granulated WPC is more homogeneous and processes more easily in extruders and injection molding machines.
JEL officials say that the density of its WPC is higher compared to material made via direct extrusion, providing greater strength and stiffness. The increased density also reduces water absorption. Many of JELU’s products are used in decking and other traditional outdoor WPC applications.
One customer uses the WPC granulate from JELU to make heavy-duty pallets used for transporting machine parts. Another business compresses the bioplastic to produce panels for furniture manufacture.
JELU is owned by Josef Ehrler GmbH & Co KG, Rosenberg, Germany.