As timber resources decline and resource demands increase in today’s modern industrialized world, it is becoming increasingly necessary to explore opportunities for new, sustainable building materials. Bamboo has strong environmental characteristics as well as similar properties to hardwoods. As such, it makes an appealing candidate as a structural material. With modern glues, bamboo lamination is extremely strong and durable and can replace many of the functions of wood.
There are various applications of bamboo lamination. These include household items like furniture and benchtops as well as a myriad of smaller household items like cutting boards, shelving, decorative items and souvenirs.
It can also be used for flooring, and high quality panels for ceilings and walls. Bamboo laminated productsgenerallycome in two colors, natural and amber. Natural bamboo, where bamboo is left untreated is best characterized by its light shade, similar to that of maple. Bamboo is darkened to an amber colour by a carbonization process.
Product and Market
Since Bamboo lamination provides an alternative to wood, the market for bamboo lamination will be associated with changes in the price and demand of wood products. In the face of increasing demand for wood products versus limited natural wood resources, the price of wood products has consistently increased over the last 10 years. The demand for bamboo lamination is on the rise as a hardwood substitute. Furthermore, there is an increasing shift in the buying patterns of consumers in favour of environmentally friendly products and renewable materials. The major consuming markets for bamboo lamination are Europe and America. Recently, commercial success with bamboo lamination products has grown in many Asian and Far East countries.
China is the major producer of bamboo lamination. China’s production capacity is estimated for 500,000 m3 per year. About 80% of bamboo lamination board is turned into flooring, other 20% comes to furniture and structural products. More than 70% of China’s production is for export markets and the main importers and users are US and Europe. Some small quantity is being produced in Vietnam and African countries. The production in Vietnam is estimated at 10,000 m3 per year. Although it varies greatly depending on product type, lamination production of unfinished boards and blocks are worth approximately $1000/m3 ex-factory.
A standard manufacturing process for bamboo lamination is described the diagram. As shown in the figure, the stalk is initially split lengthwise into strips. These strips are then treated to prevent insect attack. The strips are kiln dried and sanded to a smooth surface for laminating. They are then laminated edge to edge to create a single-ply panel. These panels are then laminated again to each other to create multi-ply bamboo plywood. Or they may be face glued to make vertical grain panels. Other lay-ups are used for block cross-sections. This principle can be applied to create boards and blocks of any cross section to suit a wide range of applications.
Production of bamboo lamination requires technology similar to other engineered wood products, and the technology is very mature in China. Machinery for a simple manufacturing to produce lamination board costs from US$100,000 upto US$500,000 depending on scales of production. Other equipment and machines will be required to produce finished furniture or flooring. The best equipment can be sourced in China, but investors can consider sourcing equipment from agents in Vietnam.
From observation from different producers in China and Vietnam, bamboo lamination investment shows attractive financial return. Payback period is predicted for around three years. Furthermore, businesses can get develop good marginal returns in additional to basic laminated board and block production by integrating furniture or other kinds of finished products into the business model.