Panels & Furniture Asia May/Jun 2019

THE MALAYSIAN MDF MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION ( MMMA ) 80 N E W S L E T T E R MAY/JUNE 2019 H e v e a B r a s i l i e n s i s (Euphorbiaceae) has many names, Kayu Getah, Yang Phara, Pokok Getah Para, Kausuu, Jaang, Kyetpaung, Katoh and Cao Su, but it is most commonly known as Rubberwood. This timber becomes available when agricultural plantation rubber trees are felled. Replanting of rubber trees is carried out every 20 to 25 years when the trees no longer yield adequate latex which is the primary product harvested. Hevea Brasiliensis species was originally native to the Amazon Basin in South America. Latex up until the end of the 19 th century could only be sourced from Brazil. The process of vulcanisation of latex to produce rubber was invented by Charles Goodyear in 1839 after which the demand for latex increased significantly primarily for the production of tyres required by the fledgling automobile industry. The wealth generated in the Manaus province of Brazil became legendary as demand for this unique commodity flourished. In 1876 Sir Henry Wickham smuggled Hevea seedlings out of Brazil to the UK, then transferred the plantlets to the Singapore Botanical Gardens. These plantlets became the planting stock for the first rubber plantations in the State of Perak and eventually for the whole of present day Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. The important point to make here is that Hevea Brasiliensis was planted as an agricultural crop primarily for the harvesting of latex. Up until recently, the felled Hevea trees considered a waste material were either burnt openly or used as fuel for brick kilns, latex curing, cooking, and charcoal and to fuel locomotive engines! It really wasn’t until the 1970’s that rubberwood started to be used as a timber material as opposed to a worthless by-product of latex production. By the early 2000’s rubberwood had become the most extensively used timber in South East Asia. Within this relatively short space of time rubberwood had replaced many traditional hardwoods for the production of furniture, flooring, and joinery and became the raw material of choice for the production of Medium Density Fibreboards (MDF) and Particleboards (PB). Research has always been instrumental in the initiation and development of new technologies for industry. Rubberwood processing and utilisation was no exception. Pioneer industrialists together with the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), and the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia (RRIM) all contributed in overcoming the problems associated with the processing and usages of rubberwood. Some of the key factors that have made rubberwood so successful include its relatively low costs since it is an agricultural by-product and its abundance within the South East Asian region. This coincided at the time when manufacturing THE AMAZING SUCCESS By Peter Fitch STORY OF RUBBERWOOD

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