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Performance Plastics: A Cut Above
by IAPD Editorial Committee
Conditions are less-than-ideal in many aspects of the lumber and paper industry. When logging, machinery is exposed to all temperatures and weather conditions. Sawmill equipment must be tough enough to stand up to the impact of large trees going through their processors. Paper processing involves caustic chemicals that must be transported safely. Materials such as bronze, brass, steel and rubber wear out quickly in these conditions, so many companies are now turning to parts made from performance plastics such as polyurethane (PU), ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE), nylon and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC). Not only do these performance plastics last longer, but they also reduce noise and minimize product damage.
Forestry industry
UHMW-PE’s low friction, high resistance to abrasion and exceptional toughness makes it a good choice for wear and material flow applications in the sawmill and wood industries. Logs can cause significant wear on conveying equipment and chains and flights can wear out quickly. Holes can develop in steel pans and chutes. UHMW-PE, which outlasts abrasion-resistant steel in most applications, can extend the life of conveying equipment. In addition, UHMW-PE offers sound abatement benefits, where it can reduce the noise of a dragging chain by 20 decibels, making for a better work environment.
Nylon use in sawmills
Increased production speeds have led to increased wear on equipment, causing preventable downtime. Nylon is used frequently as a chain bed/liner which requires approximately 75 percent less lubrication and significantly increases the life of the chain. The bed is precision machined to ensure maximum efficiency. It’s also easy to install and requires little maintenance. Benefits include exceptional resistance to wear and abrasion, high-impact strength, self-lubricating, chemical and corrosion resistance, a low coefficient of friction, high visibility colors for increased safety and being a lighter weight option than metals. This combination helps the materials go through the processing equipment faster and more smoothly.
lumber and paper machine in factory
Performance plastics play a huge role in the lumber and paper industry: They can stand up to harsh conditions, are impact resistant and contribute to the smooth processing at every step along the way.
Performance plastics are making major contributions to the lumber industry. New additives continue to make for better working conditions, as well. UHMW and nylons have been boosted to be stronger and create less friction. Even simple things like coloring helps sawmills locate contamination in the kilns, protecting their expensive production equipment from breakdowns.
Plastics make paper possible
Pulp and paper manufacturers often use caustic bleach in their processes. The piping system that moves this bleach must have superior corrosion resistance and be able to withstand high temperatures. Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) piping systems can stand up to this harsh environment and last longer than carbon-steel and stainless-steel piping. CPVC piping has demonstrated excellent service in bleach-plant process lines, even when exposed to several corrosive acidic and caustic solutions found in bleach preparation and process operations.

For decades now, performance plastics have, and continue to, make our wood and paper industry better.