Modeling the Transient Effects during the Hot-Pressing of Wood-Based Composites

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Virginia Tech


A numerical model based on fundamental engineering principles was developed and validated to establish a relationship between process parameters and the final properties of woodbased composite boards. The model simulates the mat formation, then compresses the reconstituted mat to its final thickness in a virtual press. The number of interacting variables during the hot-compression process is prohibitively large to assess a wide variety of data by experimental means. Therefore, the main advantage of the model based approach that the effect of the hot-compression parameters on the final properties of wood-based composite boards can be monitored without extensive experimentation.

The mat formation part of the model is based on the Monte Carlo simulation technique to reproduce the spatial structure of the mat. The dimensions and the density of each flake are considered as random variables in the model, which follow certain probability density distributions. The parameters of these distributions are derived from data collected on industrial flakes by using an image analysis technique. The model can simulate the structure of a threelayer oriented strandboard (OSB) mat as well as the structure of random fiber networks. A grid is superimposed on the simulated mat and the number of flakes, the thickness, and the density of the mat at each grid point are computed. Additionally, the model predicts the change in several void volume fractions within the mat and the contact area between the flakes during consolidation. The void volume fractions are directly related to the physical properties of the mat, such as thermal conductivity, diffusivity, and permeability, and the contact area is an indicator of the effectively bonded area within the mat.

The heat and mass transfer part of the model predicts the change of air content, moisture content, and temperature at designated mesh points in the cross section of the mat during the hotcompression. The water content is subdivided into vapor and bound water components. The free water component is not considered in the model due to the low (typically 6-7 %) initial moisture content of the flakes. The gas phase (air and vapor) moves by bulk flow and diffusion, while the bound water only moves by diffusion across the mat. The heat flow occurs by conduction and convection. The spatial derivatives of the resulting coupled partial differential equations are discretized by finite differences. The resulting ordinary differential equation in time is solved by a differential-algebraic system solver (DDASSL). The internal environment within the mat can be predicted among different initial and boundary conditions by this part of the hot-compression model.

In the next phase of the research, the viscoelastic (time, temperature, and moisture dependent) response of the flakes was modeled using the time-temperature-moisture superposition principle of polymers. A master curve was created from data available in the literature, which describes the changing relaxation modulus of the flakes as a function of moisture and temperature at different locations in the mat. Then the flake mat was compressed in a virtual press. The stress-strain response is highly nonlinear due to the cellular structure of the mat. Hooke's Law was modified with a nonlinear strain function to account for the behavior of the flake mat in transverse compression. This part of the model gives insight into the vertical density profile formation through the thickness of the mat.

Laboratory boards were produced to validate the model. A split-plot experimental design, with three different initial mat moisture contents (5, 8.5, 12 %), three final densities (609, 641, 673 kg êm3 or 38, 40, 42 lb ê ft3), two press platen temperatures (150, 200 °C), and three different press closing times (40, 60, 80 s) was applied to investigate the effect of production parameters on the internal mat conditions and the formation of the vertical density profile. The temperature and gas pressure at six locations in the mat, and the resultant density profiles of the laboratory boards, were measured. Adequate agreement was found between the model predicted and the experimentally measured temperature, pressure, and vertical density profiles.

The complete model uses pressing parameters (press platen temperature, press schedule) and mat properties (flake dimensions and orientation, density distribution, initial moisture content and temperature) to predict the resulting internal conditions and vertical density profile formation within the compressed board. The density profile is related to all the relevant mechanical properties (bending strength, modulus of elasticity, internal bond strength) of the final board. The model can assist in the optimization of the parameters for hot-pressing woodbased composites and improve the performance of the final panel.



heat and mass transfer of porous solids, wood-based composites, hot-compression, process modeling, Monte Carlo simulation