Vietnam has a large furniture production and export industry, with exports worth US$2.8 billion in 2008. Timber for this industry is to a large extent imported - at very substantial cost (US$854 million in 2009). Vietnam also has a very large plantation estate of acacias (300-400 k ha) and eucalypts (500 k ha). ACIAR has provided much support in establishing and improving this resource, which has been used largely for the production of low-value pulpwood.
Acacias and eucalypts from natural forests in Australia have long been used for the production of specialty veneers, but the use of plantation acacias and eucalypts for this purpose is in its infancy. The aim of the project is to promote higher value utilisation of Vietnam’s eucalypt and acacia plantations by optimising veneer production from this resource.
Underpinning objectives will be:
1. To analyse existing resource, supply chain and wood processing methodologies, and to support a market focusing on both veneer and veneer-based products;
2. To investigate and optimise current processes: development of optimal processing methods according to quality and sizes of plantation logs of Acacia and Eucalyptus;
3. To test and develop new processing methods and products from veneer: new techniques will be tested in order to increase the recovery and the quality as well as to improve product added value produced from Acacia and Eucalyptus;
4. To monitor and analyse economic impact of improvements and innovations introduced to small-medium enterprises (SMEs) during the project, and to investigate new value creation;
5. To implement education and training related to veneer production and use in manufacturing.
The project will strongly complement project work underway in Australia on production of veneers from some plantation eucalypts.
This project started in March 2012 with an Inception meeting with project stakeholders and potential industry partners in Vietnam. The purpose of this ‘kick-off’ project period was to:
Attend welcoming meeting and facility visit to the two main Vietnamese project partners; FSIV and VFU.
Conduct the inception meeting to present the project concepts and work packages to the project funding body (ACIAR), partners, institutions and potential industry partners.
Collect feedback to develop future action plans.
Establish coherent objective and task action plan methodologies for work package leaders.
Visit small, medium and large veneer production and furniture manufacturing industrial sites to discuss company profiles, technical issues, objectives and potential involvement in the project.
During the week of 30 April to 4 May 2012, five participants in the project (3 from FSIV, 1 from VFU and 1 industry personnel) attended a Crawford Fund training course at the DAFF Salisbury Research Facility in Brisbane. Participants were trained in the current best practice techniques for veneer peeling and slicing, gluing and pressing composites and product quality measurements of veneers and composite products. This training has direct relevancy to the project outcomes.
There has been regular interaction between the Australian and Vietnamese partners and with the industry representatives in Vietnam. Australian researchers from DAFF and the University of Melbourne have participated in activities and planning meetings in Vietnam and a group of Vietnamese researchers along with industry representatives travelled to Australia to undertake training in veneer quality control protocols through disbursement of a Crawford Fund grant.
A training centre was established on-site at one of the industry collaborator’s facilities (http://www.woodsland.com.vn/) in Hanoi. Courses on processing and market strategy were conducted during early 2013 and were well attended by the industry.
A detailed resource analysis is partially completed with current data extracted from a combination of literature review, government records e.g. Department of Agriculture and Development and field plot assessments. These have been collated for analysis and the report, now overdue is in preparation.
The competitiveness mapping and value-chain analysis activities have been delayed due to finalisation of the contract with CAP. VAFS and CAP are developing the methodologies for these activities which will be rolled into a single report.
The investigation into the potential and advantages of certification for Vietnamese companies interested in veneer markets abroad has been postponed and will commence in April 2014 when a suitable expert is available.
A comprehensive capacity report describing the current capabilities was prepared by the survey team during 2012 and follow up visits to participating companies will take place during mid-2013 to discuss the findings of the experts and plan implementation of recommendations. Key recommendations were based around lean manufacturing protocols, improved materials flow, clean work areas, worker safety and process and product quality control systems. A summary of findings was prepared as a subsidiary report as were individual company reports for distribution and discussion with participating companies.
The raw material analysis has been partially completed with all field work, processing, testing and data collation completed for three of the scheduled nine trials.
Trials to determine optimum processing parameters were undertaken in a specialist facility in France on representative discs of acacia and eucalypt species of interest in Australia and Vietnam. The report is in its technical form and the final report will be completed in November 2013. The report will include recommendations for key processing parameters in rotary veneer facilities such as pre-treatment, knife clearance angle, nosebar pressure and veneer thickness. In mill implementation and trials will follow.
A literature review on the state-of-the art in production of multilaminar veneer has been prepared.
A desktop study has been prepared in Vietnamese that presents baseline data relevant to the acacia and eucalypt plantation sectors in Vietnam. The report discusses the economic impact of acacia and eucalypt growing for various applications to forest growers and an overview on wood processing companies in Vietnam with special emphasis on veneer based products. This overview includes major products, markets, strategy, value chains, and a preliminary cost structure analysis for a veneer product (MDF panel with veneer face).
A project website was launched in early 2013 and can be viewed in Vietnamese or English at http://veneervalue.com/.
Activity 1.1: A detailed analysis and report of Vietnamese acacia and eucalyptus resource has been completed with data extracted from the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and field trial assessments. The data generated in this report will allow further investigation into the economic impact of harvesting age on smallholder profitability. The Value Chain Analysis (VCA) was delayed due to work commitments by the VAFS economist and is now being conducted by CAP officers who have prepared a draft literature review on the Vietnamese veneer value chain and are now working on data collection and final report preparation. A workshop will be held for policy makers by October 2014.
Activity 1.2: Analysis of the potential of certification to impact favourably on the Vietnamese veneer and furniture industry was postponed. Wood Plus Vietnam will be contracted to undertake the certification task.
Activity 2.1: University of Melbourne led visits to the three cluster companies, Tien Phat (formerly Tien Dong) Joint Stock company, ASIA furniture joint-stock company and Woodsland, to follow-up on recommendations from the initial survey visits. Individual reports were provided on a confidential basis.
Activity 2.2: The raw material analysis on trees, logs and peeled veneer has been completed with all field work, processing, testing data collation and analysis completed. The report is in progress and is due for completion by the end of June 2014.
Activity 2.3: Investigation of lathes technologies veneer production facilities and products in industry companies was conducted during September and October 2013 and a draft report prepared. The final report is due by the end of September 2014. Follow up quality assessments (thickness variation, green recovery and moisture content variation) were undertaken at two of three companies.
Activity 2.4: Plywood and veneer/bamboo hybrid products were selected from four companies for mechanical properties testing (VAFS). Testing and data analysis is underway and on track.
Activity 2.5: International standards relating to log and veneer grading have been collected and a review of global grading standards is underway.
Activity 3.1: Laboratory experiments producing LVL at VAFS’s lab and testing some physical and mechanical properties of LVL has been completed. Data analysis and reporting are underway. Methodologies to produce outdoor LVL components at the DAFF laboratory are underway. A demonstration suite of outdoor lifestyle products will be manufactured from Gympie messmate veneer and displayed at the Salisbury Research Facility.
Activity 3.2: Prototype drawings of furniture produced from LVL for Vietnam company manufacture completed. Improvements to the quality of wood veneer/bamboo formply product manufactured in Vietnam by reducing the gaps among bamboo trips are ongoing at VAFS’s laboratory. The results do not yet meet expectations, however more experiments are planned. Testing and manufacture of innovative plywood/bamboo hybrid panels at the DAFF laboratory are underway producing very promising results.
CAP conducted the baseline survey for veneer processors during October and November 2013 and produced a draft Economic Impact Assessment report for SMEs.
The Project website is updated on a regular basis with reports, training manuals and newsletters in English and Vietnamese. Two Newsletters were produced and distributed during the reporting period. Four training programs were provided to CEO and middle management personnel from a range of companies. These comprised four and two day courses and were attended by 71 participants between July 2013 and April 2014.
Product development activities included the design and manufacture of a prototype ‘sliding bar’ and curved sliding doors (using vacuum membrane press).
At the FIFA Home Fair November 2013, ACIAR, HAWA and the Vietnamese-German Forestry Program launched a design award for an item featuring veneer in furniture or interior accessories. Over 30 original submissions were received from Vietnamese designers.
Under Objective 1, the report Vietnamese Acacia and Eucalyptus resource analysis was finalised and uploaded to the project website. The Centre for Agricultural Policy submitted a draft report combining the veneer competitiveness mapping and value chain for internal project review. VAFS offered to obtain additional data to refine some sections and improve the accuracy of the report and a revised draft report was prepared in May 2015. Richard Laity & Associates undertook the certification research activities. More than 20 stakeholders representing growers, smallholders and companies, were interviewed to gauge their response/acceptance of certification schemes. A progress report was submitted to the Project Leader in May 2015. A second component involves an economic comparison of returns from non-certified and certified programs to provide stakeholders with evidence of the value of certification in some markets.
Under Objective 2, a report was prepared on tree, log and wood quality analysis for veneer production using logs of Acacia mangium, Eucalyptus urophylla and Acacia hybrid. Net recoveries of between 49 and 55% were achieved, which is double that reported for solid wood processing of similar diameter plantation species. Much of the veneer met the requirements for D-grade indicating suitability for non-appearance, structural plywood products and/or core veneers. A draft log grading standard for Vietnamese veneer industry was prepared and tested with industry partners. VAFS staff investigated lathe technologies currently used in selected veneer production facilities along with veneer quality. VAFS also conducted mini-solar kiln drying trials to determine whether drying time can be improved during the wet season. Initial results are promising and trials are on-going. A manual on manufacturing rotary-peeled veneer-based products, covering all aspects of veneer production from the log yard to finished products, was finalised in May 2015.
Micro-lathe trial results for Australian plantation trees (spotted gum, Corymbia hybrid Corymbia torelliana - Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata and Gympie messmate) and Vietnam (brown salwood, Acacia hybrid and Timor white gum) were reported in “Optimum lathe settings for early-age thinnings from tropical and sub-tropical hardwoods”. Key findings were: high density hardwoods require pre-conditioning for successful peeling; low- to mid-density hardwoods can be cold-peeled; the more positive the knife clearance angle is the lower the required force and better quality veneer is produced; an increase in veneer thickness results in an increase in force on the nosebar and requires careful attention to settings; the incidence and severity of checking generally increases with pressure; in high-density wood an increase in compression rate doesn’t affect check depth but crushes the fibres; and Vietnamese acacias are relatively easy to peel.
Under Objective 3, three trials were conducted by VAFS to determine the optimum parameters for urea-formaldehyde based laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and multilaminar blocks from the Acacia hybrid. It was found that a high temperature regime reduced swelling, increased tensile strength and increased resistance to withdrawal of fasteners. Full-size sections of LVL and multilaminar blocks were manufactured and tested with the shear test results on the sheets being acceptable. The adhesive system used is suitable in the manufacture of furniture and cabinetry for dry environments. A prototype hybrid formply panel using acacia and bamboo was developed and tested by VAFS in Hanoi. VAFS arranged for multilaminar blocks to be manufactured with partner companies from low quality veneers. A dining table was produced and displayed at the Vietnam International Furniture and Home Accessories Fair in Ho Chi Minh City during March 2015.
A series of trials were performed to test and develop a green gluing protocol. A highly innovative hybrid panel was designed and tested by DAF. It was comprised of plywood face and back, flyscreen webbing and bamboo rings in the core. Plantation-grown hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) veneers were laminated into 13-ply panels and these panels laminated together to form a large block from which a board table was manufactured. DAF conducted gluing trials on difficult species and produced glulam, LVL and multilaminar blocks. The University of Queensland also provided designs for an outdoor gazebo to showcase the engineered wood products (EWP).
Under Objective 4, work is continuing on the economic impact assessment to SME veneer processing enterprises and acacia and eucalypt growing households over the life of the project The benefits of innovative approaches still have to be clearly demonstrated in the current context of low investment and easy profits from cheap labour. This report will detail where the Vietnam veneer sector ranks in regard to good international practices.
Under Objective 5, DAF technicians provided training on good laboratory practices, green recovery assessments, measurement of thickness and moisture content variation, gluing processes, mechanical properties’ testing, and quality assurance of a range of veneer-based products. Project partners facilitated workshops on plantation value chain analysis forest certification. A two-week veneer training course was conducted in Brisbane for project scientists from Vietnam and Laos in February 2015. Components of the research conducted in Australia have been published in Construction and building materials journal. Responsibility for the project website www.veneervalue.com and project newsletter was taken over by Vietnam Forestry and the university hosted an International Academy of Wood Science (IAWS) workshop which included two presentations from project scientists.