Kevin B. Chen
Videos showing how two commonly available wood composite materials - oriented strand board (OSB) and medium density fiberboard (MDF) - are fabricated.

OSB is an engineered wood product manufactured in wide mats from cross-oriented layers of thin, rectangular wooden strips compressed and bonded together with wax and resin adhesives. Placed in a thermal press to compress the strips and bond them by heat activation, panels are then cut from the mats into finished sizes. It has properties similar to plywood, but is more uniform and cheaper and has replaced plywood in many environments, especially the North American structural panel market.

MDF is an engineered wood product formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers, often in a defibrator, combining it with wax and a resin binder, and forming panels by applying high temperature and pressure. MDF is denser than plywood and can be used as a building material similar in application to plywood. Formaldehyde resins are commonly used to bind MDF together and testing has consistently revealed that MDF products emit urea-formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that pose health risks at sufficient concentrations, for at least several months after manufacture.

By-product Becomes Product

February 6 – March 30, 2013
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

Photo credit: Scott Chernis
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