Assessment of user requirements and technical feasibility of lightweight applications based on renewables
Due to the rising capacities in the wood processing industries as well as the increasing utilisation of wood for energy production in the last years a shortage of wood raw material has become reality. The amount of wood used for energy production in Germany reached nearly the amount used in wood processing industries. As a matter of fact this trend leads to considerations regarding the utilisation of so far underutilized resources as well as regarding the development of new production concepts which increase the raw material efficiency.
In the light of these developments the interests of the wood processing industries regarding resource and energy efficient materials and applications has been increasing in recent years. So far the industry is concentrating on a honey comp panel technology minimizing production cost and raw material. Due to lower mechanical stability and durability in relation to consumer experiences with this light weight concept (e.g. in furniture to go, light door leafs) experts frequently communicate the preconception that wood-based light-weight products are of low quality. Hence a negative image (e.g. low-budget) of light-weight wood-based panels is frequently assumed and communicated.
The requirements of the users of these light-weight solutions have in contrast rarely been investigated as well as the wood processing industry has not been involved in the development of these concepts. Beside the above mentioned pressure regarding decreasing costs and use of resources some more trends as for example increasing mobility within our societies, demographic developments, flexibility in changing flat ground plans, furniture to go and design trend to larger elements offer challenges and chances for wood-based light-weight materials on national and international markets.
Content and Aims
Within this project the user requirements, their acceptance and the market barriers regarding the application of light-weight materials based on renewable resources in furniture and interior fitting has been investigated involving consumers, processors and traders. Furthermore a technical evaluation regarding the feasibility and implementation potential has been applied by using the results regarding user requirements and involvement of experts from science and production.
The Limit Conjoint-Analysis was applied and combined with a questionnaire to analyse the consumer's requirements and values in furniture and interior fitting applications. Qualitative expert interviews have been carried out with representatives in industry and retail. The technical evaluation was based on the results of expert interviews and an additional expert work shop.
The results of the different consumer surveys completed in this project suggest in general that the market potential of light-weight products can hardly be projected from consumer's preferences. The high preferences of the respondents for high durability beside a relative lower importance of the product price suggest that the consumers show high quality awareness in the segments investigated. Light-weight product may be seen as a barrier in this context as lightness implies lower stability and hence a lower durability compared to other products.
Although the results across the different furniture segments have been found surprisingly homogeneous significant differences have been found in preferred panel thickness which apart from durability showed the second best contribution to explain the general preferences. In case of table and working tops a greater thickness of 38 and 25 mm was preferred. Although the preferred thickness was therefore always in the middle of the frequently offered range it can be concluded that the design aspect is the strongest stimulus for consumers towards light-weight materials in the furniture sector.
In contrast to this result it has been showed that the preference for certain materials is a barrier for light-weight materials in all surveys including interior doors. Honey comb panels have a negative part worth utility in all surveys. According to the application the material preference explained between 18 and 30% of the preference which was therefore in second and third place for the total preference. Hence the barrier for light-weight materials have been found lowest in kitchen working tops.
Overall we can conclude that the observed differences in preference in all five applications regarding the utilisation of light-weight materials are comparable low. The comparably best application field have been found in case of kitchen working tops.
DI Dr. Asta Eder
Kompetenzzentrum Holz GmbH (Wood K plus)
Project or cooperation partner
- Ao. Univ. Prof. Dr. Peter Schwarzbauer
Institut für Marketing & Innovation, BOKU Wien:
Privatdozent Dr. Ulrich Müller
Dr. Tobias Stern
- Kompetenzzentrum Holz GmbH (Wood K plus):
Freier Mitarbeiter: DI Roland Oberwimmer
Kompetenzzentrum Holz GmbH
Universität für Bodenkultur Wien
Department für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften
Institut für Marketing & Innovation
Dipl.-Ing. Dr. nat. techn. Asta Eder
A-1180 Wien, Österreich
Tel.: +43 (1) 47654-4403