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How producers of wood-based materials benefit from NAF binders

Tighter restrictions on binding agents are putting the wood-based materials industry under pressure. Could this be an opportunity for the industry too?

Definitely, says Felix Strangfeld, Senior Technical Marketing Manager Fiber Bonding at BASF.

Forest damage, the construction industry crisis and restrictions on forest management are keeping the wood-based materials industry on its toes. The EU is also increasingly restricting the use of raw materials and additives. Isn’t  it high time there was more sustainability?


Felix Strangfeld: Yes, definitely. The fact is that the environmental requirements for materials used in the production of wood-based panels are becoming increasingly more stringent. Fiberboard manufacturers should keep a close eye on the regulatory framework. The best example is formaldehyde. But the EU also regards other substances like melamine and phenols, which are all key materials used in resin production, as critical substances - melamine even as a substance of very high concern (SVHC*). The use of these substances may therefore be increasingly restricted in the future.  

What specific scenarios are looming on the horizon?  


Felix Strangfeld: Let's stay with formaldehyde. At the beginning of 2020, Germany set a threshold value for this key component of 0.062 mg/m³ for emissions of formaldehyde from wood-based materials. This threshold value is set to come into force throughout the EU from August 6, 2026. This is a real challenge for wood-based material manufacturers, as they will have to adapt their production and formulations to meet consumer and workplace safety requirements. In addition to the high costs involved, however, there is another problem.

And what would that be? 


Felix Strangfeld: Classification as an SVHC, as in the example of melamine, can have an impact on the industry's production process. It is possible that the use of melamine will be limited by restrictions, up to and including a ban on the substance. The EU is using this lever to gradually replace all substances that pose a health risk with alternative solutions. Companies such as Sonae Arauco, which is one of the world's largest providers of wood-based solutions, have recognized this. The Portuguese manufacturer consistently relies on formaldehyde-free binder systems, so-called NAF options (No Added Formaldehyde), including our acForm® binder.  

What is behind this product? 


Felix Strangfeld: In contrast to formaldehyde resins, acForm® is based on acrylate chemistry. This one-component solution does not require any formaldehyde or other critical substances. The process is as follows: the product is finely atomized in the form of a water dispersion using the so-called blowline process and distributed evenly over the wood fibers. When the water evaporates, a film remains on the fibers that reliably bonds the fibers together.  

Compared to conventional binder systems, acForm® offers a superb additional benefit: The binder softens when heated. This makes the wood fiberboards moldable; 3D structures can also be embossed into the wood surface, which would otherwise have to be laboriously milled. However, its sustainability makes the system particularly impressive - on several levels.

Could you please explain this in more detail?


Felix Strangfeld: First of all, at the product level: the fact that no formaldehyde is added to acForm® means that manufacturers such as Sonae Arauco can have their wood-based materials NAF-certified. This is a key competitive advantage, as demand for products that are free of substances that are harmful to health is increasing. Certification of this kind can also be a market opener, especially for producers who want to import wood-based products into the EU.  

In terms of sustainability, acForm® also scores points at both the process and logistics levels. Specifically, this involves storage stability. While acForm® can be stored for up to six months without any problems, urea-formaldehyde resins can only be stored for up to three weeks.  

The acForm® process itself also offers a sustainability benefit, because it is more efficient than conventional manufacturing processes. Firstly, lower process temperatures save energy. Secondly, production capacity can be increased, because a curing polycondensation resin is not involved.   

According to the above, NAF systems, such as acForm®, are clearly superior to UF resin-based systems. UF resins also have advantages, such as low price and are perfectly suited to the requirements of the industry today. With the acForm® binder system, we want to address the market for 3D-moldable wood fiberboards, i.e. end-use applications such as seat shells, wall panels, doors, furniture, and kitchen fronts etc. The market for non-moldable medium-density (MDF) and high-density fiberboard (HDF), on the other hand, is still dominated by UF resin-based systems. But with Acronal® 2882 X, we also have a competitive NAF system in the race. I am certain that the future belongs to NAF-certified wood-based materials.

What makes you so sure about this? 


Felix Strangfeld: Because consumer health and sustainability will be of greater importance in the future. That is why we are maxing our solutions out in this respect. One example of this is our biomass balance approach, in which we also offer products, in this case our NAF binder, as sustainable BMB variants. The highlight here is that when a BMB product is manufactured, fossil fuels are replaced by renewable and sustainable raw materials, which reduces our CO2 footprint

We also attach great importance to the recyclability of our products. In fact, only a minor percentage of almost none of the more than 100 million cubic meters of MDF currently produced worldwide are recycled. The UF resin is no longer active after recycling and therefore no longer helps to bond fibers.  

This does not apply to our NAF binders with thermoplastic properties. In a joint project with the British technology company MDF Recovery and Bangor University, we demonstrated that MDF boards can indeed be recycled. It was possible to produce MDF again from the recovered fibers without the addition of binders. Although performance of the boards with 100% recycled fiber is slightly lower, but this is still a positive result for us. 

What do you recommend to wood-based material businesses that want to do more in terms of sustainability? 


Felix Strangfeld: To focus on innovative solutions, because sooner or later the trend will move in the direction of NAF. This is one of the reasons why BASF has for many years been developing NAF solutions for today and tomorrow, preferably together with you, our partners in the wood-based materials industry. We are happy to explain what prospects this offers you in a personal meeting. Please contact us.    

*SVHCs: Substances of very high concern 

*Green Deal: The "Green Deal" concept comprises a series of initiatives aimed at achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
 One building block is the EU chemicals strategy, which aims to make safe and sustainable chemicals in the EU the global benchmark.

Which restrictions apply where



  • EU: According to EU Regulation 2023/1464, an emission threshold value of 0.062 mg/m³ will apply from August 6, 2026. 

  • Germany: an emission threshold value of 0.125 mg/m³ applies in accordance with the Chemicals Prohibition Ordinance (ChemVerbotsV). Due to a change in the reference test method from EN 717-1 to a special variant of EN 16516, an emission threshold value of 0.062 mg/m³ (E05 Norm) already applies de facto. 

  • USATSCA Title VI and CARB applies for example to NAF MDF, with a threshold value of 0.06 ppm.


  • EU: At the beginning of 2023, the EU Commission classified melamine as a substance of very high concern in accordance with the REACH Regulation. This means that manufacturers and importers now have an obligation to provide specific information.



  • EU: The substance is currently being tested in studies and will then be classified in accordance with the requirements of the CLP Regulation.

Benefits of acForm®

  • High board production productivity
  • Long storage life
  • Consumer and workplace safety through use of NAF product
  • Short molding cycle times
  • New surface and shape design options 
  • Recyclability as used wood 


I am certain that the future belongs to NAF-certified wood-based materials.


Felix Strangfeld

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