Many people associate quality upholstered furniture with solid hardwood frames. The industry is changing, however, to the benefit of both manufacturers and consumers. The trend today is toward increased usage of proprietary furniture grades of plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) for furniture frames. These products are produced by members of APA – The Engineered Wood Association. Furniture-grade panels allow manufacturers to attain higher material yields, reduce assembly costs and deliver quality furniture that will stand up to the rigors of a lifetime warranty. In addition, APA Rated panels are exempt from U.S. EPA and California formaldehyde regulations due to their very low emission rates.
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Wood structural panels are becoming increasingly popular with upholstered furniture manufacturers because:
- Furniture-grade plywood and OSB panels are readily available and cost-competitive when compared with hardwood lumber, which allows the manufacturer to better control the costs of its finished product.
- Furniture-grade panel properties (such as strength, fastener holding capacity, consistency, stability and workability) lend themselves well to the structural demands of quality furniture manufacture.
- Panel size improves manufacturing efficiencies and allows state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, such as Computer Numeric Control (CNC) panel saws and routers, to be used.
- High yield minimizes material waste, reduces cost, and benefits environment.
- Plywood and OSB are made in special grades specifically for the demands of upholstered furniture manufacturing.
- Panels improve overall quality of furniture and improve manufacturing efficiencies by eliminating the need to replace split or warped lumber components
- Panels improve yield. (Plywood offers twice the yield of hardwood lumber. Some manufacturers report yield improvements from 30 percent with hardwood frame-grade lumber to 90 percent with plywood.)
- Furniture-grade panels are engineered for their intended end use, allowing the manufacturer to take advantage of the strength and fastener holding capabilities.
- Panels are dimensionally stable, which makes them less likely to warp or twist.
- Panel uniformity makes them ideal for notched joints commonly used in furniture manufacturing.
- Large panel size allows wide components to be made in one piece, resulting in significant labor savings and better quality frames.
- Reliability of wood structural panel components helps reduce service calls and therefore increases customer satisfaction.
While many manufacturers recognize the efficiencies of using furniture grade plywood and OSB with standard bandsaws, the industry has long recognized the near-perfect fit between panels and Computer Numeric Control (CNC) equipment. CNC equipment eliminates the need for many manual operations, allowing the manufacturer to reduce labor costs and speed assembly time. In addition, the equipment produces a more uniformly cut framing component which results in a better-quality product.
Wood structural panels are ideally suited for use with CNC equipment. Using a CNC router, a manufacturer can cut the frame for one type of furniture from a single stack of several 4x8-foot sheets of plywood in less than ten minutes. This process is not economically feasible with hardwood lumber. In addition, the uniformity of furniture-grade plywood and OSB allows maximum efficiency of the CNC tools and better-quality notched joints.
The combination of CNC equipment and furniture grade panels reduces labor and assembly time. It also produces high yields that cannot be matched by conventional materials.