The Columbia Innovations Story
In early 2001, Columbia Forest Products began looking for alternatives for the urea
formaldehyde (UF) adhesives used in the manufacturing of hardwood plywood. Market
demands for a no-added-formaldehyde board had begun to appear and Columbia decided
that this was a great opportunity to become a market leader for this emerging need.
The company tested several of the available adhesives, but none seemed to quite
fit the needs of the company and its customers. Columbia had a goal of completely
replacing all UF adhesive systems in their mills and that goal had two key requirements:
the adhesive needed to be cost neutral and it needed to be proprietary.
In 2003, Steve Pung, the Vice President of Technology and Innovation at Columbia
Forest Products, met Dr. Kaichang Li at a Forest Products Society meeting. Dr. Li,
a scientist from Oregon State University, had the idea for utilizing soy protein
to manufacture an adhesive for the wood industry. Dr Li made this bio-based discovery
while at the seashore collecting mussels; he was amazed at the enormous holding
power of the mussels under the pounding of the ocean waves. He thought about the
protein in the mussels and how great an adhesive it would make. Although mussel
protein wasn't readily available, he did know of a high protein resource that was
abundant: soy. He found that soy, when combined with a special cross linking agent,
closely mimicked the bonds of the mussels.
Dr. Li had completed some basic research and had demonstrated the ability to bond
hardwood veneer with this chemistry. He began searching for an industry partnership
to investigate the commercialization possibilities, and Columbia Forest Products
was interested in being that partner. Dr. Li indicated that Oregon State University
had at that time a very strong working relationship with Hercules Chemical in the
paper industry. In September 2003, Columbia approached Hercules about jointly developing
and commercializing this new technology. Agreements were made and joint CFP/Hercules
proprietary funding of this adhesive technology began in January 2004. A new adhesive
for the forest products industry was born.
Work began at Columbia Forest Products' Klamath Falls facility, with the first hardwood
plywood mill trials in May 2004 and the first commercial production runs by the
end of the year. Columbia funded most of the development work required to make this
a commercial product and worked diligently in their mills to ensure that this was
a viable alternative to the adhesives currently in the marketplace.
By the end of 2006, all seven of Columbia's hardwood plywood mills had been converted
to this new adhesive system. As the plywood production was ramping up, thoughts
also arose about producing particleboard with this new adhesive system. Based on
the success with plywood, there was strong reason to think that this technology
could be transferred to composite panels.
In August 2005, the first particleboard lab work began and by December of that year,
the first particleboard mill trial was run at Columbia Forest Products' Hearst,
Ontario particleboard facility. With continued research and development of the adhesive
at the particleboard mill, commercial production of the first PureBond® particleboard began in February 2006.
Over the next year and a half, through research and trials with Hercules, a second
generation of the adhesive system was developed, and this first
Soyad® adhesive system was used in a commercial application.
In August 2007, Columbia Forest Products decided that there was a great opportunity
to share this technology outside its core business. Through discussions with Hercules,
Columbia was appointed the exclusive sales and service agent of this advanced adhesive
technology for the composite panel industry. To best facilitate this arrangement,
and to provide the highest level of information and service, the Columbia Innovations
division was created.