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THE OAKWRIGHTS BLOG

ALL THE LATEST NEWS FROM OAKWRIGHTS, THE UK'S LEADING OAK HOME DESIGN AND BUILD COMPANY

6th November 2013 / posted by AlexEdey

The Warmcel Revolution - From Cuba to Canada via Europe

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Why the world is turning to Warmcel and how we are ahead of the game with our Natural Encapsulation System

We have been very busy recently, building lots of our Natural encapsulation panels (Wall & Roof) and finding ourselves looking into new machines to make our process faster, more accurate and generally increase our efficiency.

We had originally purchased a second hand machine built in the USA and whilst it allowed us to blow the recycled newspaper insulation into every nook and cranny in the off-site manufactured walls and roof cassettes, we found it clunky, slow and dusty and a 2 man operation: one person loading and one person holding the injection nozzle. After a few weeks using the machine we found that making some slides to hold the bales upright as they fed themselves into the machine reduced the dust dramatically, but the consequence is the machine looked even more agricultural then before!

Peter Sachser filling Warmcel Insulation into an Encapsulation Wall Panel

Peter Sachser blowing Warmcel Insulation into an Encapsulation Wall Panel using the previous machine

We were essentially looking to create a one man operation that didn’t involve running up and down a ladder to make sure the machine was topped up with the cellulose insulation. There are a few manufacturers who make machines like this but we thought the best one of all was (yet again) over in Germany, and they are called X-Floc.

Luckily for me (Encapsulations Manager) and Tim Crump (Oakwrights Managing Director), X-Floc were about to launch their new factory just near Stuttgart and invited us to the open day. So we packed our bags and were off to see what they had to offer.

When we got there we met people from all over the world, from Cuba to Canada and at least one representative from every country in Europe; all of whom were using cellulose, wood fibre or wool insulation in one way or another. We were astounded to hear how in every different place around the world, just how much they were using cellulose insulation. We had arrived thinking that using this insulation was a bit of a niche, but not in the slightest. Along the corridors in the factory stood around 60 bags of insulation and they were all different brands all going down the same route – natural – renewable - breathable insulation. Cellulose is very sound absorbent and is made in an environmentally friendly way - it has zero waste with everything used, and there are no offcuts! How many other insulating products can say that? The benefits of this product seem to be endless.

In Cuba they were using it mostly for sound deadening as it is a dense product. In Canada they were using it for its thermal properties. Has this insulation got any downsides? We don’t think so!  

In the factory, X-Floc had about 15 different machines: from small on site blowers, to a large Dr Who style ‘Tardis’ machine with a large blower attached. We were naturally drawn to the large shiny ‘Tardis’ machine that could hold a whole pallet and would only need loading once a day! But we were very open to the other machines, just in case they offered us something more.

There are many different blowing machines available on the market, time to find out what will work best for us

There are many different blowing machines available on the market, time to find out what will work best for us 

We spent most of the day watching the demonstrations and seeing the different methods of installing the insulation in this lovely spotless factory. We also took the opportunity to go and visit a local company who used the machine we were interested in.

Factories in Germany are very large and awe-inspiring. They have a machine for about every job conceivable and produce fully finished houses off-site, which is something we are very keen to emulate. The panels they produce have pipes in the walls for wiring; they have the plasterboard on the internal surface and external boarding on the outside; they have the windows and doors already installed and the air tightness membrane in and taped to the windows and doors. Everything that normally happens on-site in the UK, happens in the factory in Germany. What a product they produce – we were very envious!

The large factory that prefabricates houses using fancy machinery quickly and efficiently

The large factory that prefabricates houses using fancy machinery quickly and efficiently 

On our plane journey home we found ourselves comparing the types of houses prepared in Germany to the ones we produce at Oakwrights. And we came to the conclusion that we are paving the way for this style of off-site manufacture in the UK. Every house we saw being made in Germany was made up of large straight walls, with large simple roofs, and we’re positive that if we had such simple structures to produce we could do it with ease. But, as a nation we don’t particularly like living in large slab sided houses. We like quirky houses with small returns, with dormers, hips and valleys, everything that makes the English vernacular pretty.

One of the house concepts that are being designed and built using the technology in Germany

One of the house concepts that are being designed and built using the technology in Germany

So we are ahead of the pack in the UK – especially in terms of what we have to offer the self-build market; far ahead in fact and striding away. In a year or so, with the right client who has planned ahead, we will be able to offer even more. We will be in a position to install the windows and doors in the factory and even get the outside sheathing on off-site – we just need that opportunity. We did however take a moment to remind ourselves that the German company we had visited are 60 years old. That’s 46 years more research and development than us!

After a week or so deliberating about which way to go, we were luckily given an opportunity to purchase a second hand GBF1050 (the ‘Tardis’ big bale machine to you and I) which had hardly been used and a new EM440 (the blower unit). We couldn’t resist, it was exactly the set-up we wanted and not at the large new price tag. Plus we only had to wait 2 weeks for it to arrive!

The arrival of the X-Floc GBF1050, an exciting new addition to gain a better and efficient workflow

The arrival of the X-Floc GBF1050, an exciting new addition to gain a better and efficient workflow

The machine itself is a monstrous bit of kit that allows our installers to load one 550Kg bale into it at a time and that will fill 32 square meters of wall (13.5 linear meters of single storey) without the need to re-load. It saves us having to have someone constantly fill another machine, it reduces the dust due to it being self-contained and it also calculates the weight of insulation used after every cavity fill. The machine itself is around four times faster than our previous setup and the voids are filled in a matter of seconds.

The onboard computer that calculates the amount of cellulose insulation that gets blown into the wall panel

The onboard computer that calculates the amount of cellulose insulation that gets blown into the wall panel

We believe that with this investment we will stand even further out from the crowd allowing us to refine our processes even further: smoothing the flow of work out of the workshop, increasing our capacity and giving us a superior final product. Our desire is to pre-build as much of your home off-site as possible, and this investment is another step towards our goal. We are committed to this method of construction and we are always on the look-out for the next piece of technology that will allow us to give the best service available to our clients.

The X-Floc machine standing proud in our softwood and encapsulation workshop

The X-Floc machine standing proud in our softwood and encapsulation workshop

With the huge list of benefits Warmcel insulation gives, running alongside the smoothest production process in the country, we can’t think why self-builders would opt for anything else other than our Natural System to wrap their home! 

The X-Floc 'Tardis' machine along with the softwood and encapsulation workshop team

The X-Floc 'Tardis' machine along with the softwood and encapsulation workshop team

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