LVL has numerous advantages over other traditional building materials. As the wood defects (ie strength-reducing knots) have been removed and randomised within thin layers, LVL is stronger, straighter, and more uniform than traditional sawn timber and able to carry greater loads over longer spans.

From a production point of view, in addition to allowing the manufacturer the use of a larger and more cost-effi cient raw material base, the LVL technology allows for a better yield out of a log versus other EWPs: ie 48% yield under bark for LVL versus 31% yield under bark for glulam.

But this is not all – in LVL manufacturing, the log yield is further maximised by the manufacturer through accurate moisture content, visual defect and ultrasound veneer grading, which allow for the lower grade veneers to be used in the inner plies of the LVL panel, or for the manufacturing of LVL for non-load-bearing applications.

Quality pays off
"I think we will build an LVL mill", said Mr Ralf Pollmeier to his sister Doris Tegelkamp during a lunch break at Raute’s offi ce in Nastola back in 2010. Mrs Tegelkamp seemed surprised: "I thought we agreed to build a plywood mill fi rst?"

Discussions with Raute to expand Pollmeier’s beech processing from sawn goods to products based on rotary peeled veneer technology had been going on for a while, but after LVL was brought to the table, the decision was made in minutes – it had to be beech LVL – Something that nobody had done before, but something Mr Pollmeier soon had a clear and strategic vision for. It took the required delivery time for the whole uncompromised concept to get completed but now the world’s fi rst beech LVL mill in Creuzburg is up and running.

Raute’s scope of supply to the world’s most modern LVL mill starts with a RauteSmart peeling line, which can handle 8ft and 6ft block lengths, mixed for best recovery from logs. The veneers are dried in a Raute 24-section roller dryer, which is directly coupled to two veneer scarfi ng units. Scarfed veneers are visually- and moisture-graded with Mecano VDA and MVA analysers. Randoms, and sheets with defects, are conveyed to a Raute veneer composer.

Before the scarfed veneers enter the Raute lay-up line, they go to an automated storage – no fork lifts are needed in this process. The Raute lay-up line is equipped with vacuum manipulators, specially developed for thick beech veneer in this project. Two Raute CC curtain coater lines take care of the supply of veneers to the Raute continuous lay-up station.

LVL market grows
The global LVL market is well awake and rising. In 2013, the LVL consumption across the world represented a total of 3.3 million m3 (10% increase v/s 2012). By 2018, the LVL volume is forecast to grow to 5.2 million m3, realising an average annual growth of 12%.

Timber frame and LVL usage rates continue to grow in Europe, driving EU LVL consumption to increase from 172,520m3 in 2009 to 209,000m3 in 2013 (21% growth over the last five-year period), EU LVL exports excluded.

In North America, timber frame accounts for more than 90% of low-rise buildings and the LVL usage rate grows steadily. Local LVL demand is projected to grow to 3.2 million m3 by 2018, a 78% increase over 2013.

Backed up by the government’s mortgage rate incentive for energy-efficient and earthquake resistant homes, the Japanese market reached local LVL consumption of 248,000m3 in 2013, a 5% increase on 2012.

Similarly, LVL is gaining market share in Australia in many building applications, which have historically been dominated by hardwood, glulam and steel. The 2013 LVL consumption in Australia reached 212,000m3, projected to grow by an average annual rate of 4% until 2018.

The LVL technology today turns into a crossing point between growing end-user demand, due to LVL’s superior properties, and the wood products manufacturers’ interest, due to maximised yield and higher profit.

Getting ahead of the competition
Raute has over 30 years of experience in delivering LVL technology to the EWP industry. Raute’s success in the LVL production world is enabled by the management of the whole process: from broad LVL market knowledge and comprehensive understanding of the raw materials’ dynamics to mastering the LVL veneer preparation, lay-up, hot pressing and billet handling. Raute is the only company worldwide able to deliver complete turnkey LVL mills in every geographical location. As a full-scope supplier, Raute understands how the peeling, drying and grading of veneers correlate with the properties of the finished LVL.

Continuous lay-up with pre-pressing, connected with the Raute proprietary step pressing technology, guarantees efficient production of LVL at the lowest production costs.

This concept is adaptable to different production capacity levels and to customers’ available CapEx, allowing quick technology start-up and long-term reliable performance.

A manufacturer’s biggest risk is that he may underestimate his potential. Raute makes sure he doesn’t.