More than just trees

15 August 2008

Forest Products Society members gathered in late June in St Louis, Missouri, US, for their 62nd annual meeting where chairman Steve Winistorfer presided over a large number of interesting presentations, as Bill Keil reports. A total of 111 speakers presented the latest in forest products and forestry research, with another 92 presenting posters at this year’s FPS meeting. First place Wood Award was presented to Joseph E Jakes, USDA Forest Service et al, for characterisation of modified wood cells using nano-indentation.

Second place went to Young-Min Kang, et al, Mississippi State University, Mississippi.
Chavonda J Jacobs-Young, US Department of Agriculture, told student members that the United States has transitioned from a manufacturing economy to an economy based on knowledge and innovation She said: “As a future leader, will you be prepared to lead the efforts needed to sustain a strong, vibrant, and competitive US forest products industry? How will you use your skills to make a difference?”.
Prof Paul M Winistorfer, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg,Virginia, moderated a general panel ‘Working together to meet the challenge of change’, including James A Dangerfield, FP Innovations, Forintek Division, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Ann M Bartuska, USDA Forest Service, Washington DC, US; Jonathan E Martin, Roy O Martin Lumber Co, LLC, Alexandria, Louisiana, US; and Kenneth R Hutton, executive vice president, Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US. Robert W Rice, University of Maine, Orono, Maine, told attendees: “Concerns over the thermal efficiency of buildings have arisen, along with the costs of heating and cooling. Among the competitive advantages of wood and wood based composites are their thermal properties; but, during the past 40 years, few reliable heat capacity or specific heat capacity data have been produced for either solid wood or panel products”.
He researched specific heat capacity of OSB and plywood across the US and Canada, as a function of moisture content from oven-dry to about 19%. He said the data were quite sensitive to moisture content, suggesting that the thermal properties of walls and ceilings vary with the seasons over much of North America.
Prof David T Damery, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said his state is the third most densely populated in the US, even though it is more than 60% forested. The state imports more than 95% of the wood and wood products that it consumes. The volume of Massachusetts’ forest resource continues to grow at a pace far surpassing current harvest levels, yet the number of active sawmills in Massachusetts has been steadily shrinking. Prof Damery has studied the problem with focus groups, interviews and mail surveys of forest landowners, loggers, foresters, sawmills and wholesale lumber distributors.
Specific issues and problems were identified for each group which pose barriers to expanded production in the Massachusetts primary processing sector. These include: cost concerns such as insurance and energy; demand concerns, including the need for marketing and sales training; and government policy issues, such as endangered species reviews. He anticipates that the results will make Massachusetts more self-sufficient in forest products, improve the health of rural economies through increased production and employment in the primary and secondary forest products industries and lower environmental, transportation and other costs of imported wood and wood products.
Utilisation of forest biomass for production of bio-oil as a potential liquid fuel will require reduction of harvesting costs in favour of whole tree chipping. The study investigated the potential for utilisation of whole-tree harvesting products from four-year-old southern pine and cottonwood, including leaves or needles, branches and bark.
Hans Werner Hoffmeister, TU, Braunschweig, Germany, outlined advantages of punching over drilling in processing wood products. He said drilling limits the output of flow processing machines because the work pieces have to be stopped at relatively low feed speeds. He said blind holes can be punched, especially for fibre and particleboard.
Thin-walled hollow tools are pressed into the work piece to the desired depth. Punching does not generate dust or chips. Howard N Rosen, USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC described wood culture as human use of, and activities with, wood, as well as attitudes toward wood, wood products, and wood-related environments. He said wood culture has been an essential and unique part of society since ancient times and is now an integral part of everyday life. The impact of a long-standing combination of natural and man-made elements highlights the importance of people learning about and connecting to nature to take better care of natural resources and their environments. As a universal social phenomenon, wood culture should continue to develop with increasing significance and recognition.
He added: “Wood products, as part of cultural production, are infused with certain elements of cultural distinctions, such as products that combine with art, entertainment and folklore”. James Deng, FP Innovations, Forintek Division, Québec, QC, Canada, declared: “Hot pressing is the key area of the process which significantly affects production efficiency and product quality. The hot press is also the most expensive equipment in the production line of MDF and particleboard. Therefore, optimizing hot pressing with the aid of a computer simulation model could result in significant financial benefit for the industry”.
Michael J Birkeland, H2H Innovations, Edgerton, Wisconsin, US, said the surprising result in tests was the high levels of formaldehyde coming from the wood itself (native formaldehyde), especially if the one-week conditioning was started immediately after production. He said this high emission level can be masked by some standard adhesives which contain sufficient scavenger levels, most notably urea, to absorb the native wood-derived formaldehyde. Salim Hiziroglu, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, has evaluated properties of particleboard and fibreboard manufactured in Thailand from bamboo and rice straw.
Particleboard samples were made from 5% rice straw and 95% bamboo with an average density level of 0.65g/cm3 and 0.75g/cm3. MDF panels were produced from 100% bamboo, rice straw, and 80/20% and 50/50% ratios of bamboo and rice straw fibre, with an average density of 0.73g/cm3. It appears that using 5% of rice straw in the panels did not significantly reduce physical and mechanical properties of the samples.
Surface characteristics of the samples indicated that they could be used as substrate for thin overlays without having any significant problems and that both non-wood under-utilised species can be used to manufacture value-added composite panels.
Richard Bonsi, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, reported that the annual deforestation rate of Ghana’s forest resource due to logging, agriculture and firewood far surpasses the rate of replenishment. To ensure sustenance of the wood industry, a quick intervention becomes crucial.
Bamboo has become a globally important fibre source for products such as flooring, garden furniture and bath towels and it is selling at competitive prices. The use of fast-growing plantation bamboo in Ghana is seen as an innovation that would avail ample raw material to the wood industry on a sustainable basis, preserve the natural forest and contribute to soil and water conservation. Priyan Perera, Louisiana State University Ag Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, surveyed 2,400 non-industrial private forest landowners to determine their forest certification knowledge, with a 25% response. Forty percent of them believed that certification is necessary on private lands.
However they believed that in the US it is more an issue promulgated by environmental non-government organisations than a demand-driven process. Results suggest that the majority of the respondents have little knowledge of certification.
Kevin D Shankwiler, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Georgia said OSB as a domestic commodity product faces significant pressures from external market forces. With roughly 65% of all OSB production going to the residential housing construction market, manufacturers are highly influenced by the cyclical nature of that industry. Add to the mix overcapacity in OSB manufacturing and OSB manufacturers have a desire to diversify their product and reach new markets. Supply of raw material (juvenile pine trees), on the other hand, is plentiful but does not represent a significant revenue stream for managed forest owners.
One avenue for increasing customer appeal is infusion of colour during manufacturing, opening markets including furniture, corporate interiors, exposed flooring and wall accents. The society’s 2009 meeting will be held June 21-23 at Doubletree Hotel Boise-Riverside, Boise, Idaho, US.