Friday Offcuts 29 May 2015
This week's issue is crammed full of new and innovative technologies linked to wood products. Back in January the Chairman of the Carlsberg Foundation attracted world-wide media attention. At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland he presented a new prototype of a fibre-based bottle that the group plans on launching within three years. The technology to manufacture bottles from moulded fibre has been developed by the Danish company ecoXpac, which is now part of a development group with the Danish Technological Institute and Carlsberg. We cover the innovation in just a little more detail this week.
In tall wooden buildings well-known Canadian architect and advocate, Michael Green, continues to push his designs to new heights (manufacturing technologies and developments in engineered wood products along with advocacy from the likes of Green are making architects and engineers think very differently about the opportunities wood offers in the structure and construction of tall buildings)and we cover this week a Chinese company, Broad Sustainable Building, that’s claiming that its prefabricated construction techniques has made it now the fastest building company in the world. A 57-storey skyscraper finished within three weeks (preceded by four and a half months of work assembling 2,736 prefabricated modules) of work time is certainly bringing prefabrication back into the spotlight.
Other technologies this week include a renewable recyclable foam made from wood particles developed by German researchers, the discovery of a new way to print silicon onto paper which could lead to a whole range of new products and uses and following on from the MobileTECH 2015 event, a new 3D scanner has just been demonstrated which can provide robot-assisted inspection (dimension, shape and position) of objects on a production or manufacturing line.
Finally, more good news with a significant Federal grant that has been awarded to the University of Tasmania for an Industrial Transformation Training Centre for forestry and wood products. With industry and University contributions, the total value for the new centre is around AU$14 million. The plan is to produce industry-ready PhD students and postdoctoral research fellows that can be brought into the forest industry, from the forest landscape through to the supply chain. Enjoy this week’s read.
NOTE: We were going to run a story this week about extra dinner spaces at the HarvestTECH 2015 dinner that were available for the evening of Wednesday 24 June. We're sorry to say that the dinner is now fully booked and closed to any further registrations (one month out before the event runs). Also, as of today, there are just a few remaining spaces available at the two day conference. These will be filled on a first-come first served basis and are likely to be snapped up very quickly. So, it's very clear on what you need to do if you still wish to book a space.
This week we have for you:
Forest Industry Safety Council launchedNew Zealand’s safety council has been set-up, chaired by Dame Alison Paterson, to make forests safer places to work. Establishing the council was a key recommendation of the Independent Forestry Safety Review Panel that reviewed forest safety in 2014.
The Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC) was launched on Tuesday at a function at parliament. Its board includes representatives of forest owners, contractors, workers, unions and Worksafe New Zealand. Funding will come from the Forest Grower Levy and from government – ACC and Worksafe.
“We are proud to have someone of the calibre of Dame Alison as chair, as well as a board made up of all those who can influence safety on the forest floor,” says Paul Nicholls, president of the Forest Owners Association.
“All of us share a determination to build and reinforce a safety culture that embraces everyone in the forest workplace, from the forest owner, through contractors and crew leaders, through to the man on a chainsaw or at the controls of a hauler. We all have a responsibility to each other, to ensure that safety becomes ahead of all other considerations, economic or otherwise.”
Mr Nicholls says it was a deliberate strategy to name the new body a ‘council’ and to appoint a chair that is highly respected both in the rural sector and in the wider New Zealand community. “By reinforcing the status of the council, we also reinforce the importance of improved workplace safety. Our objective to ensure that everyone who works in our forests returns home safely to their families at the end of each working day.”
A national safety director is being appointed, reporting to Dame Alison and the board, who will be responsible for ensuring that the council’s work programme is being delivered effectively and that this is reflected in a steady improvement in safety performance.
He says Dame Alison Paterson was named a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) for services to business in the 2014 New Year Honours list. She was the first female director of a producer board and a publicly listed company. She served 15 years on the Reserve Bank board, was a director of Crown Irrigation Investments and chaired Landcorp, Waitemata Health and Abano Healthcare Group. Dame Alison is now a director of GMI Investments, Vector, Stevenson Agriculture, New Zealand Formulary, and Farm IQ Systems.
Mr Nicholls says that while the FISC has been under development, safety initiatives based on the recommendations of the independent safety review panel have continued. At the heart of these is SafeTree, www.safetree.nz, a programme jointly funded by ACC and the forestry industry with the long-term aim of eliminating serious harm injuries in forestry.
Mr Nicholls says the industry is totally committed to improved safety and to the review panel’s mantra that “if a job can’t be done safely, it shouldn’t be done at all.” For further coverage and comment, click here.
AU$14M centre for forest industry trainingTasmania's role as national centre for research around forestry and wood products has helped deliver a significant Federal grant which will drive its standing further. Announced by Minister for Education Christopher Pyne, the University has attracted funds from the Australian Research Council (ARC) for an Industrial Transformation Training Centre, which will be led by Professor Jim Reid. ARC funding of AU$3.6 million will be matched by industry and University contributions, bringing its total value to about AU$14 million.
"We need to be very clear that the focus of our research effort and training will be upon new forest industries, approaches and products, not the industry which Tasmania understands historically. The capacity to create value around forestry and timber is one of the keys to unlocking economic renewal in Tasmania, but we understand the sector of the future will look very different to the industry of the past" University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said.
The training centre is a collaboration between the University of Tasmania and seven industry partners. It involves nine countries and will span a range of academic disciplines including Plant Science, Computing and Information Systems and Architecture. Its thrust will be to enable the forestry and wood products industry to transform from a traditional, resource-driven, low-technology base to an innovative, market-driven industry.
The centre will produce industry-ready PhD students and postdoctoral research fellows with broad perspectives of the forest industry from the forest landscape to the supply chain.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Paddy Nixon said the University of Tasmania is leading the country with four Industrial Transformation Training Centres and three Industrial Transformation Research Hubs, attracting funding totalling AU$50 million. Professor Mark Hunt will be Deputy Director of the Centre, with a particular focus on industry links, ensuring the activities of the centre bring about impacts for industry and national economic benefits.
Source: University of Tasmania
Norske Skog announces purchase of Natures FlameNorske Skog today is announcing that it had purchased the wood pellet business ‘Natures Flame’ from Solid Energy Renewable Fuels, a subsidiary of Solid Energy New Zealand. Norske Skog’s Regional President, Andrew Leighton said the purchase was a good fit for Norske Skog’s Australasian strategic diversification strategy of “building our future from fibre and energy”.
“We have recently diversified our paper production assets in Australasia by converting a newsprint machine at the Boyer Mill in Tasmania to magazine grades. Today’s announcement is strategically important because it takes us that next step outside of our traditional base as a papermaker into the area of renewable energy.
“Natures Flame is a good business with a strong future based on renewable inputs. We see real opportunities for wood pellets and look forward to working with employees, suppliers and existing and new customers to build the current base and grow the business into other markets both within New Zealand, Australia and export.
“We welcome Natures Flame employees into the Norske Skog family and acknowledge the skills and experience that they bring. There are also many synergies with our current operations and our existing knowledge of wood processing and renewable energy. This will benefit both areas of the business going forward”, Mr Leighton said.
Natures Flame manufactures high grade wood pellets and is the dominant domestic supplier to the NZ market. Its plant at Taupo is state of the art and produces a high quality / low ash product using residues from sustainably certified plantations. The Taupo plant is well positioned in the centre of the north island where the bulk of New Zealand’s forest based industry is located.
A closer look at Carlsberg’s fibre bottleWe’ve covered this planned move by Carlsberg in an earlier issue. Though more work remains before a bottle sits on a store shelf, the fibre bottle that Carlsberg has been working on is beginning to round into shape. Here’s a peek at what to expect.
Simon Hoffmeyer Boas is Director of Corporate Communications & CSR at the Carlsberg Group, and for the past nine years he has been working to establish the concept of sustainability within the Group. For some time now, this work has mostly been focused on sustainable packaging solutions.
“There’s a good reason for this,” says Boas. “Approximately 45% of our total greenhouse gas emissions come from our packaging, so this is an area where we can make a big difference. He says that packaging is a big part of the Carlsberg brand, and when it is improperly handled by the consumer—for example, when a glass bottle is broken and left in the countryside—this is clearly negative not only for the environment but also for the brand itself.
A fibre bottle makes a statement to the consumer about sustainability, and at the same time it’s not something that’s detrimental to the countryside if it unfortunately ends up being left there. The new fibre bottle really is a unique solution. ecoXpac has been working on the development of what they call “The Green Fibre Bottle” since 2009.
It can be manufactured in any size and is very strong. The walls of the bottle are thicker than plastic alternatives, but overall the bottle is lighter. It can be made in any colour and can even be given relief designs. The technology makes it possible to scan any bottle and quickly produce a fibre copy. A major part of the development was finding a method for the fast and energy-efficient removal of up to 80% of the water content in the fibre after forming. This is now done using a vacuum.
Harvester information workshop follows HarvestTECH 2015To build on record turnouts in Rotorua for this region’s HarvestTECH 2015 event, an additional workshop is being held the day after the HarvestTECH 2015 event finishes, on Friday 26 June 2015, 8am to 3.30pm. It’s aimed at forest managers (wood-flow planners, harvest coordinators) and harvester manufacturer’s who are interested in adopting the use of harvester information and the control of harvester cutting instructions using the StanForD data formats. It’s being hosted by Interpine Innovation and will include speakers from New Zealand, Australia and Europe. For more information, and for registrations, go to www.interpine.co.nz.
3D infrared scanner aids production linesThe Aimess Services R3Dscan infrared scanner can now provide robot-assisted inspection of objects on a production line. Aimess Services have demonstrated a 3D scanner that can communicate directly with industrial robots, giving them information about the dimension, shape and position of objects on an assembly line or within a manufacturing cycle.
The R3Dscan works with transparent, reflective and black objects, and is suitable for robot-assisted inline inspection of lightweight material such as carbon fiber, glass fiber and fibre reinforced plastics.
“In the majority of cases, our customers strive to replace metal parts by lighter materials in order to develop more efficient and future-proof products,” said Olaf Krüger, product manager at Aimess. ”Due to this trend, manufacturers and component suppliers are facing new challenges as current production processes need to undergo a radical change.”
One example of a case in which the 3D scanner could be useful for industry is in automotive assembly lines. The R3Dscan is the only optical measurement which could scan the transparent surface of headlights in order to position them accurately in the front end of the car. This could remove the need to verify computerized data without having to measure anything by hand. “With the help of the R3Dscan, it is possible to setup an efficient inspection process with seamless integration into the production process of lightweight parts”. More >>
Laser-printed polysilicon transistors on paperPrinted electronics have opened up applications—flexible circuits and rollable displays, to name two—that were impossible with conventional electronics. Usually printed electronics are created using materials whose electronic properties often pale in comparison to silicon. Now scientists have discovered a new way to print silicon onto paper which could led to a whole range of new products and uses.
While we could print silicon onto paper before, this involved using temperatures upwards of 350 degrees Celsius—far too hot for many of the flexible surfaces onto which one might want to print. The new technique, from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Ishikawa, completely bypasses this step. Researchers found that the thin-film transistors they created using this new strategy performed on par with conventional polysilicon devices and far better than other ink materials.
This work could lead to low-cost, high-speed, flexible, biodegradable, recyclable electronics that could show up in wearable electronics, solar cells, RFID tags, edible devices, and trillions of Internet of Things sensor nodes.
For more information check out the latest issue of R&D Works.
Tasmania's budget to reaffirm commitment to biomass energyTasmanian Resources Minister Paul Harriss prefers a local biomass energy industry over woodchip exports, a position that will be backed up with funding in the State Budget. In an opinion piece published in the Mercury earlier in the week, Mr Harriss says this week’s Budget will reaffirm the State Government’s commitment to moving towards a biomass industry.
The Liberals have committed AU$750,000 over four years for a bio-fuels and bio-energy study and AU$200,000 for work on bio-fuels in the Dorset and Huon municipalities. “Tasmania’s forest industry produces millions of tonnes of residues every year and it is important that all possible uses for those residues are available in order to maximise jobs in the forest industry, and there is no doubt that using wood residue from our certified forests to create renewable energy is preferable to exporting woodchips,” Mr Harriss writes.
The idea for a woodchip export operation at Hobart’s Macquarie wharf has been put on the backburner. The Government has now put the residues issue in the hands of the private sector through an expressions of interest process. In his opinion piece, Mr Harriss says wood contributes 6.5 per cent of Tasmania’s total energy supply. Comparison countries including Finland and Sweden generated about 30 per cent of their energy through biomass.
Source: The Mercury
World’s tallest prefab tower built in under 3 weeksChina is taking the lead in the further development of cutting-edge construction techniques, as part of efforts to expedite the creation of a vast swathe of fresh building stock to deal with the country’s mass urbanisation drive.
Hunan-based Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) serves an outstanding example of this trend, with vice-president Xiao Changgeng claiming that its refinement of prefabricated construction techniques has made it the fastest building company in the world.
BSB recently managed to finish a 57-storey skyscraper within three weeks of work time by taking advantage of the reduced construction times made possible by prefab building methods.
The Mini Sky City, situated in the Hunan province capital of Changsha, is a multi-functional building complex containing 800 apartments, 19 atriums, and enough office space to accommodate 4,000 workers.
BSB assembled the entire structure in the space of just 19 working days via the use of modular construction methods, building upwards at a rate of three storeys per day. “This is definitely the fastest speed in our industry,” said Xiao.
The erection of the skyscraper itself was preceded by four and a half months work spent assembling the 2,736 modules that comprise the building prior to actual on-site construction. Aside from reductions in labor and equipment expenses made possible by the extremely brief build time, BSB claims that the use of modular construction techniques enabled it to cut save 15,000 truckloads of concrete as compared conventional methods.
In addition to prefab building China has also emerged as a frontrunner in the field of construction using additive manufacturing techniques. Jiangsu-based Winsun has made claims similar to those of BSB with respect to the creation of multi-storey structures at record-breaking speeds, although in its case by adapting 3D printing methods for construction purposes.
UC Forestry part of new multi-million forestry researchThe University of Canterbury is part of a new NZ$14 million, seven year collaborative research effort aimed at maximising the value and export earnings of the New Zealand forestry industry. The Government recently announced it will invest the research funding in the effort, to be matched dollar for dollar by the forestry industry.
The programme will be led by industry-operated entity Future Forests Research, in collaboration with Scion, UC, and the New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative. The Government funding is provided through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Research Partnerships Programme. Industry funding is being provided by Forest Growers Levy Trust and a number of leading forestry companies and Farm Forestry Association.
The collaborative programme is in addition to nearly NZ$500,000 funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund announced in April, for UC to research how to minimise growth strain in eucalypts, to improve timber quality and simplify processing.
UC’s research will focus on developing higher value, better performing wood products from naturally durable eucalyptus that provide an alternative to Radiata pine reducing reliance on pine and less vulnerable to market fluctuations, as well as pests and diseases. It aims to tap into global demand for higher value specialty wood products while maintaining a strong focus on sustainability.
UC Forestry’s Dr Clemens Altaner said UC was fortunate to have both government and industry support for its eucalypt research that aims, initially, to provide much stiffer and more stable wood for the production of laminated veneer lumber when grown on a 10-12 year rotation.
Building ply-scrapers with engineered woodMichael Green likes to think big, talk big, and build tall. He schmoozes with government power brokers, innovative engineers, and audacious developers. In his Vancouver studio on a silver-skied January morning, though, the crowd is considerably more ingenuous: a class of high school students ferried in from the Sunshine Coast.
“Once in a while, we say, Let’s just dream up some crazy idea, like building an art gallery underneath Stanley Park,” he tells the spellbound teenagers, illustrating the concept with a rendering of a subterranean gallery shaped like a starfish.
“The what-ifs are an important part of being an architect.” Then he segues into the biggest what-ifs of his career, the ones that have brought him international attention. What if we were to start building our cities with a strong, fire-resistant, renewable resource? What if that resource were wood? What if British Columbia could lead the way?
A posse of Vancouver architects, engineers, manufacturers, and consultants are doing just that by working with wood that can be carved like stone and cantilevered like I-beams. Their designs are reaching heights and widths unfathomable even five years ago, and they are leading a paradigm shift in construction. It’s not just that they’re building with new, stronger boards; they may well also have found an eco-friendly replacement for concrete and steel. More >>
John Deere profits from forestry growthSteady growth in the company's construction and forestry division continued to serve as a bright spot for Deere & Company, which has just released its second-quarter earnings. Operating profit in the construction and forestry division rose to US$189 million, an increase of 43 percent compared to the same quarter the previous year. Net sales in that sector, which includes John Deere Dubuque Works, increased by 2 percent to US$1.63 billion in the quarter ended April 30.
However, overall results for Deere & Co. were down compared to the previous year. Deere & Co. officials reported an 18 percent decrease in net sales and revenues for the three months ended April 30 compared to the previous year. Net income attributable to Deere & Co. decreased from US$981 million the previous year to US$690 million in the second quarter of 2015 -- a drop of 30 percent.
Despite these declines, the results are a positive reflection on the company's growing diversity, according to Susan Karlix, Deere & Co.'s manager of investor communications.
North American wood pellet exports climb 22 percentWood pellet exports from the US increased for the 12th consecutive quarter in the 4Q/14, as compared to Canadian exports which trended downward in 2014, according to the North American Wood Fibre Review.
Exportation of wood pellets from North America to Europe and Asia reached an all-time high rising 22 percent in 2014 from the previous year, according to the North American Wood Fibre Review (NAWFR). Shipments from the US were up 40% year-over-year, while Canada exported six percent less in 2014 than in 2013. (Note. Due to irregularities with Customs data, NAWFR collects trade data from a number of sources including Canadian and US customs export data, European import data and from quarterly conversations with both pellet exporters and port contacts.)
US exports to Europe increased for the twelfth consecutive quarter, reaching a new high of just over 1.1 million tons in the 4Q/14. Minor volumes of pellets to Asia, shipped by containers from the US West Coast, fell as manufacturers concentrated on seasonal local demand.
By far the largest consumer of US pellets that past year has been the United Kingdom, which in the 4Q/14 was the destination of 73% of US export volumes. However, the UK market has not always been in such a dominant position. In 2013, the share was 55% and in 2012 only a modest 31%.
With over 20 new export-oriented pellet plants being built or having credible plans to operate in the next two years in the Southern States, further significant growth in North American pellet exports can be expected.
Source: Wood Resources International, www.woodprices.com
Renewable insulation foam made from woodResearchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute have developed a renewable, recyclable foam made from wood particles. According to researcher Volker Thole, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (WKI), the wood foam can be used in the same way as petrochemical foams, for example in house insulation or for packaging, and then recycled in conventional paper recycling streams.
To make the foam, the researchers begin by grinding the wood until it forms a viscous mass. They inject gas into the mass to turn it into foam and allow it to harden. Natural substances in the wood itself help the hardening process, which Thole likens to the process of bread rising and baking in an oven. The foam can be made into rigid boards or flexible sheets, and then cut to shape.
“We analysed our foam products in accordance with the applicable standards for insulation materials and obtained very promising results, not only in terms of their thermal insulation properties but also with respect to their mechanical and hydrodynamic properties,” says Thole.
The wood foam is just as insulating as conventional petrochemical foams, and is resistant to pressure and humidity. Other alternative, renewable insulation materials, such as wood fibre wool or sheets, are less resistant to deformation and tend to accumulate moisture, eventually collapsing under their own weight, affecting the insulation properties.
The researchers are currently experimenting with different types of wood to determine the best one to use, as well as investigating suitable processes and equipment for mass production. They expect to be able to commercialize the wood foams within a few years.
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... quick quiz
New Senior's Exam, you only need 4 correct out of 9 questions to pass.
And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.
We welcome comments and contributions on Friday Offcuts. For details on advertising for positions within the forest products industry or for products and services, either within the weekly newsletter or on this web page, please contact us.
Copyright 2004-2015 © Innovatek Ltd. All rights reserved