Plywood from Past to Present: UK Museum Exhibits ‘Material of the Modern World’

Plywood is one of the most common, yet overlooked materials used throughout the world today. But how has this revolutionary wood composite, dating back to 2600 BC Egypt, influenced the changing times?

A new exhibit at the United Kingdom’s Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), the world’s leading museum of art and design, delves into the history and versatility of plywood, exploring the handy material and how it helped move our world from the past to the present.

 “Plywood: Material of the Modern World” showcases the story of plywood and its resourceful nature, featuring everything from furniture to houses and airplanes.

Despite its first emergence in 1880, the use of plywood increased in the 1920’s, when it signified the beginning of the industrial age. Architects praised the material’s flexibility and began building simple furniture, such as armchairs and stools. An armchair by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto is just one of the pieces shown at the exhibit.

Full-scale house, built at the 1937 Madison Home Show to demonstrate the Forest Product Laboratory’s plywood prefabrication system.

In addition to early 20th century furniture, the showcase features a full-scale prefabricated plywood home, similar to the first all-wood one built here at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in 1937.  “Prefab” houses gained popularity after scientists at the Lab developed a waterproof adhesive that allowed for easier construction and mass-production of the product. Many people sought and bought these humble abodes in response to the Great Depression, seeing them as a means to quick, affordable housing.

Beginning in the 1940’s at the dawn of World War II, plywood played a role once again, and FPL was at the forefront of wartime innovation. Researchers designed and created a number of military applications, including adhesives and papreg, a strong paper-plastic that was used in the floors of gliders. The 1941 DeHavilland Mosquito aircraft, on display at the V&A, was renowned for its strength and lightness. Thanks to the planes plywood fuselages, built at FPL, the Mosquito was the fastest aircraft manufactured for the war.

Other exhibition highlights include an 1800’s elevated plywood railway, an automobile, and displays showcasing how the material influenced DIY efforts of the 1950’s. Various tours and lectures on the groundbreaking influence of plywood are also offered.

“Plywood: Material of the Modern World” will run at the V&A until November 12, 2017.

Blog post by Francesca Yracheta

Cellulose Nanocomposites Workshop: From Raw Materials to Applications

Are you interested in learning about the exciting opportunities that lignocellulosic nanomaterials and nanocomposites offer? If so, we invite you to attend a workshop at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to hear from some of the most experienced people in the field and tour the Lab’s cellulose nanomaterials pilot facility.

“Cellulose Nanocomposites Workshop: From Raw Materials to Applications”
Tuesday, May 16th – 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, WI Continue reading

Mass Timber Research Workshop Presentations Available Online!

The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) recently hosted the inaugural Mass Timber Research Workshop in cooperation with Woodworks – Wood Products Council. During the two-day event, more than 120 national and international attendees, including 26 presenters, gathered to learn about cross laminated timber (CLT) and how its design and use can further green building efforts while also aiding in forest restoration activities.

CLT concept and use in a nine-story mid-rise building in London.

CLT concept and use in a nine-story mid-rise building in London.

If you weren’t able to attend the workshop, never fear! The presentations are now available for viewing on FPL’s website. A broad range of topics related to CLT were covered, from fire safe design to seismic performance to timber-concrete composites.

Dig in and learn about this new era of wood construction. If you’re interested in learning even more, sign up to register for the upcoming Mass Timber Conference being held in Portland, Oregon, in March 2016.

Register Now! Free Cellulose Nanomaterials Webinar

The Forest Products Society is offering a free webinar titled “Overview of Cellulose Nanomaterials and Nanocomposites” on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) Research Materials Engineer Ronald Sabo will be presenting.

Ronald Sabo (left) will present the nano webinar. Here he explains a composites research project to USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie.

The one-hour webinar will provide an introduction to and overview of cellulose nanomaterials and nanocomposites. Production methods and properties of cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) and cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) will be described, and cellulose nanocomposites, their properties, and applications will be discussed. The enormous potential of these materials, as well as some of the associated challenges, will also be addressed in this webinar, which will provide a good foundation for anyone looking to begin research in this area or to incorporate these materials into products.

Sabo works in the Engineered Composites Sciences group at FPL. His research interests include cellulose nanomaterials and nanocomposites, “green” polymers and composites, and recycling and remediation of forest-based resources. He has authored over 50 publications, including peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and conference proceedings. Sabo obtained a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and Mathematics from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida.

Register now for this free webinar and begin to explore the many possibilities of nanocellulose!

FPL Partner Procures Patent: Better Building With BioSIPS

Whether serving as a bookshelf, tabletop, or wall panel, the composite board is a ubiquitous construction material found in furniture and homes alike. Traditional composite boards use mankind’s most trusted building resource, wood, as a base — but a new patented process using waste products stands to revolutionize the familiar building material, making it even more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

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BioSIPS use low-value recycled material to make high-value structural materials.

Julee Herdt, a professor at the University of Colorado – Denver, and Kellen Schauermann, a former graduate student, were recently awarded a patent for their Bio-Structural Insulated Panels (BioSIPS) system. BioSIPS are structural boards comprised of waste material such as recycled paper, noxious weeds, industrial hemp, and forest debris.

Herdt, the CEO and president of BioSIPS Inc., hopes that her product will help ease the environmental and energy concerns of tomorrow.

Although wood-based Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) have been around for some time, Herdt’s BioSIPS, made from 100% recycled material, could replace their conventional wood counterparts. BioSIPS wall, floor, and roof panels even surpass conventional SIPS in some strength-testing areas (especially compressive and transverse loading) as well as exhibit superior thermal characteristics — which is important, as thermally-efficient structures go hand-in-hand with decreased energy usage.

Herdt’s accomplishment comes on the heels of a long legacy of research and collaboration with the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). In 1995, she was part of a project that researched and tested GRIDCORE (FPL’s Spaceboard) panels — three-dimensional, molded structural panels comprised of recycled corrugated containers, old newsprint, and kenaf, a plant native to southern Asia. The name “spaceboard” referred to the spaces afforded by the waffle-like design of the GRIDCORE panels, which allowed for increased strength and decreased weight and material usage.

Nearly 20 years later, BioSIPS, like GRIDCORE panels before them, carry on the tradition of turning society’s low-grade waste into high-value products that have proven utility in real-world construction projects. Along with her personal office, Herdt and her team built entire houses with BioSIPS, winning first prize at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in 2002 and 2005.

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Herdt, Schauermann and Hunt await another patent for new methods of creating complex three-dimensional shapes with fiber boards.

Herdt and Schauermann, along with FPL Research General Engineer John Hunt, are awaiting the award of a second patent, Cut-Fold Shape Technology for Engineered Molded Fiber Boards, which relates to a new process of folding fiber boards into three-dimensional shapes to maximize their utility and strength.

In a world of increased environmental awareness, BioSIPS promise to offer designers, engineers, and industry professionals new ways to build strong, energy-efficient structures and provide another avenue for society to make better use of its waste products. Through technologies like these, we will better be able to tackle the construction challenges of tomorrow in an environmentally responsible way.