110 Years of FPL: Laminated Wood Products

In celebration of 110 years of research at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), we are revisiting blog posts that detail some of our most interesting historic people, places, and projects. Enjoy!

FPL’s pioneering work on the engineering design of glued-laminated construction helped launch the laminating industry in the United States. Much of the research on laminated wood originated at the time of the first World War when the Bureau of Aircraft Production approached FPL with a need for lightweight airplane wings.

Shortly after the U.S. entrance into the war, FPL initiated a very elaborate investigation into the mechanical properties of plywood, as no information was available on this subject and its importance in connection with aircraft design was evident. As this investigation proceeded, the possibilities in the structural use of this material became greater and scientists applied the new knowledge as quickly as possible. The photo above demonstrates various products produced from laminated wood.

FPL scientists have been at the forefront of designing laminated arches and beams for construction. FPL researchers have designed and evaluated various beams to determine how to economically fabricate beams to maximize strength, and they determined if underutilized species could be used. The results of research have eliminated the need to cut large trees to produce satisfactory beams for construction. Also, many smaller, less utilized species of wood can now be assembled and used as large beams.

One of the first glued laminated buildings in the U.S. was constructed at FPL in the early 1930’s.

Original blog post by Madelon Wise