OSU, business team on compressed wood technology
By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
A lab machine for making VTM wood at OSU's Green Building Material Lab, an Oregon BEST shared-user facility.
A Philomath company may benefit from its role in helping an Oregon State University researcher leap from the lab to the commercial market with a new technology that could make inroads for the wood products industry.
Corvallis Tool Company, an equipment manufacturer, has been involved in researching what's called Viscoelastic Thermal Compression — or VTC — for several years. It's a technology spurred by Fred Kamke, professor of wood science and engineering and OSU's Jeld-Wen chair of wood-based composite products, as he tested a long-simmering thesis.
Ten years ago Kamke found, through unrelated work, that hot-pressing wood — though thought to weaken its characteristics — actually added strength. He began exploring the concept as a means of allowing faster-growing, softer woods to be used for producting sturdier veneer and hardwood floor products.
"I realized there was this company right in our backyard that could be a big help," said Kamke.
Corvallis Tool Company has been in the Corvallis area since 1983 and has about 55,000 square feet of manufacturing capacity in Philomath, employing between 20 and 110 people, depending on demand. The company designs, builds and installs machinery for wood products manufacturing plants, most of which have application in making plywood and laminated veneer lumber. (Laminated veneer lumber comes from peeling a tree and using the resulting layers, along with laminate, to make lumber instead of sawing directly out of the log.)
The company first helped Kamke by providing a conceptual engineering design for a VTC machine as he applied for early funding to build a device to test his theory. Later, Corvallis Tool Company bought a used press and refurbished it so Kamke could test the VTC process on a small scale in OSU's Green Buildings Materials Lab.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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