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Theme 2 Projects

Theme 2: Product and manufacturing

Theme 2 focuses on maximising the value of eucalypt logs. This theme examines the potential to convert plantation grown eucalypt timber into high value logs for use in appearance-grade solid timber and veneer products. This theme examines the visual characteristics of the resources and compares it to the performance required in architectural design. Key projects in this theme focus on developing methods for specification and performance testing. This will enable the uptake of plantation eucalypt timbers for both generic building components and custom element manufacturing.

Current Projects

Kent Davis -  PhD Candidate

Assoc Prof Greg Nolan, Dr Nathan Kotlarewski, Assoc Prof Scott Leavengood

The plantation hardwood estate in Australia is largely managed to provide fibre for the pulp and paper industry. Boards milled from these logs are often underutilised and undervalued. Underutilisation, in part, occurs because current Australian hardwood grading standards are unable to fully capture the potential value of this material. Due to the potential of plantation hardwood boards to have numerous knots and other features, the current hardwood grading strategy does not provide the necessary assurance that boards contain a suitable distribution of required areas or sections, to be efficiently processed into higher-value appearance products. Although boards contain a high occurrence of the natural feature, it could supplement declining native supplies in a wide range of high-value appearance applications. To effectively process these boards, manufacturers require material batched to contain the required combination of board section of different size and feature content. By delivering the best-suited boards, producers effectively convert high-feature, low-value material into well defined and described batches and manufacturers maximise processing efficiency and yield from the available resource.

Therefore, there is an incentive to establish flexible grading and sorting protocols that provide the ability to define and communicate necessary characteristics in a manner that increases the efficiency at which the resource can be valued and utilised. This project proposes a conceptual framework that optimises the use of sawn board in higher-value appearance and non-structural applications. This is accomplished by increasing the precision at which the characteristics of boards are matched to product specification and production requirements within the supply chain. Three aims guide the research:

  1. Automatically locate and classify knots to define the size and feature content classes of board sections produced by Eucalyptus nitens and E. globulus boards.
  2. Develop a means to sort material according to size and feature content of board sections available from the resource.
  3. Examine the relationship between the yield of product component size and feature content requirements with board sorting strategies. 

The results of these investigations will provide a greater understanding of the potential use of plantation hardwood material with significantly different characteristics and properties than native timber and provide an alternative to current hardwood grading. The project demonstrates a flexible means to transmit detailed product and manufacturing requirements and enhanced material description between producers and end-users and enables the uptake of the plantation resource for higher-value products.

Mohammad Derikvand - PhD Candidate

Assoc prof Greg Nolan, DR Hui Jiao, Dr Andrew Chan, Dr Nathan Kotlarewski

The plantation hardwood estate in Australia is mainly eucalypt. The majority of the plantation eucalypt estate is unthinned, unpruned and grown in short rotation to be used in Australia’s pulp and paper industries or exported as woodchips. Although this plantation hardwood resource exists, Australia’s hardwood timber sector still relies on native forests and imported wood products. There is a need to establish a practical way to use fibre-grown plantation eucalypt in Australia’s timber industry. Logs harvested from this resource produce boards that contain a substantial amount of major strength-reducing features (SRF) when sawn. This limits the potential of using this resource as individual boards in structural building applications. However, the effectiveness of using this resource for structural building applications in the form of mass laminated timber components is still unknown. This project investigates practical methods for producing mass laminated timber from fibre-grown plantation Eucalyptus nitens for structural timber flooring systems in the built environment.

See Mohammad explain his PhD project below:

Michelle Balasso -  PhD candidate

Assoc Prof Julianne O'Reilly-Wapstra, Prof Mark Hunt, Assoc Prof Greg Nolan, Dr Nathan Kotlarewski, Dr Andrew Jacobs, Dr Dean Williams

There are great opportunities to extend the use of the hardwood plantation estate in Tasmania for higher-value products such as sawn material, veneers and engineered wood products. To maximise these opportunities, it is important to understand the wood quality traits of the current resource.

This project aims to investigate wood quality traits of standing eucalypt trees, logs and boards using non-destructive techniques. The project works across the full value chain of growers, harvesters and processors to:

  1. Investigate and map environmental effects on wood quality traits in fibre-grown Eucalyptus nitens plantations
  2. Examine the capacity to sort and segregate trees and logs on a harvesting landing using Non-Destructive Techniques to predict wood properties
  3. Investigate the perceived and effective characteristics of the raw material impacting different products
  4. Assess the volume and value recovery of eucalypt sawn material for structural production
  5. Investigate in-forest segregation systems to sort logs into different quality classes at the moment of harvest

The outcomes of this research will enable a greater understanding of the characteristics of the fibre-managed eucalypt plantation resource, its suitability for different product types and its potential uses, while validating the use of readily available and novel technologies to test wood quality.

Check out Michelle explain her PhD project below: