Softwood sawn timber testing facility set up

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A research project that’s looking into the mechanical properties of softwood sawn timber has resulted in the establishment of a world-leading, dedicated timber testing facility in South Australia, from which industry is likely to reap rewards for years to come.

The state-of-the art laboratory, established at The University of South Australia’s (UniSA) Mawson Lakes campus, has been fitted with the latest machinery from around the world. Combined with improved testing methods and processes, and innovative software programs, the facility is set to benefit Australia long-term through significant advancements in timber testing capacity and capabilities.

The inaugural project being conducted out of the new lab will determine the mechanical properties of softwood sawn timber. The information and insights gathered will be used to safeguard the industry, by providing a robust evidence-base to demonstrate timber product properties as required by industry standards. The work will help confirm confidence amongst existing and emerging markets, opening the door for potential new applications.

Some of the information generated from this study will assist softwood manufacturers when confirming the compliance of their products under various industry standards, including AS/NZS1748 Timber – Mechanically stress-graded for structural purposes.

As part of the project, which is being led by UniSA with funding from industry collaborators, as well as the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI), researchers are capturing a representative sample of softwood sawn-timber production from 13 participating Australian sawmills over a full year of production.

Using the lab’s newly installed machinery, timber samples will undergo testing for bending, tension and compression, with associated moisture and density information also captured. To support the process, the UniSA Information Technology team has developed rigorous data capture and storage software to keep track of the samples and reduce the risk of data mishandling.

Researchers will analyse test results and provide accurate information to industry on the structural properties of their sawn timber products, which it’s hoped will empower industry to broadly promote the many performance benefits associated with timber.

“The establishment of this new facility is so exciting because it represents a significant development in Australian timber testing capabilities, which will be invaluable for equipping the industry with an ongoing understanding and database of timber properties and performance,” said Andy McNaught, Chair of the AFPA Solid Wood Products Technical Committee.

Going forward, the new testing facility will be opened up to industry in support of their own testing projects, including those focused on structural works, architecture and construction project management.

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Source: FWPA

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