April 20, 2020
It’s finally here. We can now cut a 24” thick piece of Mass Ply Panel. The Mass Ply beam and column processing line opens up opportunities in Mass Ply and construction projects. It has already spun up some innovative product ideas we are starting to explore. Most importantly, we can now deliver an entire structural framing package for multi-story buildings.
What is the Mass Ply beam and column processing line (B&C line)? It is an enormous carriage band saw that is traditionally used in lumber mills. The carriage is 60 feet long, and it is one of the longest ever produced. It is designed to grab a 4’x 60’ billet and then run it through the band saw that has a 25” opening and the wheels that are on 76” centers. It is impressive to see.
The B&C line is located so billets straight from our press are conveyed directly to it. This an automated process that can efficiently and economically make Mass Ply beams and columns. We believe we can make this at a reduced price comparative to other mass timber options. The key to reduced cost is efficient utilization of the 4’ billet to minimize wastage and drop. A 4’ billet gives us about 47.5” of usable width after trim. The kerf of the band saw blade at .15” is another thing to consider. Now factoring in our max length of 48’ we can start to see what sizes of beams and columns we can start getting from our billet.
As an example, consider beams on edge. We can’t get two, 24” deep beams out of one billet. We would either want to design the beams at 23.5” (remember the saw kerf) in order to get two from one billet, or utilize the rest of the material with other beams or columns. Knowing this information early on in design can yield a very cost-effective mass timber project.
Another consideration is beams in plank orientation. Since we are taking thinner slices from the billet, we typically can use the billet more efficiently. This can also add a unique look that hasn’t been available until now. Once we can start laying up mixed grades, the plank orientation allows for more flexible layups. The results could be high performance long-span beams or just more economical beams.
We are still in the certification process for anything over 12” thick. Since we can cut thicker, we plan to start the tests right away. Of course, COVID 19 has slowed the process but we are hoping for certification in the near future. Stay healthy!
Austin Basl, Structural Engineer
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