A Stepping Stone for Wood in the UK. A whole new field opened up for the UK Timber Indstry.

First Commercial CLT Panels in the UK


First Commercial CLT Panels in the UK

While the air is abuzz with rumours of gigantic investments in UK production lines, the glory of producing the first CLT panels on a commercial scale goes to a Scottish team of visionaries relying on vacuum technology. It opens up a whole new field for the UK Timber Industry.

‚We are excited and proud to have the UK’s first large bed vacuum press for the production of cross laminated timber and glued laminated elements included in the roster of advanced manufacturing equipment within our Innovation Factory‘, says Mark Milne, Technical Manager at CSIC.

‚The vacuum press offers tremendous scope and potential for Scottish SME’s, enabling them to lead the way in the research and development of CLT, utilising home grown resource and mixed timber species.‘

Although CLT panels have been produced in the UK as part of feasibility studies and for pilot projects, the panels produced last month are the first with the potential to be produced in such volumes as to compete on a commercial scale.


A Center for Innovation

The Construction Scotland Innovation Centre is one of eight industry led and demand driven Innovation Centres in Scotland, supported by Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and 13 Scottish university partners. The 35,000 sq. ft. prototyping space houses £1.5M of advanced manufacturing equipment and is home to a whole team of professionals who‘ll support industry and academia to develop and validate new products, processes, systems and business models.


Why vacuum?

With big producers like Merk or Schilliger, vacuum has been used as a technology for CLT production right from its infancy, going back about 15 years. The most important advantage of vacuum probably is the low investment; five to ten times below comparable methods like hydraulic presses. This enables a gradual approach to CLT production, with relatively low automation in the beginning, that is increased as demand rises on the market. It also enables smaller companies and family businesses to establish niche markets for themselves (for example using local wood) or launch new and innovative products like sandwich panels, SIP panels or box beams, while minimizing related risks.


Any size goes

The technically most important advantage is that vacuum production is completely flexible regarding size. The strechable membrane adapts to any kind of surface, be it panels of different size, a smaller one on top of a bigger one, with cut-outs for windows or even 3D bent forms. In contrast to hydraulic presses a need for wider panels doesn‘t explode prices exponentially. Panels with widths of over 3 m, which are very hard to get on the market, can be glued in vacuum without much additional cost.


Fastest growing CLT technology

‚There are more plants going into operation with vacuum than with any other technology‘, states Thomas Fankhauser, CEO of leading manufacturer woodtec Fankhauser GmbH. The company is part of the renowned Swiss machine industry and has installed more than 10 presses in the last year alone. Although many big players like Binderholz produce CLT on an industrial level and in huge quantities by relying on vacuum technology (five presses from woodtec in said case), a lot speaks in favor of smaller plants with 2000-15‘000 m3 annually.


Lessons from the continent

‚We see a clear trend on the continent that many small and medium-sized companies now want to invest in their own CLT production to be independent from big providers‘, says Fankhauser. Indeed, big manufacturers see their whole production being taken up by big construction sites, which leaves them less time and energy to deal with special demands from small players and increases lead times considerably. An own dedicated production allows them to keep profits in house and produce custom-size panels just in time.


CLT and beyond...

There is no question that CLT is a booming market that will grow substantially over the next few years. But even at this moment problems seem to cloud the horizon, namely in the availability of wood, which already results in rising prices for the raw material. One solution might be the use of composite materials like SIP panels, that try to reduce the amount of wood used. Another promising alternative are so called Box Beams, which rely on wood only where it is statically of advantage. It is usually composed of a heart of glulam beams with a 3-ply panel on one or both sides.


New Pressing Solution for Box Beams

Although box beams can be produced in a vacuum press, thanks to the adaptable membrane, the CSIC has decided to provide its clients with another solution from woodtec. ‚Our vacuum press is complimented by woodtec Fankhauser’s hugely versatile construction table for the production of timber frame panels, floor and roof cassettes and sub-assemblies‘, explains Milne. Using a pneumatic pressing system this construction table can also be used to produce box beams at lower prices and requiring less know-how than the vacuum press. A considerable advantage for smaller construction companies. ‚Both have generated a great deal of interest and we’re looking forward to working on a number of groundbreaking projects beyond the launch of the Innovation Factory on 11th September 2017‘ says Milne.



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Veröffentlicht am:
15:50:20 15.10.2017 von CMS System Benutzer

Last update
11:21:43 18.10.2017