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An investigation of environmental conditions experienced during the life of high-value wood components and products

Hopewell, G. (2015) An investigation of environmental conditions experienced during the life of high-value wood components and products. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland, 120 .

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Australian forest industries have a long history of export trade of a wide range of products from woodchips (for paper manufacturing), sandalwood (essential oils, carving and incense) to high value musical instruments, flooring and outdoor furniture. For the high value group, fluctuating environmental conditions brought on by changes in temperature and relative humidity, can lead to performance problems due to consequential swelling, shrinkage and/or distortion of the wood elements.
A survey determined the types of value-added products exported, including species and dimensions packaging used and export markets. Data loggers were installed with shipments to monitor temperature and relative humidity conditions. These data were converted to timber equilibrium moisture content values to provide an indication of the environment that the wood elements would be acclimatising to.
The results of the initial survey indicated that primary high value wood export products included guitars, flooring, decking and outdoor furniture. The destination markets were mainly located in the northern hemisphere, particularly the United States of America, China, Hong Kong, Europe (including the United Kingdom), Japan, Korea and the Middle East. Other regions importing Australian-made wooden articles were south-east Asia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Different timber species have differing rates of swelling and shrinkage, so the types of timber were also recorded during the survey. Results from this work determined that the major species were ash-type eucalypts from south-eastern Australia (commonly referred to in the market as Tasmanian oak), jarrah from Western Australia, spotted gum, hoop pine, white cypress, black butt, brush box and Sydney blue gum from Queensland and New South Wales.
The environmental conditions data indicated that microclimates in shipping containers can fluctuate extensively during shipping. Conditions at the time of manufacturing were usually between 10 and 12% equilibrium moisture content, however conditions during shipping could range from 5 (very dry) to 20% (very humid). The packaging systems incorporated were reported to be efficient at protecting the wooden articles from damage during transit.
The research highlighted the potential risk for wood components to ‘move’ in response to periods of drier or more humid conditions than those at the time of manufacturing, and the importance of engineering a packaging system that can account for the environmental conditions experienced in shipping containers. Examples of potential dimensional changes in wooden components were calculated based on published unit shrinkage data for key species and the climatic data returned from the logging equipment. The information highlighted the importance of good design to account for possible timber movement during shipping. A timber movement calculator was developed to allow designers to input component species, dimensions, site of manufacture and destination, to see validate their product design.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Subjects:Forestry > Research. Experimentation
Forestry > Conservation and protection
Live Archive:21 Jul 2016 00:55
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:44

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