Biligom International launches revolutionary new structural timber product
YOUNG MOIST eucalyptus timber has not previously been successfully finger-jointed, treated and certified for structural applications without drying, however, a new process has removed the time and capital expenses related in kiln drying, greatly improving cash flow for saw milling operations.
Currently, eucalyptus grandis and grandis x cameldulensis species are in production and research is under way with other species native to Australia as this exciting technology expands.
For over two years, Biligom has successfully supplied the roof truss manufacturing market using superior mechanical qualities to out-compete construction pine at the same price. Using Biligom in a roofing structure requires approximately 50% less gang nails and 28% less wood by volume in a 12 x 20 metre or larger building as truss and baton spacing can be significantly increased, cord and web sizes decreased, while retaining load capacity and rigidity.
Paul Roberts of Biligom reports there has been tremendous positive feedback from the start. Clients have re-ordered and demand has steadily grown as the product has become known, more widely used and trusted.
Mitek Industries assisted Biligom development and completed extensive independent testing using moist (40% MC) and dry Biligom in 9 metre span test-trusses designed and manufactured to globally recognized standards.
MiTek concluded Biligom can be used in the wet state for manufacturing trusses and allowed to dry in place in a roof. Mike Newham Pr Eng of MiTek, stated: “We believe in Biligom and back it. The strength exceeded our expectations and calculations, and we had the gang nail plates failing across the joint at characteristic strength.’ (when testing to destruction).”
MiTek has adapted their software to cater to Biligom and can provide comparable (Pine v Biligom) material and cost projections for roofing projects which allows clients to compare relative material costs. Using Biligom can offer upwards of 30% saving on a roofing project in many cases.
Recognized bodies have endorsed Biligom’s market entrance. Fred Wagner, Executive Officer of the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), which regulates the structural timber industry and plays a pivotal role in the final sign-off of engineered roofing and building, has backed Biligom and stated, “it’s great to see companies like Biligom thinking innovatively and taking the initiative to introduce new products into the market’”.
Roy Southey Executive Director of Sawmilling South Africa confirmed Biligom was a viable option to supplement the looming pine shortages of the future.
Biligom says raw material costs are more affordable and available than pine. Since the process does not require a dry mill or kiln, start-up and operating costs are dramatically lower. Capital start-up costs for an existing saw milling operator are reasonable. Industrial development funds were used to commission of the first licenced Biligom operation.
The most significant feature of Biligom, is that logs can be loaded in a plantation, processed and ready for dispatch as structural timber the evening of the same day.
Trees are harvested at a five to eight year rotation, debarked in-field using the standing rip stripe method and left for approximately six weeks bringing down moisture content to 40% or lower.
Tree lengths are pole graded, sorted by diameter and length, and transported to saw milling operations. Boards are then processed in the Biligom finger joint plant which transforms cut moist Eucalypts boards into high quality construction lumber suitable and certified for use in the roof truss and framing market.
The boards are first cross-cut to remove defects and supply high quality short lengths of approximately 800mm for finger jointing.
The finger joint process squares the ends and cuts finger joint profiles, then an air activated polyurethane epoxy is applied. Planks are assembled, cross-cut to production length and hydraulically pressed to correct compression in an automated process. Curing takes approximately three hours.
Cured production planks are planed in a single pass on 4-sides and have end nail plates inserted. 100% of production is tested to grade 7 in a stress grader incorporated into the production process. (Certification to grade 8 is currently in the approval process, which will make Biligom 3 grades stronger than retail construction pine.)
Finally, production stacks are treated with copper azole wood preservative Tanalith E, Ecospecifier to SANS 1288 H2 in a vacuum/
pressure/vacuum cycle, treating to refusal according to Arch Wood Protection procedures.
Biligom International was developed by father and son team, Spencer and Frederick Drake. The Drake family established eucalyptus plantations in Georges Valley in the 1960s and Diggers Rest Saw Mill in 1974. For over 40 years Diggers Rest Saw Mill has worked principally with pine supplying building material and (chromate copper arsenate / creosote) treated poles. The potential of eucalyptus had always intrigued the Drakes who devoted years and significant capital investment to develop and refine a process which excluded the need to dry, yet would allow Eucalypt cut lumber to retain form and provide the required strength to complete with pine.
Spencer enlisted the South African Technical Auditing Society (SATAS) to develop an industry recognized and accredited process which adheres to SABS / SANS and globally recognized standards. SATAS has endorsed Biligom and administers an ongoing auditing program at the original plant and the first licenced Biligom operation in nearby Politsi.
Extensive academic research was performed at Stellenbosch University, Department of Forest and Wood Science. http://scholar.sun.ac.za/ handle/10019.1/80072
Biligom should be of particular interest to Australian saw milling operators who are running at less than 100% capacity due to the growing gulf between supplies of domestically produced softwoods and raising consumer demand in Australia. Estimates show a softwood construction lumber shortfall will reach 1.8 million m3 by 2035.
Eastern Australia has established Eucalypts (Grandis, Nitens, Calmaldulensis) production and much of it is supplying the pulp and paper and bio-energy market. An opportunity now exists for enterprising Australian saw millers, to progress beyond the supply gap related to pine.
Paul Roberts of Biligom stated: “Now that a truss product can be efficiently made from material previous used for pulp, chip, and bio-energy, several issues can be addressed to the economic benefit of all involved.”
“This should not be seen as a step-backward to earlier times of hardwood framing, as Biligom construction lumber competes directly in the softwood market at the same wholesale rate.
“Adding value to Eucalypts currently going to pulp and bioenergy makes a lot of sense,” said Paul.
The Biligom development promotes a wider range of more affordable and accessible timber products which is in the interests all, and in-turn will benefit related industries including truss manufacturers and contractors as well as consumers.