Technology is the future of the timber industry
Recently, I read a very interesting article about researchers at the University of Maine, USA, who created what they claim is the first 3D-printed house made entirely of bio-based materials using sustainably sourced wood fibers and bio-resins. As a result, the entire house is considered to be recyclable. The article also mentioned that “the printing process has contributed to a significant reduction in the amount of waste.” Furthermore, the used wood fibers capture carbon throughout the tree’s growth cycle and can be considered a storage unit for this carbon even after it is recycled. And another article caught my attention, where a well-known Belgium company invested in a new, ground-breaking technology called “TRX”, which converts wood residue into premium hardwood.
Many years back, I wrote an article about the future of our industry that would rely on using timber sourced from plantation-grown forests, both soft- and hardwoods, and converting these into highly valued premium wood products. The pressure to limit the use of tropical hardwoods sourced from natural forests has never been as high as today. It can be foreseen that the consumption will stop completely within the next 5 to 10 years. Plantation-grown timber is much younger and less durable than matured naturally-grown timber. But this can be overcome by various treatment alternatives such as thermo-modification, impregnation, and, as mentioned above, new technologies.
Here in Southeast Asia, we will see a fast growth of such technologies, mostly spearheaded by European-owned factories that realize their future potential. Hence it will just be a matter of time before other locally-owned factories in China, Indonesia, India, and Malaysia will copy and follow this trend.