2018/07/02   |   United States

MPP - new, innovative plywood panel product

With the new MPP facility Freres Lumber has enormously expanded its product variety.

"With the production line we have achieved a unique degree of flexibility."

Kyle Freres, CEO Freres Lumber

An article from the WEINMANN customer magazine performance, Version 17/ 2018. Here you can read the customer magazine performance online.

Freres Lumber was founded almost 100 years ago by T.G. Freres as a small sawmill in Santiam Canyon. Since then, the family business has expanded into other areas such as veneer drying, plywood production, biomass cogeneration and the most recent being Mass Plywood Panel (MPP). This Mass Plywood Panel project is certainly the most spectacular and progressive in the history of Freres Lumber. The selfproduced plywood is laminated together to form large, load-bearing wooden building elements. These MPP building elements were developed as an alternative to CLT.

Entering new territory in the industry

Market share of cross laminated timber in the United States has come under strong pressure within the last 10 years. This is due to the advancement of some OSB companies, and global competition in the plywood market becoming stronger and stronger. Freres Lumber wanted a way to increase the quality and functionality of their plywood products in order to gain the competitive advantage. In this process, the innovative company developed the patented MPP product in close cooperation with Oregon State University. According to Kyle Freres, Vice President of Operations, there is a big difference between the MPP product and CLT. While CLT typically consists of 1.5" thick boards, MPP is made up of individual veneer layers. The orientation of the veneers, the position within the board, and the structural quality of the veneer are carefully selected. Compared to CLT, MPP has about 20 % lower panel thicknesses, but at the same time has similar strength values. It was clear to everyone involved that the desired competitive advantage could only be achieved by establishing automated production methods. The biggest challenge was that the individual production steps for a completely new product on the market had to be developed piece by piece. This required very close cooperation with experienced partners like Stiles Machinery, WEINMANN and Minda, as well as other local US service providers. It was not possible to obtain advice from colleagues in the industry, nor were there existing production methods of this kind that could have been used as a guide. In retrospect, Kyle Freres describes the process or relying on these key partners as extremely cooperative. "We were helped to find unique solutions that enabled us to drive forward the development of our innovative new product." The new investments for this operation include a WEINMANN WALLTEQ M-560 solid wood portal for machining of finished elements, a Minda X-337 Hydraulic Press, integration and automated handling by Stiles Machinery. "The integration of the machines into our production has helped us enormously to process large quantities of material safely, quickly and efficiently. The expertise and support we received from the planning stage through to and beyond the start of production was phenomenal. With the production line we have achieved a unique degree of flexibility," reports Kyle Freres.

Wide product variety

Freres Lumber has specialized in producing high-quality density graded LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) wood material. In addition veneer for specialty panel markets is manufactured. Kyle Freres reports: "The plywood we have produced has largely focused on the exterior grade sheathing markets. With the addition of the MPP facility, the variety of products we can make has extended dramatically. We manufacture a wide range of products which can be machined on the WEINMANN WALLTEQ M-560, enabling us to offer our customers a wide variety of products. Virtually any shape, joint, profile or opening can be produced with the appropriate tooling on the CNC machine and this happens with a high degree of precision! The possibilities are almost unlimited and there are countless advantages for our customers."

More than 1.25 million cft of wood per year

After the lamination and press operation is complete the individual panels are separated and fed onto the WALLTEQ M-560 for further processing. For relatively simple products such as so called "rig mats" which are used as for temporary ground protection for transition roads - the WALLTEQ M-560 is used to cut the panels to finished size and produce needed chamfers and routings. For more complex panels, such as those used in building construction, or for example, the lounge for the 2018 International Mass Timber Conference (IMTC) held in Portland, Oregon, all possible applications of the machine are used. In order to carry out the machining operations effectively, the appropriate tool is selected on the basis of machining strategies. Complicated side cuts and angles are efficiently and accurately cut into a structure. According to Kyle Freres, an architect admirably described the Mass Timber Conference Lounge as the most complex wooden structure in the state. The WALLTEQ M-560 is able to process the large size panels which have a width of 12' and a length of 48.5'. Equipped with a 30 kW 5-axis spindle, an 18 position tool changer and a Flex 35 saw unit make it the perfect machine for the application. Freres Lumber has already produced a variety of complex components with the machine: The construction of the lounge for the IMTC trade fair, for example, would not have been possible without the capabilities of the WALLTEQ M-560. Kyle Freres: "In order to process the Mass Plywood Panels, we needed a state-of-the-art machine with the flexibility to import files from popular CAD programs and BIM platforms to serve a variety of customers such as architects, engineers and designers. We wanted a machine that could perform these tasks perfectly and with high precision. Furthermore, the operation of the machine should be user-friendly so that our personnel could be trained as easily as possible. These expectations were definitely met with the WALLTEQ M-560." Kyle Freres has high expectations for the future of Plywood Panel construction: "An important milestone will be the approval of MPP for multi-story construction of up to 18 floors in the International Building Regulations, the publication of which is planned for 2021. By this time, we hope that the market has developed so well that the economic and ecological advantages of this construction method have spread and further state-of-the-art production facilities have been installed that can meet the demand."


Source images: Freres Lumber

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Freres Lumber Co., Inc.

Freres Lumber Co., Inc. has been a family owned and operated business since 1922. They are specialized in creating the highest quality products across the wood products spectrum: bark fines, chips, shavings, specialty veneer, grade lumber, high-quality sheathing grade plywood, and even electricity.


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