Environmentally Friendly Wood Veneer Tubes

Inovem, a college technology transfer centre serving the furniture and woodworking industries in Quebec at Cegep de Victoriaville, has recently concluded research on the development of environmentally friendly wood veneer tubes. In total, five college students, two university students, and five instructors participated in this project led by Nicholas Pearson, Technology and Business Development Advisor at Inovem.

Between 2018 and early 2021, the project was composed of three phases:

  1. It was essential to demonstrate the possibility of wood edge rolling. Because wood doesn’t have the same flexibility as cardboard, the working group needed to establish which wood pieces were best suited, what type of glue would be used, and more.
  2. They needed to demonstrate how to make a tube that can replace a solid wood dowel as a hand tool handle.
  3. They needed to optimize the manufacturing method developed in phase two based on the analysis of the weaknesses of the first rolling prototype and the development of solutions.

Three main reasons motivated this project. Initially, in 2018, the researchers looked for a solution to reuse veneer residues instead of sending them to landfills. Then in 2019, they established a second reason in response to the Emerald Ash Borer issue. They required proof of concept to demonstrate the use of veneer tubes to replace the manufacture of solid ash tool handles. Finally, in 2020, the project evolved to improve the manufacturing method to increase productivity and quality consistency and eventually interest a manufacturer.

There were several main results obtained from the project:

  1. They increased general knowledge of the veneer winding process, including what species work best, the need for softening treatments, the type of glue to use, the importance of compromise between the number of plies and ply thickness.
  2. They examined the various possibilities for the method, such as winding diameter from pen to sonotube and the flexible effect with contact adhesives, aesthetic appearance with exotic veneers.
  3. They tested the development of other related products, such as lightweight honeycomb panels, guitar pickguards, bicycle frames, and moldings.
  4. There was also the development of the first prototype of equipment for cross-winding, including a presser foot. This prototype demonstrated the feasibility of a sufficiently large tube to replace a snow shovel handle. It also brought some repeatability, but the winding pressure had to be increased, which doesn’t allow for a snow shovel handle. The use of instantaneous glue and productivity must be increased to bring the cost down to an interesting level.
  5. Finally, the second prototype improved on the problems exhibited in the first prototype.

According to Inovem’s research, there are no manufacturers of this type of product in North America. The only known producers are a German company and a Chinese manufacturer whose methods are considered artisanal. The closest industrial comparison is the manufacture of cardboard tubes. The advantage of using wood is in the aesthetics and the stiffness/weight ratio.

Therefore, the main technological advance is in the adaptation of cardboard processes to use veneer, where possible, if not in the development of a method specific to wood veneer. A second significant advance is establishing a circular economy chain for the recovery and processing of veneer residues. Let’s also consider the veneer tube itself as a technological breakthrough allowing the substitution of non-renewable materials such as metal or plastic.

Partners in the project were Dural (Donald couture), teachers from the National Furniture School (Éric Allard, Ghislain Carrier, Daniel Larivière, and Christian St-Pierre), guarantors (Frédérick St-Pierre, Raphael Migneault Bouchard, and Roland Doré), teachers from the Natural Sciences department of Cégep de Victoriaville (Marc-Antoine Filion), and Mechanium (Jocelyn Hébert, and Alexandre Poulin).

The Synchrone program, PART, and NSERC provided financing for the project.


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