Revitalizing forest products with space technology

April 28, 2004

Paris, Apr 2004

Can advanced space technologies help the forest products industry? This will be the subject of a workshop, to be held in May in Stockholm, Sweden, in which representatives from the forest and wood products industry will interact and discuss issues, problems and challenges with space technology experts.

The workshop is an initiative of ESA's Technology Transfer and Promotion Office. "The forest industry covers a wide range of activities, from sawmills and wood manufacturing industries, to the pulp and paper industry. Although the technical level and production conditions differ, the common denominator is wood as the raw material," says David Raitt, ESA's Senior Technology Transfer Officer and main organiser of the workshop Space+Forest to be held 10-11 May.

"Many opportunities exist to revitalise both the timber processing and manufacturing industry to make them not only more efficient and economic, but also more sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally acceptable. New methods and designs could bring innovation, improved quality and added value to wood products, plus a marriage of traditional forest products with space-age materials and technologies could result in additional benefits which would enhance everyday life."

Some ideas Raitt mentions as possible transfers from space include: "Textile materials and carbon fibres developed for space use could perhaps be added to wood to make it lighter, stronger, fireproof and capable of absorbing greater energy impacts; waste and water recycling methods, being developed for future Mars missions, might be applied to pulp and paper waste."

The one and a half day workshop will be a creative and intensive brainstorming session aimed at generating ideas for projects where space technologies might be able to provide effective solutions for the challenges identified in the forest products industry. In order to have a realistic and fruitful forum, workshop participants should include players from all the different areas of the forest products industry, from cutting timber and making wood products to building wood structures, as well as from the space community.

Brainstorming at the workshop will focus on ways in which technologies from European space programmes could offer a new dimension to forest industry and downstream manufacturing, including:

  • Which technologies are needed to make the forestry manufacturing and production processes more sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally acceptable?
  • What can new coatings, designed for the space industry, offer wood, paper and board products?
  • What materials and fibres could be added to wood to make it lighter, stronger and more durable?
  • Could space technology help in measuring timber geometry, properties and defects or for remotely monitoring humidity, temperature and moisture content of forest products?
  • How can intelligence be incorporated into designs to make 'smart' wood, furniture, and paper and board products?

"We expect to have four working groups. These will cover: new materials and coatings; smart and intelligent applications; sustainable manufacturing and production processes; and innovative design features. By the end of the workshop we hope to have identified a number of operational solutions to actual problems, even if these are only concepts," adds David Raitt.

"Partnership groups, consisting of several companies, will be established to continue the work together with ESA's Technology Transfer Programme."

For more information, please see the Space+Forest workshop brochure or contact:

Dr David Raitt
Technology Transfer and Promotion Office
European Space Agency - ESTEC

Cecilia Hertz
umbilical design, Stockholm

European Space Agency ml
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