Mississippi State University put on display its unique hot press, one of just nine operating in North America.
In early November, MSU's Forest Products Laboratory demonstrated its composites hot press in an open house for representatives of different industries. Composite boards can be made of combinations of wood, agricultural fibers and recycled materials, including plastics.
"We wanted to let them know we have a new hot press with steam injection," said Harold Stewart, research scientist and wood machinist. "This type of press is fairly new technology, and we wanted to let industry know our press is available for testing and research."
Terry Sellers, MSU professor of forest products, gave the history of the Forest Products Laboratory and said their original charge was to serve the needs of industry. One of the big issues facing the wood products and agricultural grain industries is what to do with residues, which used to be burned or hauled to landfills.
"Use of residues adds value to the raw materials," Sellers said. "Some of the uses for residue include making paper, particle board or fiberboard with it. A lab with this kind of equipment is a natural for this research."
MSU's new hot press is a tool to further the lab's wood composite research. The press is fully computerized, allowing users to control and monitor all aspects of composite production.
Sellers said the new press uses steam to quickly heat the material rather than wait for heat to move through the metal plates to the wood fiber.
"By using steam injection, we have almost instantaneous heat," Sellers said.
Part of the lab's work with composites has included using agricultural fibers to supplement wood fibers in board production. Forest Products Laboratory scientists are also looking for alternatives to the oil-based chemicals most resins are made of.
Moon Kim, MSU professor of forest products, described the hot press in detail to visitors, saying the press makes 3 by 3 foot pressed boards. It takes about three to five minutes, instead of the usual 15 to 20 minutes, to make a 1-inch thick board. The press can accommodate different pressures, speeds, oil temperature, amount of steam and other variables.
"The press can be controlled in great detail," Kim said. "You can supply a good amount of board for test purposes with this press."
World Nieh, a 1989 forest products graduate and senior development chemist with Georgia Pacific Resins, came from Georgia to observe the press in action.
"We don't have a hot press like this at Georgia Pacific, and we've always been interested in buying one," Nieh said. "I came to see how it works, and learn its capabilities and what kind of service the lab can provide us."
The Forest Products Laboratory is part of the Forest and Wildlife Research Center at Mississippi Sate University.