Scrimber: Upcycling of inexpensive timber products
Timber construction is booming. Based on innovative machining technology, a new building product is under development for high-performance construction components. This will allow almost the entire wood volume of a tree to be used.
- Lead school School of Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering
- Institute Institute for Materials and Wood Technology
- Research unit Composite Materials
- Funding organisation Innosuisse
- Duration (planned) 01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024
- Project management Prof. Dr. Heiko Thömen
- Head of project Christof Tschannen
- Partner Timber Structures 3.0 AG
- Keywords Building products, Scrimber, construction elements, wood-based materials, sustainability, resource efficiency; circular economy
Switzerland is witnessing a great deal of construction activity. This building boom requires large quantities of construction materials. The envisaged construction product will have a much lower carbon footprint than reinforced concrete but will perform the same functions in construction projects. Wood has many benefits as a construction product: it requires a relatively low level of energy to process, does not emit any additional CO2 in contrast to cement-based materials, and much of the CO2 absorbed by trees during their lifetime is retained in buildings. A product already offering these benefits is cross-laminated timber (CLT), but demand is high, making it relatively expensive. Its wood utilisation is not particularly high either. The Scrimber CSC product is based on an innovative machining technology that enables wood utilisation of almost 100%. Lower-quality input materials, including recovered wood, can be used for production. The research project – with funding from Innosuisse and in collaboration with Timber Structures 3.0 – focuses on developing this new type of building product for load-bearing applications.
Course of action
The first project stage will involve determining the production technology to be used to manufacture the strands (Scrimber strands or macro-fibres). For this, researchers will analyse existing processes and systems and engage in discussions with people and institutions who have acquired expertise on Scrimber technology over recent years. In the next stage, the strands will be produced in the laboratory and processed to create lab panels. Extensive testing will be carried out to determine the optimal process conditions. First, single-layer panels will be developed and then, as the project proceeds, bonded together to create multi-layered products similar to CLT. The facilities at the Composite Lab of the School of Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering in Biel will be used for this project stage. In parallel with development activities, environmental and economic effects will also be evaluated. Special emphasis will also be placed on knowledge transfer with the industry partner.
The project aims to develop a new construction product with Timber Structures 3.0 and to manufacture it on an industrial scale as soon as possible after the end of the project. The first tests on pilot systems are already being performed at Timber Structures 3.0. The envisaged product will be a high-performance construction component and will save large quantities of reinforced concrete and other materials with a bigger carbon footprint than wood-based construction products, without being subject to any restrictions in terms of static properties.