It’s full of worms

Wood cosmetic repairs – the latest beauty trend

New methods for preparing wood lead to surprising and above all sustainable solutions in timber construction.

Wood is a versatile material that offers considerable benefits from various perspectives. The ability of trees to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen by harnessing sunlight forms the basis for a functioning ecosystems and makes life on Earth possible in the first place. Increasing environmental awareness in modern construction has also increased the importance of wood as a sustainable raw material.

Wood is a natural product – and naturally its growth is influenced by the weather, by wind and by precipitation. Wood faults and growth defects can impair the usability of this raw material, restrict its uses, or lower the yield. A woodworm's feast will fail to meet human quality criteria and turn this construction material into waste. Instead of binding CO2, even more of the greenhouse gas is then released through combustion.

But do we always need such flawless material? And does new always mean better? Is perfection more beautiful than naturalness? And shouldn’t we at least try to give some meaning the slogan “Repair, don’t throw away”?

Wood cosmetic repairs are one potential solution. For example, branch holes or bark pockets can be repaired using natural knot plugs. Open resin pockets and cracks can be filled with natural wood or wood cement. This is how valuable CLT panels are repaired and thus upgraded on SPEEDFILLER systems. In the form of Fill SPEEDFILLER systems, there are already solutions for automatically repairing plywood and formwork panels. 

Fill implemented a system which is able for the first time to repair the surfaces of cross laminated timber elements up to 16.5 m long in a fully automated process. “Once again it was all about making the impossible, possible,” explains Karl Metz, who has worked in project management at Fill since 2007. His particular talent is understanding processes and translating them into technical solutions.

“I always start projects backwards. First I look at what the customer has been doing so far, what the problem is, and how we can fix it.”

//Karl Metz, Project Manager at the Wood Competence Center, Fill Gesellschaft m.b.H.

For CLT house wall panels, the large formats compared to regular applications were an unprecedented challenge. The 16.5 m boards needed to be manually inspected and repaired under the most difficult, ergonomically problematic working conditions. Consequently, the aim was to build a fully automated system which would be able to perform as well as humans in terms of efficiency, precision, and speed.

“At the start of the planning phase, we designed huge systems that would not only have taken up far too much space, but would also have exceeded any budget. So the aim was to make the whole thing leaner and simpler. In the end, we succeeded in combining two systems to create one relatively compact unit to perform the whole range of wood cosmetic repairs fully automatically.

//Karl Metz, Project Manager at the Wood Competence Center, Fill Gesellschaft m.b.H.

The size problem has now been solved and working conditions optimized. But what does all this have to do with the topic of sustainability mentioned at the start? Let’s think this through to the end... On the one hand, we have the natural product wood, which sometimes grows with minor quality defects. On the other, we have the SPEEDFILLER spot repair system which – regardless of size – can easily fix wood faults of any kind. To put it simply, the sustainability of repairing wooden boards consists in the fact that now lower-quality wood can also be used, which would otherwise have been rejected and turned into wood chips. This shows that you can find sustainability if you look for beauty in nature.

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