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Innovative infrared technology to test timber treatment

5 March 2023
AKD has announced the use of an innovative new technology that provides real time quality assurance for H2F timber treatment efficacy at its Tumut and Oberon processing facilities, to provide increased market confidence and is the first certification of its kind.

This new testing approach uses a state-of the art Fourier Transform Infrared Radiation (FTIR) spectroscopy unit to demonstrate equivalence of a non-standard method of timber chemical retention verification under the recently updated timber treatment standard (AS/NZS 1604). The innovative process has been third party certified by the Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA). AKD is the first producer to achieve this certification.

FTIR applies thermal radiation to the test sample which is invisible to the human eye and interacts with matter by triggering molecular vibrations. The usefulness of FTIR comes with the easy testing and immediate results. The unit is already deployed in many other industries including pharmaceutical, automotive, electronic, food and feed and construction.

This innovation replaces the old method, which is common across the industry, involving treated timber products being quarantined on site and samples sent off site for external laboratory testing before product treatment can be assured and the product released for sale. This new method is real-time, ensuring that AKD product supply is not delayed to the market. AKD plans to roll out the new technology to other sites around Australia.

As with most innovations, this new approach was only possible with collaboration between various parties, including one of AKD’s preservative suppliers, Koppers Performance Chemicals (KPC) who understood that the past method of verification was slow and could be significantly improved. Elias Akle, KPC’s CEO, said “It was clear that AKD needed a solution for their ongoing QC of H2F treated framing. In our visits to all the AKD sites, the need to quarantine treated framing until external QC results are confirmed, was always raised with us as a less than ideal practice.”

KPC’s own chemist, Luke McGregor, bought the idea of FTIR spectroscopy to the problem as a possible solution. Working with AKD’s own Wood Technologist, Marina Milic, the process of data collection, analysis and calibration of the unit took place over several years, notwithstanding the pandemic slowed down the process. Timber ED provided support in statistical analysis. This process provided the comfort to commit to the technology by ordering the first instrument for the Oberon site and, following its successful commissioning, ordering another unit for AKD’s Tumut site.

Gavin Matthew, CEO of EWPAA, stated “EWPAA is proud to have worked with AKD to achieve the first certification to our newly developed and JAS-ANZ accredited preservative treated certification scheme. The certification recognises AKD’s innovative process of treating and verifying H2F structural timber to the recently updated AS/NZS1604 standard. We look forward to delivering more certifications and increasing market confidence in the manufacturing and treatment of renewable timber products”.

Marina Milic, AKD’s National Wood Technologist who leads the company on treatment innovations, concludes “FTIR spectroscopy is a fast and easy analytical technique that provides answers within seconds. It is resource friendly, requiring only a small sample and little preparation. Achieving this new certification shows AKD is always looking for continual improvement. I’m proud of our collaboration both within the AKD business, across our tech team with special mention going to Kim Harris, AKD National Compliance Manager, with site QC personnel, and along with industry partners (EWPAA, KPC, and TimberED) during this ground-breaking project.”

Photo: L to R – Marina Milic (AKD National Wood Technologist, Mark Johns (AKD Tumut Drymill Quality & Compliance), Troy Edwards (EWPAA)

Source: AKD

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