Freres Lumber receives a grant to bring its plywood panels to the market

Freres Lumber Co. recently received a US$250,000 grant from the United States Forest Service to bring its veneer-based massive plywood panels (MPP) to the market.

Announced late last year, Freres’ MPP – which they hope will transform the market – is designed to be an alternative to cross-laminated timber (CLT), and can be used for walls and floors in multi-storey buildings. They can come up to 12 feet (3.6 metres) wide and 2 feet (60 centimetres) thick, though the MPPs can be customised as well.

“We were recently informed that our mass plywood plant was named the Forest Service’s top project in the U.S.,” Rob Freres, executive vice president of Freres, explained. “This was a competitive process with 114 grant applications submitted for consideration.”

Structures built of MPP can be up in days rather than months, Freres said, while they also consume around 20 to 30 per cent less wood than CLT. MPPs lightweight nature also has the potential to lower the cost of transport. In addition, large format panels can be produced in such a way that they include cut-outs for doors and windows, minimising waste and work onsite.

According to the Woodworking Network, the grant will be invested in a computer numerical control (CNC) machine for Freres’ plant, which will allow Freres to produce MPPs to precise customer specifications, and cut out room for doors and windows, along with other requirements – all with efficiency and precision, with the added benefit of reducing work time on sites.

Freres MPPs went through a year of meticulous development and robust testing at the Advanced Wood Products Laboratory in Oregon, U.S.