Ultrasound agitator
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The ultrasound agitator causes the wood to vibrate, which generates frictional heat wherever there are cracks. A thermal imaging camera shows these defects up. (© Fraunhofer WKI)

News about more exacting ways to detect structural problems in wood comes to us from the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut, WKI in Braunschweig, Germany.

Researchers there agitate the wood with sound and can then measure the heat that is expelled by defects. Ultrasound thermography also helps to reveal joinery problems such as dowels that haven’t been glued properly. These types of revelations would no doubt be important to people who are buying high-end furniture, but there are implications also for the construction industry.

This creates an advancement in the struggle with construction defects. In one way, timber could be sorted for its structural integrity before it’s made into building products. If structural lumber can be be made to be more consistently reliable by eliminating hidden defects then there could even be room for upgrading load bearing specifications so that the weight of the load bearing member itself can be reduced.

Not only that, but the process works with glass and ceramics as well. A demonstration model has been built already.

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