If there’s a way to squeeze value from wastes or brand-new materials, count on InnoTech Alberta’s Engineered Composites team to find answers. It’s something the team has been doing for years, ever since InnoTech Alberta opened the Engineered Composites panel pilot plant in 1987 to develop efficient, new uses of the province’s forestry resources.
Over three decades ago, companies, faced with decreasing mature timber, turned to places like the pilot plant to find alternatives. Working with InnoTech Alberta, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alberta Innovates, they focused on under-used trees like Trembling Aspen. Together they evolved ways to process the tree’s fibre, aligning wood strands in layers and bonding them with resins under pressure, to evaluate and optimize a strong new building material — oriented strand board (OSB). Today OSB is a big part of Alberta’s $6.5 billion forestry business.
“At the time Aspen was regarded as almost a weed. With OSB, it’s become hugely valuable,” says Dave Bilyk, InnoTech’s pilot plant coordinator.