Plywood Applications: How We Use Plywood
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Plywood is used in many applications that need high-quality, high-strength sheet material. Quality in this context means resistance to cracking, breaking, shrinkage, twisting and warping.
Exterior glued plywood is suitable for outdoor use, but because moisture affects the strength of wood, optimal performance is achieved in end uses where the wood’s moisture content remains relatively low. On the other hand, subzero conditions don’t affect plywood’s dimensional or strength properties, which makes some special applications possible.
Plywood is also used as an engineering material for stressed-skin applications. It has been used for marine and aviation applications since WWII. Most notable is the British de Havilland Mosquito bomber, which was primarily made using a moulded sandwich of two layers of birch plywood around a balsa core. Plywood was also used for the hulls in the hard-chine Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) and Motor Gun Boats (MGB) built by the British Power Boat Company and Vosper’s. Plywood is currently successfully used in stressed-skin applications. The American designers Charles and Ray Eames are known for their plywood-based furniture, as is Finnish Architect Alvar Aalto and his firm Artek, while Phil Bolger has designed a wide range of boats built primarily of plywood. Jack Köper of Cape Town designed the plywood Dabchick sailing dinghy, which as of 2015 is still sailed by large numbers of teenagers.
Plywood is often used to create curved surfaces because it can easily bend with the grain. Skateboard ramps often utilize plywood as the top smooth surface over bent curves to create transition that can simulate the shapes of ocean waves.
Softwood plywood applications
Typical end uses of spruce plywood are:
- Floors, walls and roofs in home constructions
- Wind bracing panels
- Vehicle internal body work
- Packages and boxes
There are coating solutions available that mask the prominent grain structure of spruce plywood. For these coated plywoods there are some end uses where reasonable strength is needed but the lightness of spruce is a benefit e.g.:
- Concrete shuttering panels
- Ready-to-paint surfaces for constructions
Hardwood plywood applications
Phenolic resin film coated (Film Faced) plywood is typically used as a ready-to-install component e.g.:
- Panels in concrete form work systems
- Floors, walls and roofs in transport vehicles
- Container floors
- Floors subjected to heavy wear in various buildings and factories
- Scaffolding materials
(“Wire” or other styles of imprinting available for better traction)
Birch plywood is used as a structural material in special applications e.g.:
- Wind turbine blades
- Insulation boxes for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers
Smooth surface and accurate thickness combined with the durability of the material makes birch plywood a favorable material for many special end uses e.g.:
- High-end loud speakers
- Die-cutting boards
- Supporting structure for parquet
- Playground equipment
- Signs and fences for demanding outdoor advertising
- Musical instruments
- Sports equipment
Tropical plywood applications
Tropical plywood is widely available from the South-East Asia region, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia. Tropical plywood boasts premium quality, and strength. Depending on machinery, tropical plywood can be made with high accuracy in thickness, and is a highly preferable choice in America, Japan, Middle East, Korea, and other regions around the world.
- Common plywood
- Concrete panel
- Floor base
- Structure panel
- Container flooring
- Lamin board
- Laminated veneer lumber (LVL)
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