Friday, December 21, 2007

Bamboo Mat Boards from IPIRTI: A material waiting for innovation

Bamboo Mat Boards from IPIRTI: A material waiting for value added applications
Image: NID team at the IPIRTI’s 5 year old demonstration bamboo house.
The Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute (IPIRTI) is located just across that road from the NID R & D Centre in Bangalore. The IPIRTI was set up in 1962 as an autonomous society registered in Karnataka and its major stakeholders are the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the plywood and panel board industries that are its members. It offers education and training programmes in wood and plywood technology as well as conducts research in a wide range of technology and application areas dealing with a host of wood and wood derivatives including plywood, particle boards as well as fibreboards and a number of other composites aimed at particular applications. The Bamboo Mat Board was one such significant achievement of the IPIRTI.

Image: NID team at the two-story bamboo house at IPIRTI.
In 2001 the IPIRTI set up that Centre for Bamboo Development at its main campus in Penea to explore and conduct research into new and valuable applications using bamboo as a sustainable material for the future. Bamboo is a very commonly used raw material in India for local housing and for the production of a very large range of traditional products particularly in, but not restricted to, the Northeastern Region of India.

Image: The two-story bamboo house at IPIRTI
Our own book titled “Bamboo & Cane Crafts of Northeast India”, M P Ranjan, Nilam Iyer & Ghanshyam Pandya that was published by NID and DC (Handicrafts) in 1986 was based on fieldwork conducted by the author and his team in 1979 to 1981. It documents hundreds of bamboo products and structures from bridges, houses, baskets and household appliances all made with bamboo as a primary material. This book was reprinted in 2004 as a resource for Traditional Wisdom from the communities of the Northeastern Region of India. Starting with this massive documentation that was done with a design intention of trying to understand the traditional material as a source for new and contemporary applications that could create employment and business opportunities for the people of the Northeast we went on to explore numerous product applications in our continuing journey of research and design explorations at the NID and the Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID. A low-resolution pdf file of this book can be downloaded from this link (pdf file 34.7 MB) here.

Image: NID team examining the finger jointed board at the IPIRTI test lab
The Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID has over the past several years explored and published a very wide range of applications and a number of approaches for using the bamboo species available in India. These explorations can be seen at these web links here: Bamboo Initiatives, Bamboo Boards & Beyond, BCDI Agartala, and Katlamara Chalo – to name only a few. In all these explorations we have created several hundred new product designs and through the Bamboo and Cane Development Institute (BCDI) at Agartala we helped train hundreds of master craftsmen who could disseminate the design collections to other crafts communities. (download file “Achievements of BCDI” as a MS Word file 736 kb from here. The Bamboo Initiatives catalogue too captures this range in summary that can be visually appreciated and the reports on the BCDI, Agartala would give an idea of the objectives of the institute as well as the curriculum and training strategies that were explored there. These reports can be downloaded as pdf files from these links below.
BCDI Feasibility Report, 2001 (pdf file 372 kb)
BCDI Curriculum Structure, 2004 (pdf file 3 MB)
BCDI Curriculum Review, 2005 (pdf file 4.7 MB)

Images: The modular bamboo mat board house at IPIRTI
The IPIRTI on the other hand has been active in bamboo for many years particularly in the creation and popularization of the bamboo mat board that is made from hand woven bamboo slivers that are then pressed in a plywood press and several layers of mat are impregnated with resin to create a very strong and useful sheet material. While the technology for the bamboo mat board has been available on the market for several decades now it is still to gain wide acceptance as a major material in a number of product categories that it could be used for. This is what brought us to IPIRTI yesterday from the NID Bangalore R & D Centre. My colleagues Sushanth and Sashikala accompanied me on our visit to the IPIRTI and we met the Dr C N Pandey, Director IPIRTI and his colleagues Jagadish Vangala and K Shyamasunder who took us around the campus and gave us a preview of the bamboo based houses that they had built to prove the concept. While these are technically and structurally sound demonstrations they are far from perfect from an aesthetic and functional standpoint. It is here that we feel that collaboration between the scientists from IPIRTI and the design teams from NID could make a great deal of difference. Since the NID Bangalore Centre has commenced PG programmes in Design of Retail Experience we proposed that the first project could focus on exploring new and exciting applications for bamboo mat boards in the fast growing retail sector. The Indian Retail Sector too needs to desperately reduce its carbon footprint and the use of bamboo in a sustainable manner can contribute positively in this direction.

Image: NID team at the workshop in the IPIRTI, Centre for Bamboo Development

The CFBI-NID and the IPIRTI are therefore exploring areas of cooperation that could be mutually beneficial and set up a platform for sharing knowledge and expertise that could bring out exciting new results that can make the quality of the mat boards both visible as well as attractive to the retail sector and to the broader market in the days ahead. Housing and modular architecture would be another area of cooperation that will be explored in the days ahead.

1 comment:

  1. I am interested in structural bamboo boards for a project in Punjab. Square profile boards for roof battens, to allow screw fixing of corrugated iron roofing....on circular section baboo trusses.


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