A Little Wood, a Little Magic, Voila — a Better Baseball Bat
For nearly a year, two WSU engineering professors, three graduate students and the TriDiamond Sports principals in Spokane have tested and prototyped a stronger more durable wood bat that will step up to the plate in performance. They also seek the easiest, cheapest ways to manufacture it, so the company can sell as many as 50,000 bats per year to amateur, minor and farm league teams.
So far, results look promising. The stick is laminated wood with braided fibers of advanced composites glued onto 18 inches of its neck. The fibers are similar to those used in the aerospace industry.
A batter can “get a grip” like never before, and testing has proven the reinforced wooden product can out-perform aluminum bats. It is approximately 25 percent stronger than its solid wood counterpart.
The team is working with a Utah manufacturer to assure the grip is applied accurately. Some prototypes are in testing with Nike. The emerging technology involves several patents and continual refinements. Target date for marketing is next year, and official field play is baseball season 2000.
Expert contacts: Lloyd Smith, 509/335-3221, smith@mme.wsu.edu; Don Bender, WMEL, 509/335-2829, bender@wsu.edu; Joe Sample, TriDiamond Sports, 509/891-6435.

Out with Creosote, in with Tough Piers and Eventually Decks, Skis
WSU’s team involved with wood-plastic composites for Naval waterfront facilities is knee deep in materials testing, finding applications, processes and partnering patents that will bring products to market. The $7.5 million, three-year project, now 1 1/2 years underway, seeks a tough, ecologically friendly replacement for creosote-treated piers in harbors. Materials must repel marine borers, fungal attack, fires, freezes, water-logging and salt fog, and withstand structural abuse.
While this product will have major load-bearing applications, other spin-offs might apply to skis, decks, floors, fences and other objects needing protection from the ravages of weather, pests or wear.
Originally the project also proposed toxic cleanup of the old treated timbers removed from service for recycling back into the new composite. However this has proven too costly, according to the principle investigator Mike Wolcott. “Instead, we will redirect that effort by taking old treated wood to landfills, and treat them with a bacteria to “detox” and degrade the creosote. Then they can be converted to lumber, rather than be recycled back into the wood-plastic product.
Expert contacts: WSU: Mike Wolcott, 509/335-6392, wolcott@wsu.edu and David McLean, 509/335-0348, mclean@wsu.edu; U of Maine: Doug Gardner, 207/581-2857; Naval engineer David Pendleton, 805/982-1447.

New Insulated Structures Deaden Noise, Boost Energy Savings
WMEL research on Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) essentially involves how to close the 15 percent price gap between SIPs and traditional wood framing. SIPs are modular prefabricated building materials that have been used in construction of hospitals, schools and homes. They are made from oriented strandboard lamenated with foam core. While initially more expensive, SIPs have less building waste, more energy savings, provide better sound insulation and when burned emit less toxins than wood. WMEL researcher Bob Tichy is collaborating with Premier Building Systems of Washington to optimize SIP design, production and cost efficiency.
Expert contact: Bob Tichy, 509/335-2262 in Pullman; 253/529-0900 in Federal Way.

Celebrating 50 Years of Improving Wood Products
Washington State University’s
Wood Materials & Engineering Lab Open House

1:30-4 p.m. Thursday, April 15, 1999
WSU Research & Technology Park
1445 Terre View Drive, Suite C

Tour the lab, see “what’s cooking” for tomorrow:
Thermoplastic wood decks and waterfront timbers
New generation reinforced wooden baseball bat
Nondestructive testing of wood bridges
Creating new international markets and housing standards
Compositeboard made from scrap wood, straw and other agri-products
Structural insulated panels to save energy and job waste
Siesmic-proof construction testing

Free posters to the first 200, pens and refreshments
Classes and school groups welcome

About the WMEL
WSU’s Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory began in 1949, to support research for the Northwest pulp and paper industry. Over five decades, it has evolved into a center for research, education and technology transfer serving the forest products industry throughout the world. Its research on advanced products combining recyclable materials such as plastics with wood and other agri-materials has added millions of dollars to the state and region’s economic development. Through more than 27 patents, the lab’s projects have been transferred to the marketplace. It is a venue for graduate education, hands-on student involvement and partnering with industry.

A 23,000 sq. ft. lab at Pullman’s research and technology park houses machines for particle generation, sorting, drying and blending, consolidation, and electrical alignment. Other equipment tests structures, achieves impression finger jointing, non-destructive testing, and tests particleboard, medium density fiberboard, oriented strand board, hard board and even paper.

The International Particleboard/Composite Materials Symposium
An outgrowth of the WMEL, the Particleboard/Composite Materials Symposium has provided for 33 years a network for forest product leaders from more than 30 countries. Its proceedings are required reading for those interested in the latest wood technologies and products, plights, resources, management issues and environmental concerns. This year’s symposium is scheduled for April 13-15, preceded by an all-day technical workshop on pressing technology on Monday, April 12. The keynote address at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 13, in the CUB auditorium, will recap the evolution of today’s composite building products.

WMEL Golden Anniversary 1949-1999
A 50th anniversary retrospect is available through Tom Maloney’s compiled history of the lab with illustrations and research references. To obtain a copy, or a commemorative poster, contact WMEL Director Don Bender, 509/335-2262. Its website is at .