Smartphone app to test lumber stiffness

Wednesday 20 Feb 2019

 
Determining the stiffest piece of lumber is now easier with a new smartphone app created by scientists in Mississippi State University’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center.

Called “Smart Thumper,” the app uses soundwaves or vibrations to determine stiffness, a quality that relates to strength, for individual pieces of lumber.

Developer Dan Seale, professor in MSU’s Department of Sustainable Bioproducts, said it will help carpenters, contractors, architects, engineers, lumber mill personnel and consumers. He pointed out that it can be particularly beneficial for the do-it- yourself market.

“All lumber is not the same, even though it may be graded the same. The grade is based on a range of values and characteristics,” Seale said. “Perhaps a consumer has a pack of lumber which meets the specification for No. 2 grade, but they need a couple of pieces for a header, something that might span the opening for a window or door. This app helps select the stiffest pieces that are least likely to sag over time,” Seale explained.

Frederico Franca, the app’s co-developer and an assistant research professor in sustainable bioproducts, first envisioned the app when he discovered that the equipment designed to test lumber costs around $84,000.

“The goal was to make something cheaper and more readily available to give consumers and stakeholders broader access to nondestructive testing equipment,” Franca said. “Now anyone with a smartphone can download the app to help pick out the stiffest pieces for whatever they are building.”

His love of physics, along with the desire to create something less expensive, fueled his idea for a smartphone app that would render lumber values through the use of sound and vibration.

“With this app, I can show you which lumber pieces are stiffer and therefore stronger,” Franca explained. “This can’t always be done through visual inspection. You need vibration or you need sound.”

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