Veneer based composite hollow utility poles manufactured from hardwood plantation thinned trees
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Australia's utility pole network is aging and approaching its end of life. It is estimated that 70% of the 5 million poles currently in-service nationally were installed within the 20 years following the end of World War II and require replacement or remedial maintenance. Additionally, an estimated 21,700 high-durability new poles are required each year to support the expansion of the energy network. Utility poles were traditionally cut from native forest hardwood species. However, due to agreements which progressively phase out logging of native forests around Australia, finding new sources for utility poles presents a challenge. This paper presents the development of veneer based composite hardwood hollow utility poles manufactured from mid-rotation Gympie messmate (Eucalyptus cloeziana) plantation thinned trees (also referred to as "thinning"), as an alternative to solid hardwood poles. The incentives behind the project and benefits of the proposed products are introduced in the paper. Small diameter poles, of nominal 115 mm internal diameter and 15 mm wall-thickness, were manufactured in two half-poles butt jointed together, using 9 hardwood veneers per half-pole. The poles were tested in bending and shear, and experimental test results are presented. The mechanical performance of the hollow poles is discussed and compared to hardwood poles sourced from mature trees and of similar size. Additionally, the required dimensions of the proposed hollow pole to replace actual solid poles are estimated. Results show that the proposed product represents a viable technical solution to the current shortage of utility poles. Future research and different options for improving the current concept are proposed in order to provide a more reliable and cost effective product for structural and architectural applications in general.
Construction and Building Materials
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.