Notes from the Road (4) – Glulam Beams and Roof Trusses

You’ve all been there.


You’re sitting in church, and the preacher has just made a rousing appeal to your higher senses. Your heart quickens, you get a lump in your throat, you raise your eyes toward the heavens, and you find yourself wondering…


How did they make those great wooden beams up there?


Well, now you know.


The folks sharing this mystery of the universe are the good folks of Rigid-Ply Rafters, a Pennsylvania company based in Richland, just east of Harrisburg. It’s really a rather simple process. The lumber components are glued on the face, then stacked into the appropriate design in the large clamping device seen in the video. Then the clamps are tightened on each side; the beam is held until the glue is cured; and then the beam is removed and trimmed to final dimensions.


Rigid-Ply also makes prefabricated roof trusses, and I shot this quick video mainly to time the process.


Two-and-a-half minutes. That’s pretty darn quick, especially when you compare it to the time framers spend building the same thing on-site. And the steel plate fasteners provide a much stronger connector than nails driven in at angles by framers hanging in the air by one arm. So, the modern prefabricated wooden building component is generally a higher quality product produced more efficiently than the stick-built buildings of days past.


Unfortunately, that good story is not the end of the story. Efficiency is a never-ending process, and at some point, human workers just aren’t cost-effective enough.


Looks like the best skill for the future is to be a robot technician.


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