Wood driers are an important part of processing green lumber into a useful product that can be further milled down and made it something. Wood driers come in a lot of different varieties, but it is essentially a large oven which can regulate the temperature and airflow over a long period of time (hours to days). We were designing one that could be moved – a transportable giant oven that can hold 10 tons of wood.
I collaborated with the engineers at Prolena, a small engineering organization in La Paz, Bolivia, on the system. This collaboration was fostered through a program at the University of Dayton, ETHOS. We focused on the design throughout the year and then I lived in La Paz for three months the following summer building the first functional unit. While I was in Bolivia, most of my days were spent building. I worked with two skilled laborers who did not speak any English, I was working on my Spanish, best I could. Through sign language and demonstrations, they taught me to weld and we built the entire wood dryer. It was an amazing experience and supplanted a deep love of working with my hands.
As I mentioned, wood driers are not small, our 10 ten unit was roughly 20-25ft long and 10-15ft wide. These driers are usually one of the larger and more expensive pieces of equipment at a mill or manufacturer. As part of an economic development project, USAid had hired Prolena to design a modular wood dryer so they could loan it to local business to spur economic development. It could also be transported to the Amazon to dry the lumber where it is harvested.
As a side, I believe deforestation is a massive problem, particular in this part of the world. But, starving these communities from resources is not the answer. Stopping bad clear-cutting practices, establishing protected lands, and changing consumer behavior is the answer. I love talking about these type of complex, human problems and if you do too, send me a note – coffee is on me.
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