Mechanical Properties of Bamboo Plywood

By David Sandoval

Plywood is an engineered sheet of building material that is often used in constructing rooms and floors. Most plywood is made out of either hardwood or softwood pieces that are layered and glued together. However, bamboo plywood is not made of wood at all. Bamboo is a strong, fast-growing material that is stronger than some types of wood; these mechanical properties allow bamboo to be used safely as a building material.

What Bamboo Is

The bamboo plant is a type of grass that is commonly found in Asia and on islands in the Pacific Ocean. Bamboo grows and matures quickly; many bamboo species are able to grow approximately 1 inch within a 24-hour period, with most of these species being commercially viable after five years of growth. The outer wall of a mature bamboo stalk is as hard as many commercially available hardwoods and can be harvested for use as a construction material.

Bamboo Plywood Fabrication

Bamboo plywood is processed in a similar fashion to conventional plywood. Bamboo stalks are split lengthwise into smaller pieces. These pieces are then woven together to form a bamboo mat, and each mat is allowed to dry to approximately 10 percent moisture content. Several mats are stacked and glued together to create bamboo plywood and are allowed to dry to approximately 10 percent moisture content. The strength of each sheet of bamboo plywood depends upon the grain orientation between each mat in the piece of plywood. A bamboo plywood piece that contains alternating orientations – such as the grain of the first mat running horizontally, the second mat running vertically, etc. – will be stronger than a bamboo plywood piece made with all its mat grains running in the same direction.

Mechanical Strength of Bamboo

Bamboo plywood is capable of withstanding forces similar to those that may be applied to certain types of wood. Bamboo plywood tested by researchers representing the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan used a sheet of bamboo plywood measuring 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, and having a thickness of 3/8 of an inch. This sheet of bamboo plywood was found to have a modulus of elasticity – or tendency to be deformed non-permanently – of 1.52 million pounds per square inch. The compression strength of this sheet of bamboo plywood was found to be 10,441 pounds per square inch. These strength measurements compare favorably to hardwoods such as hickory and oak.

Common Uses

Bamboo plywood is commonly used as a building material in places where bamboo grows naturally. Bamboo plywood is also used as a ecologically-friendly building material in places where wood is commonly used as a construction material. The strength of bamboo relative to its weight allows bamboo plywood to be used as a substitute structural material where heavier hardwoods are often required.

© Demand Media 2011