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Grow young trees directly into ready-made planks

Image credit: Axel Erlandson

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 23, 2021
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Using metal forms to shape growing trees into ready-made planks.

I imagine tree plantations that produce wooden planks directly as end products. Each cutting gets a metal form placed around it. As the tree grows, the trunk fills the form. Come harvest time, a robot cuts and pulls the planks out of the molds.

Once its canopy is high enough a fast growing tree species would be encased in a plank-shaped metal form. That way the form doesn't obstruct the tree's access to sunlight. Ideally it would take one season for the trunk to fill the form.
Creative contributions

The right tree species could be used to construct almost any structure

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Nov 09, 2021
I recently visited a living root bridge capable of carrying up to multiple people at a time. The roots are intertwined making it sturdy. The tree bark rests on its own living root tree bridge suspended on a stream. There may be some human intervention involved like trimming some of the roots to make way to pass across.
More such bridges exist in the region. Ficus elastica is the name of the species that has aerated roots and it can be tied, twisted, and shaped into bridge-like or any other structures.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic6 months ago
This is amazing. One downside is that whoever starts creating the bridge would get to cross it in a decade or two
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni6 months ago
Darko Savic That is true. The smaller furniture items like chairs may be constructed in a year or so.
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What if we controlled the plant's lighting instead

Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello Aug 23, 2021
I am assuming that the purpose of this idea is to make the plant's trunks easy to convert to lumber by making them grow into straight forms. If that is the purpose of the metal form then it should be possible to create a similar effect by controlling the plant's lighting.

If a plant is placed in a room where it gets a low amount of sunlight, the plant will usually grow towards the place that the sunlight enters the room. Instead of using metal forms that prevent the plant from growing out of the desired shape. The controlled lighting will make the plant grow into the desired shape or pattern. This will make the plant easier to machine into lumber.

The controlled lighting can be achieved by wrapping cellophane materials around some parts of the plants. If this approach is used in a plantation, the cellophane material used should not only be opaque but very reflective. That way the light that a plant is shielded from is reflected to other plants at places they are needed more.

Some of the advantages that cellophane has over a metal form, in this case, is that cellophane is much cheaper. It is also easier to remove or adjust than a metal form. There is less cost and more flexibility in growing the plants into planks.

This system of reflections can also be used to grow more dense forests since the larger trees will not shade smaller ones as in uncontrolled plantations. Even when the smaller plants are shaded from sunlight they can still get some of the light by a series of reflections from the parts that are covered by cellophane.
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Povilas S
Povilas S6 months ago
You can't shade the tree from the light by wrapping its trunk with reflective cellophane. It doesn't make any difference for the trunk. The parts that need to be shielded or exposed more to the light are the leaves and in the case of some plants (but these are not trees) - flowers. So you might reflect the light from the trunk to other plants like smaller trees below or possibly even to the leaves of the same plant and make some difference for the growth/shape of the same tree, but to shield the tree from the light you'd have to hang the cellophane to cover the tree's foliage from the light. I'm not sure you understand this from what you write here and in the comments.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola9 months ago
The idea is really nice! I would like to see how did you imagine this to work. Until now, I read that sunflowers turn towards the sun and plants grow tall in order to reach for the sunlight between the trees, but how would you make a plant grow, e.g. downwards by just adjusting the lighting with cellophane?

There is also an ecological issue compared to metal. Cellophane is an artificial material and I would not like to use it in natural surroundings. Metal seems reusable, more durable, and more efficient.
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Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello9 months ago
Juran To make a plant grow downward (from a horizontal branch) one will just have to cover the upper parts and the sides of the branch. Basically, you have to cover everywhere except the parts where you want the plant to grow towards.

Just like cellophane, metals are artificial materials. Cellophane is very cheap compared to metals and can be recycled and reused in other places too. Metals are more durable but the cost of production is not commensurate to their usefulness in this case. The cellophane can be easily collected and disposed of. They can also be wrapped again if the tree outgrows the cellophane, unlike metal frames that will maintain the same size and form.

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General comments

Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
Cool ancient tech https://pbs.twimg.com/media/E_GjdzUXsAcrR2P?format=jpg&name=medium
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