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Turning Wood Into Plastic
Turning Wood Into Plastic
A lab was working on an exotic dashboard concept where they needed to shape and bend wood. What was the solution?
Mysteries of Science
Dr. Gilleo
Mysteries of Science by Dr. Ken Gilleo
Dr. Gilleo is a chemist, inventor and general problem solver. Ken has been tracking industrial forensics and collecting case histories for decades. These cases are taken from the vast world of industry and commercial enterprise.

Check out Dr. Gilleo's eBook, 100 Mysteries Solved by Science. We hope you enjoy these case histories. You need not be an engineer or scientist to understand the problems and appreciate the solutions.
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A lab was working on an exotic dashboard concept for the new Lincoln Continentals and Ford Thunderbirds. Ford wanted to bring back a touch of class with real wood dashboards in the cars, as opposed to fake simulations.

The real wood would have to pass the flammability and durability specifications. Additionally, Ford was looking for a fancy design with a wrap around rectangular insert in the steering wheel.

Because of cost, the the general approach would be to use thin wood veneers. The team experimented with all types of veneers. The challenge was to shape and bend the wood.

A semi-retired forestry researched was called in. The researched described a project where he could turn wood into a plastic-like material that could be shaped and folded just like plastic film.

What could allow wood to be formed like this?

Here's the rest of the story.

Some years earlier while conducting research on cleaning solutions that would not fade wood, the forestry researcher discovered that ammonia water would soften wood without damaging it. He further discovered that ammonia gas worked even better, and was easier to use.

He built a simple wood treatment chamber where veneer sheets could be loaded and ammonia gas pumped inside. The wood veneer quickly became pliable making it possible to form it into nearly any shape.

The process was eventually implemented and the proof ended up in the Lincoln Continental.

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