2017 sees growing number of CLT-based classrooms

Photo Source Yakima Herald

Photo Source Yakima Herald

Adams Elementary School of Wapato, Washington will soon have its first Cross-Laminated Timber-based classrooms, thanks to a five-school-district initiative to use CLT in elementary school classrooms. Washington Department of Enterprise Services project manager Debra Delzell says “It’s a very up and coming product that is used in Europe and has been used there for over 20 years.”

She’s not wrong, CLT constructions are on the rise both in Europe and the United States. With such initiatives as the Timber Innovation Act, the United States may very well soon see more CLT constructions in the very near future. When considering the Benefits of Cross-Laminated Timber – such as reduced carbon footprint, heat insulation, faster construction, lower costs – it comes as little surprise that the state pushed for its use.

Another school undergoing a Cross-Laminated Timber construction project is Jefferson Elementary of the Mount Vernon school district. The four-classroom building is part of an ongoing initiative to lower the number of students per classroom. Thanks to the quick construction time of CLT projects, these classrooms are expected to be sitting students in the 2017/2018 school years.

Affordable, environmentally friendly, and quick to produce; as more institutions embrace this innovative building material, we expect to see more CLT constructions in educational institutions like Adams Elementary in the very near future.

Sources:

GoSkagit

ForestBusinessNetwork

KimaTV

YakimaHerald

Railroad Day on Capitol Hill

Capitol_at_Dusk_2

In a few short weeks, advocates and representatives of the Railroad Industry will make their annual journey to Washington DC to make their messages heard by lawmakers. This important annual event, Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, is taking place on March 2nd, 2017, at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown, 999 9th St, NW, Washington, DC.

With the ever-shifting political climate, it’s more important than ever to be heard.  As anyone who has taken part in the event before knows, it’s the most effective way for the railroad industry’s message to be reached by Congress and can only succeed if everyone turns out in order to present a unified industry.

New Dome Railroad Day Logo - 2017

The event takes place over the course of one day with appointments, meetings, and events all organized in order to communicate the important role that the railroad industry plays in America’s economy, improving our country’s role in global marketplace, and our ongoing success in helping the environment.

Attendees of Railroad Day will have the opportunity to speak directly with decision makers and help promote real change. “Railroad Day is our single most impactful day of the year with Congressional leaders,” said Linda Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, of 2016’s Railroad Day. “We had the opportunity to address issues of importance to our industry and the shipper customers we serve.”

Attendance is open to all Class I, II, and III railroad personnel, shippers, state and local government representatives, as well as members from the supplier community with an interest in furthering the political goals of the railroad industry. To learn more, please visit www.aslrra.org.

Photo Credit: By Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, www.commons.wikimedia.org

NRC-REMSA 2017 Wrap Up

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA Twitter

Last month, a team from Willamette Valley Company’s Railroad Division had the privilege of traveling to Boca Raton, Florida to meet with industry representatives and officials at the NRC-REMSA 2017 Conference and Exhibition. This year’s event proved once again to be an unparalleled opportunity for WVCO and other railway businesses to connect directly with professionals representing all segments of the industry. We appreciated the opportunity to listen to your questions and concerns about the growing number of challenges this industry faces and introduce you to our wood-tie remediation and other repair products.

NRC-REMSA

The annual NRC Conference and NRC-REMSA Exhibition encompassed more than 1,000 attendees, 150 exhibitors and over 25,000 square-feet of meeting space. It was a pleasure to join the many other members of the railroad industry; including service firms, manufacturers, suppliers and contractors to answer questions about our railroad products and POLYQuik Roadway Repair materials, Joint Fillers and Light-Rail Grout. Other participants of the conference/exhibition included: Union Pacific, SANDAG (San Diego), Genesee and Wyoming, Caltrans, CSX, California Rail, LA Metro, Alaska Railroad, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National, New York MTA, Watco, OmniTRAX and many others.

Speakers

Event-goers had the chance to take in seminars from key individuals in the railway and transportation industry. Rob Castiglione, the Staff Director of Human Performance Program for the Office of Railroad Safety FRA presented “Overview of FRA Part 243 Minimum Training Standards Final Rule,” where he expanded on training requirements for all railroad employees and contractors who perform safety related work, the history of the rule, and the role of associations like NRC.

John Zuspan of Track Guy Consultants presented “Means and Methods for Direct Fixation, Low Vibration Track & Embedded Track,” a seminar on the means and methods for embedded track construction.

Jerry Power’s seminar on “Overview of FRA Part 219 Drug & Alcohol Regulation for Maintenance-of-Way Workers Final Rule”  covered  the scope of FRA’s alcohol and drug regulations to cover employees who work in railroad maintenance.

Lastly, Lesa Forbes, Senior International Trade Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service, spoke on new opportunities abroad and how US Commercial Services can help your firm expand your international business.

HallOfFame

Photo Source RT&S

The event also saw the induction of new members into the NRC Hall of Fame, Ron Brown, John Zuspan, and Rick Ebersold. The three were honored for their work in NRC, REMSA, and the railway industry as a whole.

Below are some photos of NRC-REMSA 2017, courtesy of REMSA’s Twitter page.

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA 2017

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA Twitter

WVCO was proud to take a part in NRC-REMSA 2017 and look forward to taking part once again next year!

Sources:

Railway News

NCRMA

RT & S

Nora Ayanian sees a future of autonomous robot coordination

Nora Ayanian

Photo Source Tumo

“Teams of humans are exceptionally good at coordination. Teams of robots, however, are clumsy at coordination, requiring extensive communication and computation.” – Nora Ayanian

There’s no denying it, robots are incomparably skilled when carrying out a specific given task, even if that task requires some light improvisation. The same can’t be said, however, when robots are forced to worked together; the overlap in work either results in extra work on the programming side or redundant/ineffective task management on the robot side. But what if robots could coordinate themselves autonomously depending on what the other robots are currently doing? It may sound like something out of Westworld, but this is exactly the question that Nora Ayanian is working to answer.

Nora Ayanian, assistant professor and Director of the ACT (Automatic Coordination of Teams) Lab at USC, endeavors to make robots and robotics a very real part of everyday life. “I want to make robots easy to use and have them everywhere,” said Ayanian, “they should be accessible, user-friendly and interactive so you can have them in your house and in your car. Right now, robots are really difficult for novices to use.”

Despite her passion for the robotic, her goal to achieve robotic automation would require researching a much less predictable source: people. By developing an online multiplayer game with funding from the National Science Foundation CAREER award, Ayanian was able to study the ways that humans can coordinate together when presented with very little information or communication tools. This research would prove invaluable in defining an automated coordination system for robots and allow to them to “think” of solutions for problems based on the activities of the greater robotic team.

Though automated coordination could certainly be applied to groups of identical robots with identical programming, Nora Ayanian believes that diversity, both in terms of team and of the robots themselves, is the key to solving complex tasks.

“The way we solve multi-robot problems right now is to uniformly apply one control policy to all of the identical robots in the team. For example, imagine we’re trying to monitor air quality with a team of physically identical aerial robots. If we considered all the factors that could affect the problem, the robots, and their capabilities, we might have too many factors to consider and our problem would be intractable,” wrote Ayanian in a blog post for Justmeans.com. “Imagine that same team of aerial robots assisted by robots on the ground. The robots on the ground could provide additional information such as temperature, position, topography, and satellite communications via hardware the aerial robots might not be able to carry. They could also perform computation, telling the aerial robots where to go and mapping the air quality, allowing the aerial robots to use more of their on-board energy for sensing.”

The contributions Nora Ayanian has made to the field of robotics don’t just end with the vast potential of her research, they are also every present in the new generation of roboticists she inspires and works alongside in her role as Director of USC’s ACT lab. We are incredibly excited to see what Ayanian’s work means for the future of robotics and dub her our “Featured Innovator of the Month.”

Note: Nora Ayanian does not work for Willamette Valley Company nor is she affiliated with our company.

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/lists/innovators-under-35/2016/

http://www.justmeans.com/blog/diversity-in-the-it-industry-is-key-to-solving-global-problems

USC News: New USC Viterbi professor sees robots in future

USC News: Two USC Viterbi researchers named among top ‘Innovators Under 35’

Spotlight on the Timber Innovation Act

Tham & Videgård Arkitekter's Wooden Highrise apartments for Stockholm

Tham & Videgård Arkitekter’s Wooden Highrise apartments for Stockholm

It’s a new year and time to look towards the future of the timber industry and examine the potential for positive change with upcoming initiatives such as the Timber Innovation Act.

The bill, currently finding bipartisan support from both political parties and the backing by the wood industry, would promote research and labor in the timber industry and create initiatives to drive the construction of tall wooden buildings. Furman Brodie, Vice President of Charles Ingram Lumber Company and SLMA (Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association) chairman of the Board, outlines the benefits of the bill:

“We are pleased to see Congress recognize the potential environmental and economic benefits of increasing wood use in tall building applications through the ‘Timber Innovation Act.’ Our mills are large drivers of the rural economies in which we operate, and expanded markets will help to bolster and grow these economies. Encouraging the use of wood products also benefits the environment, as increased wood demand encourages landowners to continue planting trees instead of converting their land to other purposes,”

Bridgport in London - Photo source: Portland Tribune

Bridgport in London – Photo source: Portland Tribune

As the name implies, the bill would bring forth incentives and measures to create innovation in the timber industry and to help further development of CLT structures in the USA. TimberInnovation.com states that the bill would:

•  Establish performance driven research and development program for advancing tall wood building construction in the United States;

•  Authorize the Tall Wood Building Prize Competition through the U.S. Department of Agriculture annually for the next five years;

•  Codify the Forest Service’s Wood Innovation Grant program and expand it to facilitate Centers of Excellence and provide grants to states to fund education, outreach, research and development, including education and assistance for architects and builders, which will accelerate the use of wood in tall buildings.

The House bill also includes language allowing the Wood Innovation Grant program to support proposals to use and/or retrofit existing sawmill facilities in areas with high unemployment to produce mass timber materials.

The U.S. Senate introduced the Timber Innovation Act (S. 2892) and a House companion bill (H.R. 5628). Both measures have been led by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) for the Senate, Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) for the House. You can read the bill here.

Though the bill has still not yet passed, things are looking good for the Timber Innovation Act. We hope 2017 will see its implementation and lead to a bright, productive future for timber!

Sources:

www.timberinnovation.org
www.awc.org
www.agriculture.senate.gov

Family Run Australian Company Paves the Way with Earth Friendly Concrete.

JoeWagner

Photo Source – The Australian

“EFC contains no Portland cement, instead we use recycled waste products (blast furnace slag from steel production and fly ash from coal fired power) creating a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” – Joe Wagner

We believe that our future is brightest when we all look towards sustainable solutions and eco-friendly practices in the customs and business that define our everyday lives. Without them we could see the balance of earth’s environment shifting and resulting in catastrophic negative consequences. Joe Wagner and Wagners of Australia know this and propose a solution of their own: Earth Friendly Concrete.

What is Earth Friendly Concrete (EFC)? As the name implies, it’s concrete that offers a reduced carbon footprint and lessens its environmental impact. Instead of using Portland Cement like most traditional concrete, EFC uses a geopolymer binder system that utilizes two industrial waste by-products, blast furnace slag (iron production waste) and fly ash (coal power waste), through a chemical activation. This technology is said to reduce carbon emissions by 80 – 90% in comparison to Portland Cement.

Wagners of Toowoomba, Australia is a family owned construction materials and mining services company run and established by Henry, John, Denis, Neill, and Joe Wagner. They’ve spent the last 10 years perfecting the formula for Earth Friendly Concrete and it’s certainly paying off. Some of the additional benefits of EFC include: High sulphate resistance, high chloride ion ingress resistance, high acid resistance, very low shrinkage, 30% higher flexural strength and very low heat of reaction. So in other words, it’s not just better for the environment, it’s more durable than most traditional concrete.

It’s no surprise that people all around the world are taking notice of Earth Friendly Concrete. To date it’s been awarded winner of 2011 QLD Premiers ClimateSmart Awards,  the overall winner of the 2013 BPN Sustainability Awards, 2013 The Australian – Shell Innovation Awards, category winner “Hi-tech Manufacturing and Design,” the 2015 Concrete Institute of Australia (CIA), Queensland State Award for Excellence – “Engineering Projects,” and the 2015 CIA National Sustainability Award.

Being able to find creative solutions to the long-term problems that our planet faces is one of the great benefits humanity derives from innovation. For their work in diminishing construction’s carbon footprint through inspired solutions, we name Joe Wagner and Wagners our “Featured Innovators of the Month.”

Wagners is a family owned construction materials and mining services company in Toowoomba, Australia and not affiliated with Willamette Valley Company.

Sources:

http://www.wagner.com.au/main/what-we-do/earth-friendly-concrete/about-efc

http://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/4130398/a-concrete-innovation/

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/innovationchallenge/manufacturing-and-hi-tech-design-winner-joe-wagner/story-fn9dkrp5-1226771411297

Railway Supply Community to Law Makers: Don’t Impose Regulations

Rail Supply IndustryThe Willamette Valley Company has joined a growing group of industry leaders within the railway supply community and prominent rail industry trade associations to speak out against the Surface Transportation Board‘s proposal on reregulatory efforts, including so called “reciprocal switching” and commodity reregulation.

Congressional leaders John Thune, Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and Bill Nelson, Ranking Member; and Bill Shuster, Chairman, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member, have received a letter signed by dozens of suppliers and contractors pointing out the STB’s “recent trend of imposing regulations first, and discovering the consequences later.”

“As the collective voice of businesses that serve railroads and provide the equipment and technologies to enhance the efficiency and safety of their operations, we know…over-involvement of the federal government in the day-to-day business decisions of railroads once pushed this sector and the larger railroad ecosystem of customers and suppliers to the brink of collapse,” the letter states. “Without the wisdom to partially deregulate the industry in 1980, America would have lost a privately owned and maintained economic engine that provides quality jobs to support families and communities, affordable and environmentally friendly options for businesses to move goods and critical infrastructure to support passenger railroads.”

Here are more excerpts from that letter:

“We are deeply concerned that this regulatory effort could greatly cut into capital spending by the railroads. Past analysis by the Association of American Railroads found that a similar proposal could affect an estimated 7.5 million carloads of traffic, placing nearly $8 billion in revenues at risk. Reduced revenues mean reduced money for investment in the rail network and reduced demand for businesses like ours. Continued investments are critical for maintaining a safe and efficient rail network and allow us to provide strong employment opportunities in our communities.

The railroad supply community plays an integral role in maintaining the world’s safest, most efficient and highly competitive freight railroad system. We also provide high-paying and high-skilled manufacturing jobs in our communities.

We support a transparent and efficient STB and believe that the agency maintains an important role in maintaining a proven regulatory structure. But we do not support the STB’s recent trend of imposing regulations first, and discovering the consequences later.”

Click here to read more.

 

 

Did You Know the First Company Certified to Manufacture Cross Laminated Timbers is in Oregon?

DRJohnson

Oregon company D.R. Johnson made history in September of 2015 when they became the first American company certified to produce Cross-Laminated Timber.

For the uninitiated, Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) is a sustainable modern building material that brings tremendous benefits to constructions and the surrounding environment. Such benefits include affordability, reduced construction time, a lowered environmental impact, durability, and heat insulation.

To be able to produce CLT panels for construction, a company must first become certified by the American Plywood Association and the American National Standards Institute. This is no small feat and a great achievement accomplished by D.R. Johnson Lumber.

CLT manufacturing brings tremendous potential not only for Oregon but for the country as a whole. CLT constructions are growing in such popularity that many experts believe we are entering a “Timber Age” of construction. More projects and structures are embracing the material, and D.R. Johnson is always providing CLT panels for two of them in Oregon alone; the Albina Yard Project in Portland and the Woodcock Education Center in Monmouth.

UBC's Earth Sciences Building - Photo Source See-Change.net

UBC’s Earth Sciences Building – Photo Source See-Change.net

Established in 1951 in Riddle, Oregon, D.R. Johnson is a family-owned wood product manufacturer now lead by sisters Valerie Johnson and Jodi Westbrooks. The company’s vast experience producing riddle laminators (structural glue laminated beams) has undoubtedly served them well as they transitioned into producing Cross-Laminated Timber panels. Their infrastructure, tools, and local timber bounty will undoubtedly serve them well in this exciting venture.

Making history is an exciting event in its own right and we can’t help but look towards D.R. Johnson’s future endeavors with Cross-Laminated Timber with excitement. We know we’ll be seeing more and more wooden constructs in the very near future.

Sources:

OregonCLT

CapitalPress

Innovators We Admire: Dirk Ahlborn

Dirk-Ahlborn

Photo Source CrowdFundInsider.com

“New technologies and new ideas, can create a better passenger experience while solving these issues through new monetization strategies and business models, with the Hyperloop and all other forms of transportation.” – Dirk Ahlborn

Innovation can’t thrive in a vacuum; external factors, opposing views, tools, and resources must come together to create the breakthroughs that propel us forward. Few know that as well as Dirk Ahlborn, Founder and CEO of JumpStarter Inc. which operates JumpStartFund  and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT).

Ahlborn’s mission was to create a new platform for scientific funding and the bringing together of minds. “We already have a process to help create a physical startup. Why not do that online?” asks Ahlborn. “Why not create an online crowdsourced incubator? This way we allow tech-disconnected hubs to connect with the best technology hubs and co-found new companies. It’s all about building communities smarter and faster.” It’s this collaboration of communities and hubs that have lead the way for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

Watch as Ahlborn discusses his ideas about the world’s next breakthrough in transportation on the news program, Business Rockstars.

The term Hyperloop, a concept popularized by super innovator Elon Musk (most famous for Telsa), is a system of transportation that uses tubes and air compression to reach incredible speeds. Inspired by this idea, Dirk Ahlborn and Jumpstarter Inc. built HTT, a research crowd collaboration company working to develop a high-speed transportation system.

Hyperloop

Photo Source Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

HTT aims to create a high speed intercity transport that travels close to 800 miles an hour as well slower, inter-suburban travel. The project would have a capacity of 15 million passengers a year. Putting this into further context, an airplane travels at most at 500mph and most trains at 200mph. Beyond its speed, the Hyperloop boasts many other proposed benefits, such as being self-sufficient through renewable energy, a greater emphasis for safety, lower construction costs, and affordable travel.

This may sound like a far-off fantasy but it’s closer than one may think.  In a partnership with Deustche Bahn, HTT will be working to create an “Innovation Train,” a conventional train powered through the technology of HTT for greater efficiency. One such piece of tech would be the creation and use of Augmented Reality windows, as seen below.

Dirk Ahlborn knows that innovation can’t thrive when it’s isoated, it’s only when great minds come together that breakthroughs occur. This philosophy is already bringing about changes to the transportation industry and will only continue from here. For these reasons and many more, we name Dirk Ahlborn our “Featured Innovator of the Month.”

If you’re looking to hear about more incredible innovators bringing the latest breakthroughs to the transportation industry, be sure to take part in AREMA’s 2016 Expo.

Note: Dirk Ahlborn does not work for Willamette Valley Company nor is he affiliated with our company.

Sources:

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

JumpStartFund

Tech.EU

TechnoBuffalo

Are You Robotic Industries Association Certified?

RIAMember

“Our experience and capabilities in robotic programming will be further recognized through this certification. It demonstrates our continuing commitment with providing customers arc welding and cutting solutions for a completely automated system.” – Justin Percio, Business Manager, Welding Automation Systems, Lincoln Electric

Robotics are a fundamental part of WVCO and of our shared passion. Our PRE-TEC division builds custom and pre-engineered robotics, from multi-axis robot arms and end-of-arm tooling, to conveyance systems, and safety hardware —backed by all the support, training, programming, and maintenance you need. Beyond our own manufacturing, however, we are also a member of the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), a relationship that has enabled us to better serve customers by giving us access to the latest technologies, methodologies, and resources.

RIA

RIA is the only North American trade group dedicated solely to robotics and robot safety. It was first founded in 1974 in an effort to “drive innovation, growth, and safety in manufacturing and service industries through education, promotion, and advancement of robotics, related automation technologies, and companies delivering integrated solutions.” They’ve succeeded in their endeavor, providing companies with a venue to seek help, answers, information, and certification.

RIA Certified Robot Integrator

RIA certification is an invaluable way for robot integrators and inventors to highlight their experience, capabilities, and aptitude to users, suppliers, investors, clients, and partners alike. It demonstrates that they’ve met the critical criteria determined by the RIA, which in turn means they’re an expert in best practices.

The certification is relatively new, first established in 2012. Prior to it, end users struggled to determine robotic integrators’ expertise and business requirements.  The certification plays a crucial role in establishing an industry standard for end users to evaluate vendors and ensure the best possible partnerships.

“The RIA certification program doesn’t only benefit end users, however. It’s the perfect opportunity for certified robot integrators to differentiate themselves,” says Armando Barry, certification consultant to RIA. “Achieving RIA certification will reflect a significant commitment by robot integrators, that elevates their technical expertise in applying robots in a consistent manner,” Barry concluded.

PRE-TEC Robotics

How to Become Certified

In order to become certified, integrators go through a rigorous process which includes an on-site audit, safety training and hands-on testing of key personnel among other important criteria.

There are three basic parts to the on-site exam and audit:

1. Hands-On section
2. Expert Response Section: (Participant industry tenure & biography)
3. On-site audit of business infrastructure per completed “Self Score Card”. Supporting evidence will be gathered before any certification date is scheduled.

The entire certification process demonstrates the requisite level of technical knowledge required to execute robotic system projects and tasks in a safe, efficient, and economical manner. It also signifies not only the company, but the technician has the ability of working with various codes and standards.

To learn more about this certification, we hope you will visit the RIA Certified Robot Integrator Program page. For more information on RIA, membership and the certification program, please contact RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088 or visit Robotics Online at www.robotics.org.

Sources:

RIA

Intelligrated