MIT Engineers Use 3D Laser Scanning Services to Build Load-Bearing Joints from Tree Forks

They’ve Developed a New Construction Technique

Given the height and size certain species of trees can grow to, they need to have very robust joints to hold branches of immense weight. However, since the most desired material sourced from trees, lumber, comes from only the straightest sections, these forks, between tree branches, have largely been discarded.

Using 3D laser scanning services and computer-aided designs, engineers and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a construction technique that replaces load-bearing joints made of steel with tree forks discarded during lumber milling. 

The immense database of tree forks cataloged using 3D laser scanning services allows algorithms and computer software to assign a “matching score” to find the fork that best matches the shape needed by the joint.  

When a joint that can use a tree fork instead of traditional steel is determined, engineers search through an electronic catalog of forks recorded using 3D scanning technology. 

After a fork that matches the needs of the joint is found, the model generated by the previous 3D laser scan is manipulated in design software. It is then milled into the appropriate shape while ensuring the strong network of fibers remains intact. 

Instead of requiring high-emissions production of steel joints, the tree forks used by this research and engineering team are not just a renewable resource; it has been previously discarded as waste by the timber and logging industry. 

With the increase in structural design technology and engineering, 3D scanning and using tree forks have allowed engineers to utilize the natural strength of the tree forks instead of man-made steel-based joints. This “pre-set” network in internal fibers can make a tree fork, with an equivalent weight of a steel joint, much stronger in all directions. 

Final Thoughts on this Unique Use of 3D Laser Scanning Services

Researchers and engineers hope this is just the first small step in using 3D scanning services to improve building design while helping to eliminate high-emissions and low-efficiency production of man-made materials.  

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