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Centre of Excellence representing interests of printers

Dominated by small operations and run primarily by owner operators, the printing business in Canada is not well understood. In fact, it’s a fiercely competitive industry, one characterized by rapid technological change.

“People not directly involved with printing take this industry for granted and don’t know much about it,” said Josh Ramsbottom, coordinator of the country’s first and only Centre for Excellence in Print Media.

The Centre, located at NorQuest College in Edmonton, was set up two years ago to help the printing industry do business more efficiently and competitively. WD helped with start-up funding of $1.4 million, and it is stepping in this year with another $897,000 to be spent over a two year period.

The purpose of the Centre and the funding from WD is to enhance the competitiveness and productivity of the Western Canadian printing industry by providing a Western Canadian incubator for testing and implementing new technologies.

The new WD funds will allow the Centre — and the NorQuest students who train there — to keep current with a new industry-wide software standard known as JDF. Just as HTML allows web browsers to render pages accurately, JDF ensures documents are handled consistently by a variety of printing systems. “We hope to be completely JDF-compliant by 2012,” said Ramsbottom.

While keeping up to speed on the latest hardware and software is critical, the country’s printers also need assistance looking out for their collective interests as an industry, something few print shops have the luxury to do. With the Canadian Printing Industry Association being based in Ontario, “having an entity in the western provinces that industry can turn to for help is really important,” said Ramsbottom.

The Centre has been recognized by PrintAction Magazine as one of the top 101 events “that helped shape Canadian printing since the start of the century.” Industry is also helping out the Centre.  One of the world’s leading printing management software producers, Avanti, recently donated $185,000 worth of software to the Centre.

 

Making new products from beetle-damaged logs

Two men, one holding a block of a new pine beetle wood product. 

University of Northern British Columbia’s Robert Van Adrichem shows the Honourable Jay Hill how the university is turning beetle-damaged wood into an economic opportunity.

Encouraged by a warming climate, the mountain pine beetle is taking its toll on the western Canadian forestry industry as it eats its way through millions of hectares of once valuable trees. Yet, the potential of these trees was not lost on a team at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

While pine beetle-damaged lodge-pole pine logs are used for a variety of unique products and building uses, there had been little done with the blue-hued milled wood chips. But it turns out that those wood chips, when mixed with Portland cement, make a superior synthetic wood product.

There is a market for wood chips within traditional industries like pulp and paper mills and the new bio-energy industry (pellet fuel). However, this new product provides an opportunity to derive higher economic value from beetle-damaged wood. That was the discovery UNBC graduate student Sorin Pasca made several years ago as part of his master’s studies in ecosystem science and management.

Now the task of convincing industry to embrace “Beetlecrete” as the building material of the future has been handed to Dr. Sungchul Choi and Dr. Alex Ng, professors in Marketing and Finance at UNBC. Their marketing research is funded in part by more than $154,000 from WD

“It’s not a new idea. It’s been done in Europe for almost a hundred years,” said Ng. “What’s new is using beetle-killed wood waste.” But he wonders how industry and consumers will respond to that new idea. Moreover, will they accept it as a green building product?

So far, prototypes of Beetlecrete have found their way into countertops at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities headquarters in Victoria (a Gold LEED certified government building), the Ramada Hotel in Prince George, and a bench at UNBC. Other possible uses include floor and ceiling tiles, partition systems, and desks.

According to Ng, response elsewhere has been positive. “Until we took some samples to some trade shows, it wasn’t clear that it would be seen as a ‘green’ product,” he said. But so far, said Ng, it has been accepted. Wood-concrete material is already produced and well received in a number of countries.