Smartphone app tests lumber quality with soundwaves and vibrations
By Mississippi State University
February 12, 2019 | 4:37 pm CST
The “Smart Thumper” app uses soundwaves or vibrations to determine stiffness in lumber boards. Photo by David Ammon

Photo By David Ammon

The “Smart Thumper” app uses soundwaves or vibrations to determine stiffness in lumber boards. Photo by David Ammon
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Determining the stiffest piece of lumber is now easier with a new smartphone app created by scientists in Mississippi State University’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center. 
Called “Smart Thumper,” the app uses soundwaves or vibrations to determine stiffness, a quality that relates to strength, for individual pieces of lumber.  
Developer Dan Seale, professor in MSU’s Department of Sustainable Bioproducts, said it will help carpenters, contractors, architects, engineers, lumber mill personnel and consumers. He pointed out that it can be particularly beneficial for the do-it-yourself market.
The Mississippi State team that has developed an app to determine the stiffness of individual pieces of lumber include, from left, Frederico Franca, assistant research professor of sustainable bioproducts; Songyi “May” Han, an MSU sustainable bioproducts doctoral student; and professor Dan Seale. The team’s work is part of the university’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center. (Photo by David Ammon)
“All lumber is not the same, even though it may be graded the same. The grade is based on a range of values and characteristics,” Seale said. “Perhaps a consumer has a pack of lumber which meets the specification for No. 2 grade, but they need a couple of pieces for a header, something that might span the opening for a window or door. This app helps select the stiffest pieces that are least likely to sag over time,” Seale explained.
Here's how it works:
Open the app, insert sample specification, and select a testing type: vibration or soundwave. If vibration is desired, place the smartphone on center-top of the sample and gently vibrate vertically. If soundwave is desire, hold the smartphone with the microphone-end close to the end of the sample. Hit the sample with a hammer to evaluate the sound. 
The results will then be given with colored lights. Green is an indicator of higher stiffness level, while yellow and red stand for fair stiffness and low stiffness levels, respectively.
“The goal was to make something cheaper and more readily available to give consumers and stakeholders broader access to nondestructive testing equipment,” said co-developer Frederico Franca said. “Now anyone with a smartphone can download the app to help pick out the stiffest pieces for whatever they are building.”
“This app can help further evaluate lumber within established grades, potentially optimizing the longevity and cost efficiency of wood structures by selecting stiffer pieces for situations that demand higher performance,” Franca said.

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