Wataru Sakuma, a Japanese designer based in the Philippines, is one of the newest adopters of the Department of Science and Technology – Forest Products Research and Development Institute’s (DOST-FPRDI) lowcost handicraft dryer (LCHD).

By S&T Media Service

His company, the Cavite-based Masa Ecological Development, Inc. (Masaeco), is the maker of eco-friendly and world-class handmade paper products made mostly of local agricultural wastes such as pineapple and banana fibers and cogon grass. Sakuma’s masterpieces are exported to the US, Europe, Japan, and Australia.

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“We make around 100 sheets of paper daily, each measuring 250 centimeters (cm) x 100 cm, and we convert these into art panels, wall decors and lamps,” says Sakuma. He reports that his 35-cubic meter LCHD has helped his company to dry its products more efficiently.

Developed by an FPRDI research team led by Wency H. Carmelo, the LCHD uses 22 percent less wood fuel and is 40 percent cheaper to build than the FPRDI furnace-type lumber dryer.

“We now have an easier and safer way of drying paper,” reveals Sakuma. “This gives us more control of the process, unlike before when we simply exposed our products to a direct heat source. This was a messy system that made a lot of ash which often soiled our products.”

Without the ash problem, the sheets of paper are now cleaner and they have fewer rejects. They also doubled their production, as the new dryer is twice the size of their old one. “Compared to our old kerosene-fired dryer, the handicraft dryer allows us to save as much as Php60,000-Php70,000 a month on fuel costs,” Sakuma adds.

The LCHD is one of several local technologies developed by DOST for industry use. “They are useful, effective, and cost-efficient—proof that our local experts have the capability to come up with excellent, world-class products,” says DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo. “A technology such as the LCHD is so efficient and high performing that even foreigners appreciate what our own people have made.”

According to the Japanese designer, they found the handicraft dryer so useful that they decided to install another unit this year. “Within the next few years, we will probably need a third one,” he adds.

His product designs have earned for the artist the coveted Katha Award in 2005, 2006, and 2009. A highlight of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Design Week Philippines, the Katha Award is “given to designers and exporters whose products embody exceptional quality and high-caliber design in furniture, housewares and furnishings, holiday décor and gifts, and fashion.”

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“Masaeco not only allows me to earn while expressing my artistry,” Sakuma shares, “it also allows me to pursue another passion: giving jobs to young people in the provinces.”

To know more about the low-cost handicraft dryer and other FPRDI technologies, contact FPRDI at (+6349)536-2586/ 536-2360/536-2377 or email info@fprdi.dost.gov.ph.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2015 issue.