By Jim Stirling
Successful sawmill owners are always seeking ways to improve their operations and make them run more efficiently. If an upgrade in one area of the mill contributes a positive ripple benefit elsewhere in the process, that’s so much the better. A recent new development in log singulating technology provides a case in point.
The management team at Carrier Lumber recently installed the first Brunette Machinery Retract-To-Load (RTL) log singulator unit at its Tabor Sawmill near Prince George, British Columbia. The machine is fully living up to expectations for its efficient singulation of logs. But it is also reducing maintenance downtime and facilitating an increase in piece counts to flow into the log breakdown system.
“The Brunette machine does a very good job of singulating our logs and delivers a more precise load,” summarizes Bill Kordyban, Carrier’s president. “We’ve experienced no problems with the singulator since we installed it about a year ago. It’s just done its job.”
Brunette’s Retract-To-Load system is designed to singulate logs for a smooth, one log at a time feed from either an infeed transfer deck to debarker infeed conveyor or on to a sawmill carriage.
Carrier Lumber and Brunette Machinery contribute a wealth of respective experience into their collaboration on the project. Carrier Lumber has a long corporate history of sawmill innovation. From its early days in the 1950s, the company has always been open to exploring new solutions and finding better ways to solve old problems. For its part, Brunette Machinery Company is also B.C.-based with its headquarters in Surrey, just outside of Vancouver, and has been active in the sawmill equipment design and manufacturing business for about 75 years.
Carrier Lumber installed its Brunette RTL log singulator on its large log line but has plans to add a second RTL system in 2019. The mill was running an approximately 50 per cent spruce/pine specie mix with beetle killed wood evident in both species. The Brunette system can handle a variety of species and diameter ranges with design widths to suit eight to 24 foot log lengths.
One of the signature features of Brunette’s log singulator is what the company calls its park or pre-stage position. The system holds each singulated log in a load position, allowing it to roll down onto the conveyor, explains Pieter van den Berg, Tabor Sawmill’s manager. “The system helps us reduce maintenance and unexpected downtime.” The feature also allows a shorter gap between the singulated logs going forward which in turn improves piece counts. “With the proper programming and scanning, we will be able to run a consistent six foot log gap on our large log line.”
Other features of the Brunette log singulator that have impressed Carrier include the unit’s robust construction and use of structural steel. Ease of maintenance is also a notable design feature throughout the singulator, he added. Many of the singulator’s components have been designed in replaceable modules.
Moving parts are connected to automatic lubrication systems. The heavy duty construction of the singulator, including its reinforced steel steps, makes the RTL a pretty stable machine, continued van den Berg. There are also few flat surfaces for sawdust to collect, minimizing fire and explosion risk.
None of this, of course, came about by accident. Brunette’s engineers and designers invested about two years in the research stages before introducing its new RTL singulator to the sawmill industry. The process involved extensive collaboration with the sawmill industry and getting the opinions of those working daily with other types of equipment, and trying to incorporate their observations into the new singulator’s design.
“There are four key factors in our Retract-To-Load log singulator,” explained Kirk Forbes, president of Brunette Machinery Co. He pointed out the unit’s patented retractor nose feature holds each log in a pre-load position above the conveyor. When the nose retracts, the log drops onto the conveyor while the following log takes it place in the retract-to-load, pre-stage position. The Brunette system reduces shock load to the conveyor, reducing maintenance and repairs while allowing mills to close the gap between the singulated logs and improving piece counts in the process, he said.
The second factor was re-designing the torque tube on the Brunette RTL singulator continued Forbes. “We became aware of problems the industry was experiencing. The two principal moving parts were a common point of failure. Brunette’s solution was to make them bigger and heavier, and making them easier to replace as a unit when that became necessary and reducing downtime in the process.”
The guide wheel assemblies on some competing machines were another common point of failure and problematic to replace, according to Brunette’s research. “What’s new with the RTL is that whole assembly is now easy to replace in the exact same spot of the original design specifications,” said Forbes.
Forbes cited the RTL singulator’s improved drive system as the machine’s fourth key feature. They’ve changed the dynamic from the conventional, he said. The load system on the machine has the ability to hold a log in a position of negative torque. “The feature extends the life of the entire drive system,” he declared. “It provides a huge mechanical advantage.”
On the Cover:
Successful sawmill owners are always seeking ways to improve their operations and make them run more efficiently. If an upgrade in one area of the mill contributes a positive ripple benefit elsewhere in the process, that’s so much the better. That’s exactly what happened with the installation of the first Brunette Machinery Retract-To-Load (RTL) log singulator unit at Carrier Lumber’s Tabor mill operation near Prince George, B.C. (Photo courtesy of Carrier Lumber).
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