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April 1997 - Past Issue

Multiple-Stem Simplicity

Originally designed for Norbord, Mtal Marquis found it had a winner with its DS3500 delimber slasher. A small-wood version, the DS1000, is now in prototype testing.

By Richard Turtle
Copyright 1997. Contact publisher for permission to use.

When Norbord Industries La Sarre Division began planning changes at its sawmill in Northwestern Quebec, it meant changes as well to the way wood is harvested and handled. The mill eliminated its slasher, opting instead to take delivery of cut-to-length softwood for stud lumber. General Manager Pierre Moreau explains the mill had originally been producing random-length lumber from tree-length logs so the change in approach meant significant changes in equipment and harvesting techniques.

Although it meant modifying four Lokomo 933 forwarders now manufactured by Timberjack to carry 8' logs rather than tree-length, Norbord decided to use slasher-delimbers in the bush when a local company came in with a proposal.

April Mtal Marquis Inc. President Guillaume Marquis explains that his company agreed in the fall of 1994 to build a machine which would match Norbord's specifications and be ready for production early in 1995. Marquis admits Norbord was skeptical.

MtalMarquis was expected to provide a prototype for testing within four months and, based on the results of field tests, Norbord would then provide other machines if required.

The first trials for the DS3500 took place in mid-November, 1995, less than two months after work started on the machine. From there, he says, the DS3500 spent three months in an evolutionary phase where faults were corrected and changes made to the original design.

Norbord now runs five Mtal Marquis DS3500 delimber-slashers which have sufficient capacity to supply 80 per cent of the inventory required for the mill. Moreau says the mill produces approximately 100 million board feet of softwood lumber annually, made up primarily of spruce (80 per cent) and jack pine (15 per cent).

April Each DS3500 (mounted on a Komatsu, Hitachi or Cat carrier) is paired with a feller buncher and Norbord uses five Lokomo 933 forwarders to transport the 8' logs to roadside.

The Marquis DS3500 is a multiple-stem delimber which has shown good results on both softwood and hardwood logs measuring up to 86 cm (34'') in diameter while enabling the operator to process several trees at once. The delimbing and slashing can take place directly at the stump, which helps to protect natural regeneration by leaving the cones in place, and the condition of forwarder trails is maintained because hauling is done on top of the ends and branches of previously processed trees.

Logs destined for the Norbord mill are harvested with feller bunchers before the DS3500 takes over. Mounted on a 50,000-70,000-lb. class carrier the machine has the ability to increase forwarder productivity by 20 to 25 per cent, says Marquis. And with the tops and branches left on the trails, both tracked and wheeled machines do less damage to the forest floor.

Efficiency and simplicity of operation were two primary considerations in the design and manufacture of the delimber-slasher, Marquis says. In part, Mtal Marquis' mandate is to "ensure that our customers have access to durable and easy-to-repair equipment." And with results at Norbord so promising, paired with a shift toward commercial thinning in Quebec, Mtal Marquis is now testing a prototype intended for smaller wood, but based on the original design.

Marquis explains that in order for commercial thinning to be profitable, productivity and worker safety must be ensured and the forest environment must be protected to maintain healthy stands. Trials underway with the smaller DS1000 have had very good preliminary results, Marquis says. The DS1000, also with the multiple- stem capacity, is designed for trees less than 65 cm (25'') in diameter and can be mounted on a 13,000-25,000-lb. carrier. He is hopeful the new model can produce 6-8 m3 of sawlogs per hour working strictly in commercial thinning. Numbers are expected to be even higher under clear-cutting conditions.

The concept for the DS1000 was born after brainstorming sessions to determine existing and future needs of the industry, Marquis says. Specifically, the company focused on the local area. In northwestern Quebec, trees are smaller. And because of the small stems, explains Marquis, "you need a special machine for (conditions here). With our machine, it's easy to cut several stems at once." Marquis feels the DS1000 could be the machine of the future. And if the company's history is any indication, MtalMarquis could play an increasing role in the manufacture of forestry equipment.

When the small metal fabricating shop opened in Northern Quebec in the late 1960s, it was probably anticipated that some of the work would focus on the primary industries of the area. In 1968, Albert Marquis opened the doors at Albert Marquis Forge, offering a variety of welding services, as well as decorative steel products. Since that time Albert Marquis Forge, now run by Albert's sons, has evolved from a small shop with two employees into MtalMarquis Inc., offering forestry and mining companies customized solutions to the challenges facing them. An engineer, Marquis shares some of the corporate responsibilities with his brothers. Serge, a mechanical technician, is the company's general manager while Alain is a field mechanic and "Jack-of-all-Trades". In 1980, the family company was incorporated and at that time production was diversified to meet the specialized needs of the local industries. Marquis describes the company as being "on the cutting edge of technology." MtalMarquis now offers a complete engineering service, a staff complement of 55 people and more than 3,250 m2 of factory floor space.

As well as producing the DS3500 and its counterpart the DS1000, MtalMarquis has a long tradition in the forestry sector. Before the prototypes were built, Marquis says, his company had done extensive modification, repair and maintenance work on feller bunchers, skidders and delimbers. That provided them with significant insight into how machines operated and what changes or improvements could be made.

MtalMarquis began making high-flotation tracks for forestry equipment to reduce ground pressure and site disturbance. When the UF-type high-flotation tire tracks were made available on the Timberjack 933 clam bunk skidder, productive capacity on the machines improved by 85 per cent, Marquis says.

Marquis notes that his delimber-slashers are up against some tough and well-established competition in the forestry market but he sees a niche for his machines, particularly in the area of commercial thinning. For example, he says, single-grip harvesters require a highly skilled operator with a strong mechanical and electrical background in order to get the most out of the machine's productive capacity. As well, there is the initial cost outlay to consider.

But in order to sell machines, Marquis notes, his company has to replace existing machines in the market. MtalMarquis has taken a big first step in introducing a new product. But, says the company's president, "it's a long walk."

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