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July August 2006 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

 

SPOTLIGHT

Staying Competitive

The Canadian sawmilling industry is going to need to innovate big time if it is going to stay globally competitive and the Centre de recherche industrielle du Québec—or CRIQ, as it’s known—is doing its part by continuing to develop new products for sawmills, such as a new cant analyzer.

By Martine Frigon

While the Canadian sawmilling industry is well known for being innovative, innovation is really one area where the industry is going to have to stay on top if it is going to remain globally competitive.

Sawmill innovation comes in different forms, whether it is at the mill level or through national research organization Forintek. Quebec has its own provincial research centre for the manufacturing industry: the CRIQ, an acronym for Centre de recherche industrielle du Québec. Among others, this organization has two divisions in the wood sector—primary processing and secondary processing. Over the years, it has been home to numerous innovations in wood processing, most of them now present in sawmills in Quebec and across the country.

Said to be the most marketable are its lumber grading optimizer (LGO), two axis optimizer, split detector optimizer, Boreal Scan, transversal MSR grader TMG and its latest innovation: a cant analyzer that can optimize lumber dimensions, improve operating parameters and boost processing performance.

One of CRIQ’s latest innovations, the Boreal Scan industrial scanner system, is used for automatic defect detection on planed hardwood surfaces. It scans both faces of boards at a speed of 250 feet per minute.

Denis Pedneault (left), superintendent, and Gaétan Migneault, quality planning manager at Abitibi-Consolidated’s Saint-Thomas-Dydime sawmill, both work with the first TMG transversal MSR grader developed by the CRIQ. This equipment is now considered a mu st for the mill’s efficiency.

“One of the biggest challenges in automatic defect detection is the very small size of defects to distinguish. Splits and cracks are usually generated by the drying process and need to be detected and purged from most wood products,” explains Martin Caron, an expert in the secondary wood processing sector at CRIQ.

With Boreal Scan, two hardware information acquisition systems are used: one for 3-D imaging and the other for colour imaging. In order to detect splits and cracks of small dimensions, high performance hardware is necessary. “Our current 3-D imaging set-up is built around two laser profile scanners, each operating individually and simultaneously.

The data is then combined and processed to determine the true shape of boards, providing a complete 3-D profile,” adds Caron.

The colour imaging package uses state-of-the-art Matrox image processing boards to provide a completely colourclassified image. Data from both systems is then combined and analysed by another system to provide knot detection. Once all systems (profile, colour and knots) have finished their processing, board data is merged and transferred to multiple concurrent optimization processors. The best available cutting solution is kept for each board according to the prioritization strategy used (value or surface).

The TMG transversal MSR grader, the first direct measure transversal grading system, is another CRIQ technology. It can grade 2x3s, 2x4s and 2x6s, ranging from five to 16 feet long, at a speed of 240 cleats per minute. The equipment has a correlation co-efficient of over 0.89 for all board widths and lengths. It is not affected by multi-species production and allows three grades to be processed simultaneously. The prototype was created in 2001, and the American Lumber Standards Committee as well as the Canadian Lumber Standards Accreditation Board approved the TMG technology two years later.

The TMG is the result of a team of five people, including Danick Dupont who is, in a sense, the “father” of this technology. The main idea for TMG came from industry and particularly from Abitibi-Consolidated, which needed equipment for one of its sawmills in Lac- Saint-Jean. After the first drawings, tests and prototypes were completed, and the TMG was born in 2003.

“We asked CRIQ to make equipment which would fit in the existing space in our plant. Otherwise, we would have been forced to expand the operation and at a significant cost,” says Gaétan Migneault, director of quality control at Abitibi-Consolidated.

According to Denis Pedneault, superintendent of the Lac-Saint-Jean sawmill, operation and maintenance of the equipment is very easy. “We are delighted with it,” he says. “It is low maintenance and is easy to calibrate and operate.”

Since then, other Quebec sawmills have purchased the equipment, such as Kruger Longue Rive, situated on the North Shore, Abitibi-Consolidated’s Secteur Comtois in Abitibi and Sector Saint- Thomas-Didyme in Lac-Saint-Jean.

The 110-employee Saint-Thomas- Didyme sawmill did not have adequate equipment for wood grading and faced a rejection rate of 15 per cent. This is significant as the mill annually produces 106 million board feet of lumber. “People from Abitibi-Consolidated asked us to design equipment which would classify wood according to mechanical resistance. In fact, we can bend boards mechanically.

“This is the first TMG developed, a TMG-8, which can classify boards from six to eight feet,” says Dupont. “We designed equipment which works in high speed production and can be installed in tight quarters, therefore often avoiding the need to enlarge an existing plant.”

At Comtois in Abitibi, another Abitibi- Consolidated sawmill, CRIQ researchers designed a new version of the TMG in 2003: the TMG-10. It can classify pieces up to 10 feet, and process 163 pieces per minute. The same year, Kruger Longue Rive, a planing mill located in the North Shore, bought a TMG-12, which is able to classify boards up to 12 feet in length. The equipment can process up to 200 pieces per minute.

“The main advantage of this equipment is its precision and the flexion coefficient measure. It reproduces the band test model very well. It’s the best available equipment on the market,” explains Pierre Bartkowiak, director of continuous improvement at Kruger. “As well, the transverse model gives us production speeds that other equipment on the market can’t match. If I had to mention an inconvenience—and I don’t really see any problem—it’s with the parameter setting. It requires more time at the beginning because it’s necessary to provide parameters for every length. However, once this operation is completed, everything is permanently resolved.”

The latest model developed by researchers is the TMG-16, which handles boards from five to 16 feet, for 2x3s, 2x4s and 2x6s, up to 200 pieces per minute. “Other equipment on the market can only process boards of 14 and 16 feet with production of only 120 to 140 pieces per minute,” Dupont notes.

In addition, the TMG classifies wood in a transverse way. “With a linear system, the system tends to lose precision because of the speed. As well, boards can be knocked, break and can jam. We don’t have these inconveniences with the transverse approach,” he adds.

The Boreal Scan is used for automatic defect detection on planed hardwood surfaces. It scans both faces of boards at a speed of 250 feet/minute for a total production of 20,000 boards per shift.

Sold for approximately $300,000 to $450,000, this equipment is able to select source and species for current production, screen displays of the percentage of boards produced per grade, and the average modulus of elasticity (MOE) for each grade produced.

As well, board data, history files and detailed production reports can be exported to Microsoft Excel.

The equipment’s potential is exciting, according to Dupont. “Recently, an American company asked us to develop a TMG-20, which would classify boards up to 20 feet in length. We’ve also met with major companies in British Columbia and the feedback is very good. We are confident that the TMG will proceed with its launch,” the researcher says.

CRIQ’s latest innovation is a cant analyzer, two of which have been installed at Abitibi-Consolidated La Doré in Quebec. The system is installed at the canter exit and requires two laser modules, a computer cabinet and a camera.

Over the last two years, Guillaume Bertrand, engineer at La Doré sawmill and David Trahan, director, product optimization and quality for the Lac-Saint-Jean region, have been testing this equipment. “Despite not having validated all the results, we are sure that this machine will bring a benefit,” says Trahan. “This equipment definitely has purpose in a sawmill.”

The system analyzes longitudinal scrolling, whether the sides of logs are parallel, proper positioning of logs in the cant (angulation, transversal movement), surface finish (grain torn away, roughness, hammer blows), variations in sawing control and the accuracy of log rotation made by the log turner located upstream to the cant. It also corrects cutting parameters in real time, which reduces cutting distances due to location errors.

“The operator receives information in the form of trends or averages, making it possible for him to determine limit standards as well as when the system will send an alarm to signal operational wrongdoing. In addition, after 30 logs have been processed by the canter, he can be warned of quality levels in relation to the defects that have been detected,” says Dupont.

The system can operate at more than 400 feet per minute. For each tray, 720 readings can be done per 16-foot log, which represents a reading at each quarter inch with the precision level set at +/-0.003 inch.

“According to a study conducted by Forintek, by installing this system, a sawmill can obtain earnings of at least $1 per cubic metre of supply. We are very confident that this equipment will be sold to many sawmills,” adds Dupont.

“This is an exclusive Quebec-made technology and we want to show it everywhere in Canada, as well as the US, especially in the western provinces and states. I predict that this cant analyzer will be the first of several systems that will be able to analyze cant quality.”

 

 


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