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July August 2006 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal



Grade Optimization

It wasn’t that many years ago that edger and trimmer operators visually examined the surfaces of each board for wane and defects. Based on their knowledge of lumber grades and on current lumber prices, they had to make judgments about the placement of edge and trim saws to produce maximum valued lumber. Even the operators with a keen eye and years of experience sometimes found optimizing the value of each board in this manner to be a complex decision.

Today, however, mills are using advanced technology to help make those decisions. And each year there are new improvements in scanning and defect detection—from recognizing knots to biological imperfections. Below are some of the top companies in the field and the products they have to offer that allow mills to achieve production and quality goals.


The ALGIS Corporation has taken a unique approach to transverse automatic lumber grading. The ALGIS system is set up in two banks of 2’ modules, and all scanning is done from above the grading table. As the lumber passes under the first bank, the top and leading edge of the piece is scanned simultaneously. The lumber is then turned by a Shark Fin Boardturning system before it passes through the second bank for the bottom and trailing edge to be imaged. The result: true six-sided grading.

The modular design allows fast change-outs of the plug and play modules should a problem occur. And there is no daily maintenance or downtime for cleaning lenses. ALGIS’ patented End Scan gives a 3-D view of the lumber and determines where the pith is. Depending on whether the pith is in the piece, a determination can be made about whether knots are throughknots or separate knots. Furthermore, the End Scan determines the rate of growth, allowing ALGIS to be very precise on knot sizing.

The ALGIS Corporation has also developed several standalone systems based on its End Scan technology. The ALGIS Heart Center Locator system is designed for pith detection in squares. And the Wane-Up system orients lumber to have the waney face up going into an edger optimizer or a planer, based on the growth rings on the end of the piece. By using the growth rings to orient the lumber, even pencil wane and blonde wane are said to not pose a problem.



The Autolog planer mill optimizer is among the most popular optimizer systems to date, says the company. With more than 80 systems running in Canada and the US, Autolog has acquired experience and a whole list of features that enable clients to have the best return on their investment. Three modules are available and can be combined to have fully automatic grading.

The first module measures thickness, width, length, wane, twist, crook and bow with unsurpassed accuracy, says the company. The second module detects knots, spike knots, one-, two-, and three-face knots, splits and shakes. The new third module detects biological defects such as blue stain, brown stain, white specs, dry rot, wet rot and most other biological defects.

This new module has already been tested for over a month and is scheduled to be installed in a mill for production later this summer. The company expects it to be ready for delivery and fully operational by September.

The three different technologies are in one efficient system that gets the job done accurately, according to the company. Autolog offers local service in Western and Eastern Canada.

Coe Newnes/McGehee

Coe Newnes/McGehee Inc has received final acceptance from its Beta test site in BC on the LHG vision module with auto-grading for geometric wane, knots and stains (heart and sap stains, knots in stain) on Western SPF.

Mill QC personnel and COFI (Council of Forest Industries) representatives have verified the results, and success of the process on all products from 2x4 to 2x10.

At the same site, the LHG’s E-Valuator module for evaluating high-value MSR lumber has also passed acceptance, and results show it consistently outperforms the competitive unit for strength prediction for MSR lumber. This module has been operational since December 2005, and offers this mill both auto-grading for knots and blue stain, as well as MSR lumber evaluation.

The company’s unique vision technology for automated knot sizing on the LHG is getting the nod from both SYP and SPF processors. One SYP site has been auto-grading for knots since August 2005 with no re-grades, and labour savings alone are valued at over $200,000 per year. This mill plans to phase to graderless over the next few months. At another SYP site, acceptance was achieved for the vision module in April 2006, auto-grading for knots. The system surpassed the mill’s expectations in terms of above grade and below grade.

Coe’s automated grading program will continue to deliver upgrades, and the company is continuing its beta test program to focus next on splits, shake and check on random length dimension lumber for all regions of North America.

LMI Technologies

Mills can avoid integrating a separate light curtain into their scan frame with the B900 multi-point sensor. This sensor contains a light curtain, with accurate laser thickness profiles, which provides impressive length and width measurements for
board edging and trimming applications, says the company.

A new environmentally sealed housing helps this sensor withstand the sawmill environment. Plus, significant improvements in ambient light performance deliver better results in varying mill lighting conditions.

The PL2000 is a new choice in high-speed, high-density 3-D lineal profile scanning systems for primary log and cant optimization. The PL200 integrates a Gigabit Ethernet and binocular 3-D profiling for occlusion-free scanning around chain flights, as well as accurate and reliable scanning speeds of up to 700 Hz. This sensor is developed with LMI’s field proven FireSync platform, producing a profile sensor that is reliable and easy to install.

MPM Engineering Ltd

MPM has developed a state-of-the-art bucking optimizer scanner and software package, which includes optimizing treelength logs and cutting them into different grades. The software must be used with lineal scanning, but can be used with either
lineal or transverse bucking saws. The MPM system is able to identify different grades of logs including size of knots, knot location, cracks and shape of log. The MPM software can also identify log defect and is able to cut this defect out anywhere along the length of the log.

VAB Solutions Inc

VAB Solutions Inc has recently introduced its new generation of lineal grading optimizer for the planer mill. This system requires no contact. It measures board length at +/- 0.063”, wane and holes at +/- 0.015” and dimension at +/- 0.005”. The four cameras grab images at every 1/4”, at speeds up to 2,000 ft/min.

The vision chamber requires only 30” of linear space between the planer and the slow down belt, and can be close coupled to the planer. Its 3/8” steel plate shell protects all the vision components and is completely sealed to dust. Its unique shape prevents accumulation of debris and eliminates downtime.

The use of exclusive 3-D vision technology allows imbedded treatment of laser profiles, increases the frame density and thus accuracy of defect processing. Large size CMOS chips boost measurements resolution with their 1,280 x 1,024 pixels. The length measurement is performed by high-speed photocells and a laser speed gauge.

Even though this lineal grading optimizer is designed to perform standard 3-D measurements and classification of lumber, it was also meant to be a valuable planer monitoring tool. The planer oriented interface allows visualizing many manufacturing defects, such as eased edge defects, heads taper alignment, excessive torn grain and roughness, and more. Compiled over the 10, 100 or 1,000 last boards, the results and tendencies will be viewed at a glance and alarms communicate any uncontrolled manufacturing drift. This system can be interfaced to any kind of PLC.


Already in use in five mills (Bowater Forest Products, North Florida Lumber, Vanderwell Contractors, East Fraser Fibre and Buchanan Lumber), the GradExpert enhances production and optimizes grading while detecting geometry and visual defects with vision, up to 200 boards per minute.

The GradExpert identifies defects such as knots, pitch pockets, pitch, blue and red stains, rot, bark pockets, and wormholes, and detects bows, crooks and twist. It also sorts all boards regarding all standards, without any grader. The GradExpert give the fastest return on investment in the industry, says the company.


Because inspecting and optimizing wood that is to be ripped is a nearly impossible task, the WoodEye Rip opens up new possibilities in this area. The system optimizes the ripping process based on a wide range of product and quality criteria, at full
production speed, and is fully objective and constant over time. WoodEye Rip can optimize the ripping of lumber measuring up to 25” x 4”.

The new WoodEye BCS (board control system) expansion system delivers more reliable and efficient production flows. The system maintains complete control over the production flow between WoodEye and other stations for cross-cutting, sorting and intermediate storage, regardless of whether they are located within a single mill, in different production areas or at different sites. WoodEye BCS comes in three versions for different production situations: Board ID, Buffer Control and Cross Cut Marking. WoodEye BCS makes it possible to grow your business cost-effectively by investing in inspecting equipment and keeping your existing cross-cut saws.

To back up WoodEye with customer service and support, the company has had its own North American office since 2001. It opened WoodEye North America Inc in February 2004 to handle its own sales and distribution.


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This page last modified on Thursday, December 07, 2006