Wood processing has become faster and more automated, so strategically placed cameras sending video feeds in real time to an operator in a control room is now essential for monitoring performance of machine centres, as well as safety.

Spray Lakes Sawmills (SLS) a producer of value-added softwood lumber products in Cochrane, Alberta, is a firm believer in the benefits of video feeds.

Throughout the years, they have focused on consistent capital investment and upgrades to ensure they have equipped their sawmill with quality and proven technology. They operate three production lines.

Opticom TechnologiesIn 2019, they upgraded to a new 10” Optimil vertical double arbor edger (VDAE) and new Autolog trimmer optimizer on their mid-range diameter log line. A few years earlier, they installed a new Comact GradExpert, computer-based, lumber grading system in their planer mill.

Their product line is highly diversified and includes dimension lumber, treated lumber and timbers, wood chips, peeled and treated fence posts, cattle bedding, bark mulches and soil blends.

They understand that keeping current with the advantages that technology presents is vital to their future.

Ensuring that they have high quality industrial cameras is near the top of their list of priorities—and their camera of choice is the Opticom Technologies CC02 industrial camera system.

Jason Newman, electrical supervisor at SLS, helps to put the importance of cameras in today’s wood processing environment into perspective.

The production line operator in the control centre at SLS has as many as 16 monitors in front of him, with strategically positioned cameras sending video feeds in real time at various angles and in various locations to these monitors.

“There can be as many as eight video feeds on one large screen,” says Newman. “The Opticom cameras feed into multiplexers that display images onto the video screens for the operator. These cameras are critical to our operation—they are our eyes on the equipment. If things go wrong, and if we don’t see what’s going wrong, things get even worse. Without them, we’d get some pretty nasty pile ups.”

Opticom Technologies

Now with a high definition video feed, cameras supplied by Opticom Technologies are giving sawmill operators a better view of the processing line.

They have about 60 CC02 cameras installed at various strategic locations throughout the operation. These include the primary sawmill, the planer mill and the wood treatment plant, with the sawmill being the harshest environment. Typically, logs move around as they are debarked and processed, while sticks of lumber jostle to find their position on the production line, which can play havoc on camera hardware and the video feed.

Suffice to say that sawmills are not exactly camera-friendly.

The amount of dust and vibration along a finely-tuned processing line is among the most challenging in any industry. While many companies have tried security-style cameras, which work quite fine in some environments, the issue becomes trying to use these same cameras in an unforgiving environment—like next to a debarker, breakdown line, and even inside a dry kiln.

These types of cameras simply aren’t engineered to withstand the type of beating and harsh environments that these locations present. The result is the need for frequent replacement of these cameras or missed opportunities to prevent a problem or injury before it happens because a camera feed was faulty.

Surrey, B.C.-based, Opticom Technologies is no stranger to developing products for harsh environments or Canada’s forest industry, having supplied close circuit television (CCTV) products to forest companies and a variety of industries since 1973. In fact, they were part of NASA’s space shuttle program and developed varifocal lenses that could function seamlessly in space.

Being located in B.C., the company understands the challenges inherent in wood processing plants. In the 1990s, it recognized an opportunity to leverage its experience and develop a camera product line specifically for harsh environments. Months of development resulted in its CC02 series camera for high vibration applications, and since then the company has installed thousands of its camera systems for forestry clients throughout Canada.

Opticom Technologies

Durable Opticom Technologies cameras will fit into the palm of a hand and are said to be easy to install. The company describes the camera’s rugged titanium housing as virtually indestructible, and totally impervious to dust and water.

Opticom Technologies says that the secret to their camera system vs. other camera systems is their design. First, cameras are compact, and are capable of fitting into the palm of a person’s hand. Secondly, the company describes the camera’s rugged titanium housing as “virtually indestructible”, and totally impervious to dust and water, while being able to withstand temperatures from -60 degrees to +80 degrees Celsius, with no heater or blower required.

Newman says that durability is certainly one aspect that they appreciate about the CC02 cameras at Spray Lakes. Some of the cameras they’ve installed have been in service for over 10 years.

“We’ve used other brands, but they don’t seem to last very long. With the vibrations in the sawmill, they tend to fail fairly soon,” he says.

The cameras are also easy to install, being equipped with a universal, vibration resistant bracket, with one sawmill manager stating that they were able to install an Opticom Technologies CC02 camera over a lunch break. He added that the camera delivers amazing clarity. Newman agrees with this assessment.“They’ve got a great bracketing system that is very versatile and holds its position in high vibration,” he says. “We don’t have to go in and constantly adjust them. Once they are set, they’re set. They’re pretty bullet-proof.”

Opticom Technologies has now released a new generation of CC02 cameras which it says is based on high definition analog or Transport Video Interface (TVI) technology, adding that these cameras are easy to integrate into existing coaxial cable systems. In terms of resolution, they deliver the equivalent of two megapixel resolution.

“Typically, when we change these out, the operators are ecstatic, because there is quite a big change in what was there before and what is there now,” Newman says. “They have a nice, sharper image on the video.”

According to Opticom Technologies, one benefit of this technology is that it allows customers to migrate to high definition video without having to rewire or re-learn video transmission.

Opticom Technologies is also adapting its products to other advancements in communication technology. For example, it has developed products such as its CC04 series camera for IP network infrastructure. It is described as being compatible with all totally Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) compliant video management systems. This standard and technology allows IP-based security products to be able to interface with each other.

Newman says that as their cameras from other suppliers have failed and older Opticom Technologies cameras reach the end of their service life, they are being replaced with the company’s latest version, which also delivers the benefit of uniformity throughout the facility. It is also helpful that SLS has a local supplier in nearby Calgary: electrical equipment
supplier, E.B. Horsman & Sons.

Tony Kryzanowski

Author

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