Project: Recognition, Innovation and New Grading in Saw-logs

The RINGS project is aimed at researching and developing a novel process which will significantly improve the yield of good quality construction timber from softwood logs. As trees grow and mature, they spawn branches. The interface between each branch and the trunk of the tree is commonly referred to as a knot. Knots are sources of weakness within cut timber and have the potential to pop out in use. As such, any timber lengths which have knots in them, are relegated to lower grade usage._x000D_The prime goal of this project is to consistently and repeatedly identify all of the knots within a timber log and provide a three-dimensional image of the log as a whole. This information will be used to manipulate the log such that it is presented to the sawing station in a way which delivers the optimum quantity of high-grade timber. In addition, quality is also related to the age of a tree. Older trees, with many rings tightly packed together, are much more dense and therefore stronger. This project will also count the rings on each individual log. This will enable a finer level of segregation to be made on finished timbers. Finally, the moisture content of a log is extremely important in terms of the efficient and effective operation of the sawing station. The greater the level of moisture which has penetrated throughout the log, the better it will perform at the sawing station. Moisture acts as a lubricant._x000D_Traditionally, most logs processed in the timber sector came from large forests. Because these forests are managed by state agencies or large companies, they tended to produce relatively uniform output. However, over the last 30 years, farmers have been encouraged through the common agricultural policy (CAP) to divert part of their holdings to the growth of trees. In many countries, there are strong incentives to do this. These small forests are now maturing and are ready for processing. Unfortunately, there are significant problems with these forests:_x000D_• Many have not been well COtained and the normal practice of thinning has not been carried out properly._x000D_• More significantly, because these forests are small, they have a disproportionate amount of what are called 'edge' trees. These trees occupy the perimeter of the forest. As such, they have access to light at all times. Because of this, they tend to grow a lot more branches, and hence knots, than trees in the middle of the forest. The latter tend to use their energy to reach up towards the light and thus produce both less branches and also branches which are smaller._x000D_While the RINGS project will be of benefit for all logs, it has a significant benefit for logs coming from these edge trees. A recent survey carried out within the West Cork Growers Association found that approximately 10% of all trees were edge trees. This form of planting is also quite common in several other countries within Europe._x000D_RINGS will research and develop a system to optimise the return from trees. The primary research will involve the identification of appropriate sensor technologies, experimentation on the viability of such sensors, the development of algorithms to interrogate the information coming from the sensors, the development of an integrated control system for managing the information from the sensors, and finally, the integration within a mechanical handling environment._x000D_The target market for this application is medium and large scale timber processing facilities. The initial target geographies will be the UK and Ireland and Scandinavia._x000D_The project consortium is comprised of 3 SMEs. Each of these is a research performer in its own right. Palfab, the project leader, is a timber processor in Ireland. It has a significant research and development capability and has previously been involved in 2 EU projects under the LIFE banner. Milltech, from Sweden, provides R&D services to companies within the timber sector. It has significant strengths in the area of software development and in 3-D scanning. ITS provides R&D services to several multinational companies in Ireland. It is primarily focused on researching and developing bespoke systems for inspection and other processors within manufacturing lines._x000D_The consortium as a whole is well balanced. Palfab provides strong knowledge of the sector, good technical ability and excellent testing and verification capabilities. ITS provides strong sensor capability and also excellent system integration strengths. Milltech is well known within the timber sector and has a strong reputation for the delivery of specialist systems to the sector. Palfab and Milltech will jointly manage the post project marketing of the innovation while ITS will be responsible for the manufacture of systems._x000D_

Acronym RINGS (Reference Number: 6334)
Duration 09/01/2012 - 31/03/2015
Project Topic RINGS will develop a unique process for the analysis of forestry logs, which identifies the location and profile of knots, age and density, moisture content and overall shape and contour. This will enable sawmills to tailor the cutting profile of each individual log to optimise the economic return.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
The CO results of the project are as follows:_x000D_The original system concept of a multi sensory log grading system proved to be sound. The combination of 3D Scanning, ring counting and moisture metering does deliver benefits in a high volume modern sawmilling facility. Yield can be gained from the combination of Ring Counting and 3D Scanning where extra information is fed into the line management software, while moisture metering will significantly reduce blade damage by avoiding processing relatively dry logs through the line at speeds which are too high. _x000D_It has also become apparent that in order for a samilling facility to gain the maximum benefit from the RINGS system it must have modern line control equipment installed. This includes log turners, saw positioners and modern encoder installations. _x000D_
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 6

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
3 Milltech AB Partner Sweden
3 Innovative Total Solutions Ltd Partner Ireland
3 GP Wood Holdings Ltd Coordinator Ireland