Since 1898, the hardwood lumber industry has had to depend on the human eye to expose knots and a range of other imperfections as a method of verifying the quality of lumber in question.
Despite the inefficiencies and human error involved, this system of grading as remained because experts were simply not able to reproduce and automate the process. However, on Tuesday, 28th March, a professor from Purdue University announced a crucial development in the industry; a new high-speed scanning system able to successfully pinpoint internal and external defects in the wood.
According to Rado Gazo , a professor for the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources in Purdue’s College of Agriculture, this new piece of technology not only reduces the amount of time taken to grade the lumber manually, it also notably increases the accuracy of finding faults. “Grading with the human eye is both physically and mentally challenging,” Gazo explained, elaborating on the speed a professional grader must be able to inspect and grade lumber as it moves by. “It’s like driving in a blizzard.”
Together with Bedrich Benes, Purdue’s professor of computer graphics technology, Gazo has been studying scanning technology for around a decade, dealing with software technology that is capable of detecting and grading the millions of variations found in lumber traits and characteristics.
Gazo and the Purdue Hardwood Scanning Centre, through a partnership, integrated the software technology with the Goldeneye scanner from MiCrotec to present automated hardwood lumber grading to the hardwood lumber industry.
The partnership is a symbol of this critical development in the industry, Gazo said in an interview with Forestry Connect. The new scanner and software, featuring cameras, sensors, line and dot lasers, as well as an innovative low-power X-ray for the grading, went through testing that lasted more than four years, and has been designed specially to scan lumber at speeds up to 1,000 lineal feet (304m) a minute.
Past attempts to utilise automated scanning instruments for rough hardwood lumber are deemed unsuccessful due to their slow speeds and inability to pinpoint any minor faults and defects in the lumber.
Currently, a professional lumber inspector has to graduate from an inspector training programme before undergoing several more years of training to be considered proficient, Gazo observed.
Lumber grading is vital to the hardwood lumber industry, especially in North America, where almost all the hardwood lumber retailing is done in accordance to the National Hardwood Lumber Association Rules for the Measurement and Inspection of Hardwood Lumber and Sales Code, that was first published in 1898.
Source: Forestry Connect