Technology lift for logs: A better value business

Wednesday 23 Oct 2019

Gisborne’s Wood Engineering Technology (WET) is using high tech processes to turn low-value logs – destined for wood chips – into quality timber - The strong scent of pine you get as you pass by logging depots at our major ports is one of the more obvious signs of our booming export industry for radiata pine logs.

Around seven per cent of our land area is covered in forest logging plantations, which produced exports in the form of raw logs and milled timber worth $6.4 billion last year. Nearly half of it went to China.

Our top-quality pine is highly valued, but it represents only a fraction of exports. The rest is considered second-rate and sent as logs for use in packaging or reduced to woodchip or paper. What if you could find a way to turn that exported deadwood into valuable building materials for the domestic market?

That’s exactly the goal of Auckland and Gisborne-based Wood Engineering Technology (WET) which, after 15 years of R&D, has mastered how to do it using a data-driven end- to-end automation process. WET has a patented method of creating glue-laminated timber.

The approach and technology underpinning WET’s innovation fit under the broad umbrella of “Industry 4.0”, which uses interconnected sensors, artificial intelligence and robotics to digitise manufacturing for greater productivity and better products.

WET’s industrial process exploits the variability within each log as well as the grade, or quality of the log, which is broken down and then reengineered as lumber.

It is the optimisation of the disassembly and reassembly process that gives WET its innovation edge.

“Our process allows a lower grade log from radiata pine plantations to be manufactured efficiently into engineered wood products,” says WET’s Chief Executive Officer, Shaun Bosson.

At a glance:
> A sustained commitment to R&D has seen Wood Engineering Technology (WET) develop glue-laminated timber products that are sustainable alternatives to concrete and steel.

> WET’s plant in Gisborne incorporates Industry 4.0 principles including automation, data- driven decision-making and real-time analytics fed by well over 2000 sensor inputs and outputs.

> The timber beams that WET produces offer lighter and more flexible building materials and this production creates fewer carbon emissions.

> WET is now raising capital with a view to operating its modular lumber plants near forestry regions around New Zealand.

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Source: Callaghan Innovation

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