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Log trials and tribulations

*Editor’s note:
The following article stated that FPInnovations is working with Springer-Microtec to find ways to optimize log scaling operations. While this is accurate, it should have stated that FPInnovations is working to find ways to optimize log scaling solutions with all scanning manufacturers.
It was also incorrectly stated that FPInnovations worked on scanner testing done at Alberta sawmills. FPInnovations was not involved in that particular testing. The article also stated that FPInnovations organized a technical committee to develop scanner scaling policies to meet B.C. provincial scaling requirements. The technical committee was in fact organized by the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resources Operations. We apologize for these errors.

April 4, 2016 - For decades True Shape 3D laser scanners have been used for scaling logs in sawmills around Europe, and this application has finally found a home on North American soil.

April 4, 2016  By Peter Dyson

FPInnovations is working to find ways to optimize log scaling operations, reducing costs for sawmills through the use of scanners in their log yards. These types of scanners are already used for optimizing log breakdown in various sawmills so the technology itself is not new to the sector.

A pilot trial run is being performed right now at Interfor’s Acorn Sawmill in Delta, B.C., where a True Shape 3D laser scanner is being used for scaling for revenue. The scanner from Springer-Microtec is the first of its kind to be certified by Measurement Canada for this type of application.

It’s been a long process to get this trial pilot up and running. A great deal of planning and teamwork was required before the first truckload of logs went through the scanner.

It has taken work from various committees, including a CSA scaling committee, which put together a standard for scanner scaling; a provincial scanner scaling committee; and a federal component because Measurement Canada has to certify the scanner. All parties worked together to come up with regulations and a standard that would meet individual provincial scaling regulations that every province could adopt to meet its needs.


From there, FPInnovations’ involvement was to answer the question of how accurate these scanners are. We tested the scanner at Interfor’s Acorn mill and with Western Forest Products’ (WFP) Cowichan Bay mill scanner. We also assisted the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations with testing at WFP’s  Ladysmith sawmill scanner to see if these scanners could meet a proposed scanner accuracy. Additional scanner accuracy testing was done at Alberta sawmills. We also had Measurement Canada come out to our lab in Vancouver on two occasions to learn more about how standards for scanner technology work and to go over initial test procedures.

Once the scanner was certified, scanner scaling policies had to be developed that would meet B.C. provincial scaling requirements. A provincial technical scaling committee was organized to craft policies, procedures and regulations, allowing companies to run a pilot project. Initial pilot project results are impressive.

Interfor is confident their Delta Acorn sawmill’s new scanner scaling system will reduce scaling costs. The wood logs for this particular facility are towed to the mill in booms. Previously logs from the booms were dewatered at a sort yard, hand scaled, rebundled, then put back in the water and towed to the sawmill. Now the logs can be taken directly from harvest site and be and scaled by the new scanner in the log-sorting yard at the mill,  bypassing hand scaling and dewatering. Interfor anticipates the new process will generate savings for the mill between $8 and $10 per cubic metre when compared to its previous methods. We should know more as the pilot project progresses. It will be run for a minimum of six months and will then be reviewed by Measurement Canada and the provincial government.

With these kinds of potential savings it’s not surprising that other coastal mills are interested in this technology, as well as mills in Quebec and the B.C. Interior.

In addition to the savings the mill should experience from using this technology in the log yard, there is the benefit of a reduction in scaling staff. This is another important driver for implementing this technology, since there are few scalers coming into the industry.

However, anyone who thinks the scanner technology will completely eliminate the human element required for log scaling is mistaken. The scanner only determines volume so you still need scalers to assess species and grade, which is what they’ll be doing at the Acorn sawmill pilot.

Coordinating and planning each step with the various certification and government bodies agencies involved has been a big challenge in getting this technology into a mill at the pilot stage, but well worth the effort. If this pilot goes as planned, the Acorn mill will likely be the first of numerous Canadian mills across the country to introduce scanners into the scaling operations in their log yards.

Peter Dyson is a researcher in the harvesting operations division of FPInnovations.

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