From logs to high-quality sawn timber stacked in the yard, all entirely automatically. This summarises the operational concept of Metsä Fibre’s Rauma sawmill, with timber processing technology developed and supplied by Nordautomation, one of the key construction partners.
From its engineering plant in Alajärvi in Ostrobothnia, Nordautomation is supplying Rauma with an integrated unit for efficient log sorting, saw infeeding, and bark processing. The company’s Managing Director Timo Kuusisto believes that cutting-edge projects like these are crucial for the development of the entire sector.
“Machine vision and smart control are used to ensure process efficiency and quality. New technology allows higher sawing speed and faster unit processing as well as the transition to control room operations,” he explains.
High speeds strain mechanical systems
Precise initial sorting also speeds up the following production steps. When the sawmill machine is ready for the type of logs that are coming, line speeds rise to a whole new level.
“The power of Metsä Fibre’s new Rauma sawmill is best illustrated by its log cutting and processing speed, which is more than 200 metres per minute. We have successfully ‘cold-tested’ conveyor equipment at up to 300 metres per minute. Even for us, this is an unprecedented speed,” Kuusisto says.
Increased speeds also require additional power from other devices, such as debarking and sawing machines.
“For production speeds like these, many mechanical structures and their durability have had to be reconsidered. The characteristics of various conveyors and chains, in particular, have been tested and studied with extreme precision.”
One of the challenges in the project has been the availability of space, which forced Nordautomation to rethink the whole log sorting process.
“A U-shaped log sorting track is something that has never been done before, but we have made it work,” Kuusisto remarks.
However, the real quantum leap is the single, shared central control station that monitors the entire production process. Once it is in full operation, the massive sawmill can be operated without manual production line work. It depends, of course, on all technology being seamlessly integrated.
“In the past, these control rooms were located close to the sawing lines, where their operations could be monitored visually. Now this has been replaced by camera and smart technology.”
Investments have also been made in noise control, as the new sawmill is very close to housing. Rock walls around an excavated site, and noise barriers, help to control noise, as do gear wheel coatings and plastic sliding surfaces on the sawing lines. To promote environmental and sustainable development, hydraulics have been replaced by electrics as much as possible.
Seamless and fluent collaboration
The installation of saw infeed equipment started in mid-September and will continue until spring 2022. The outer saw feed line is installed first, followed by the straight section of the log sorter, then the inner saw feed line. The last installation step is the final section of the log sorting line.
The aim is to bring machines and equipment almost direct from the factory, thus avoiding unnecessary intermediate storage.
Nordautomation is a long-term partner of Metsä Fibre, and the Rauma sawmill project has stayed on schedule. Meetings are held on a weekly basis and cooperation has been close-knit.
“This is one of the biggest projects in our company’s 30-year history and it has had a significant employment impact,” Kuusisto says.
“The Rauma sawmill will become an industry trendsetter. If you want more speed from this, then the logs will probably have to fly!”
A skilled partner is easy to trust
Although there is a long tradition of cooperation between Nordautomation and Metsä Fibre, the company was selected for Rauma’s construction work through strict competitive bidding procedures. The specifications were tough and required strong commitment.
Harri Haapaniemi, Project Director at Metsä Fibre, says Rauma sawmill is a testimony to the expertise of Nordautomation, its security of supply, firm installation schedules and commitment to safety objectives.
“Everything has gone precisely as planned and agreed,” Haapaniemi says appreciatively.
After the Rauma sawmill starts up, he believes Nordautomation is likely to find increasing interest from export markets.
“We have had successful collaborations with Nordautomation for decades and its technology is used in several of our sawmills. It is excellent that top industry competence can be found here in Finland. The local construction content of the sawmill is a staggering 70 percent.”
Over the years, cooperation has grown into a partnership, where issues of productivity, technology and quality are tackled together.
“For example, a number of minor problems have been successfully resolved with log handling and related automation, making production even more fluid, efficient and high-quality. When the best experts in the field put their heads together, they get results.”