Cutting-edge technology at Rauma sawmill generates data throughout the production process

Rauma sawmill uses X-ray cameras, machine vision and robotics to collect data from the entire production process. The data is used to address critical quality factors and further improve the quality consistency of sawn timber. The collected data can be processed into information to improve the production efficiency of both the sawmill and its customers.
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  • 2022, Sawn timber, Rauma sawmill

The new Rauma sawmill brings together all the expertise that the industry and its technology suppliers can offer today.

It uses machine vision, X-ray imaging, artificial intelligence, a central control room for the entire process in real time and numerous control systems linked to the main control system of the sawmill. Together these help ensure continuous measurement and quality assurance.

For example, green and dry quality grades are monitored by measuring devices that support the intelligent control system, resulting in an even more consistent quality of sawn timber,” says Tuomas Arminen, Development Director at Metsä Fibre.

“Machine intelligence and automation are also being applied to a degree that is new, even for equipment suppliers. Especially in measurement technology, we are moving to a totally new level.”

Data is gathered from the whole production chain.

“With AI, we can compare the upstream and downstream ends of production to gain a deeper understanding of how the process affects quality changes. At the same time, we get more accurate information about what is best produced from each part of the log, so we can make better use of the raw material”, Arminen points out.

Data from the entire process

Data is collected throughout the production process, from log grading to drying and packaging.
“Our quality management starts with X-ray scanning of the logs. During the process, we measure visual, dimension and moisture properties, and the data is finally combined into the Timber FOX index,” explains Victoria Eklund, Metsä Fibre’s Technical Customer Service Manager.

The Timber FOX index is used for monitoring quality and performance. Going forward, the data will also be analysed in more detail based on the feedback and needs of different customer segments.

This ensures customers receive the right sawn timber for their production and products.

Vilppula and Lappeenranta important test fields

The wider use of measurement data and production optimisation through AI have already been tested at the Vilppula sawmill, where cameras are used not only for log grading but also to remove defective pieces.

Vilppula also found that more accurate grading and the removal of defective pieces right at the beginning of the production chain ensures more consistent quality throughout the production process. Data can be used not only to catch the smallest quality deviations in production, but also to identify quality factors that are critical for customers.

“For example, sawn timber of the exact thickness or width required reduces material waste at the customer’s end, reduces costs, increases production efficiency and improves the quality of the final products. In this way, the data produces a clear benefit for our customers’ business and supports their industrial efficiency,” says Eklund.

The management system for the log-handling area in Rauma has already been tested and piloted at the Lappeenranta sawmill. It ensures the proper use of the raw material and a sufficiently fast raw material cycle. This means that log quality does not deteriorate during storage, and customers will receive sawn timber of a more consistent quality.

“The system guides the quest for the right raw material for the sawing process currently in progress or that is about to start. The system creates a steady flow of raw material of the right quality to match the sawmill’s high sawing speed and production volume,” says Arminen.

The data flow also benefits the customer

Rauma sawmill will introduce a completely new quality reporting system. It will allow even more detailed analysis of the products that the sawmill has produced, the raw material they were sawn from, and how the different sawing batches differ.

“Thanks to this feedback loop, we get a complete picture of the entire production chain,” says Arminen.

“With better and more comprehensive product information at our disposal, we can continue to improve process performance and consistent quality. In this way, the customer also benefits from the data flow. In the future, data can also be made available to customers by product family through cloud services, for example.”

Rauma sawmill uses many other technical solutions that have already been tried and tested at the company’s other sawmills. However, it is the Rauma sawmill that will define the technical standard in future and its solutions will be replicated at other sites.

“And development will certainly not stop here; we are already thinking hard about what we will do at other sawmills after Rauma.”

This article was originally published in Timber Magazine issue 2022-2023.

Metsä Fibre’s Rauma sawmill, starting up in Q3 / 2022, is a global frontrunner in its operating model, technology and efficiency.