Acoustic tool improves tree harvesting efficiency

Research project to develop an acoustic harvester head that can assess timber quality at the point of harvesting

News from Forest Research: July 2009

A hand-held acoustic measurement device

A new research project has successfully won £50k of funding from the Genomia Fund to develop an acoustic harvester head that can assess timber quality at the point of harvesting. Worth a total of £155k, this project could improve the value of timber in the UK and Europe and reduce the amount of timber required to be imported.

Current harvesting practice sees trees felled and processed before the quality of their timber is assessed by stress grading machines at the sawmill. Unfortunately, with the inherent variability of wood, this can cause significant wastage as unsuitable timber is detected late in the process, incurring financial and environmental costs. Over the past few years, hand-held acoustic tools have been developed that can assess the quality of wood on cut logs and standing trees. However, this new project for Forest Research, carried out in collaboration with Forestry Commission Scotland’s Mechanical Engineering Services and the private sector, will add this technology to the harvesting head itself, enabling trees to be more easily checked and allocated to a particular use before initial processing. This will improve the efficiency of the wood supply chain and reduce the social and environmental impacts of unnecessary timber transport and processing.

A considerable amount of research has been carried out overseas (primarily in North America and New Zealand) and in the UK on acoustic tools. Recent work undertaken by Forest Research shows good correlation between results from a hand-held acoustic measurement device and sawn timber performance.

While studies in New Zealand have shown the acoustic harvester head to work in principle, the test prototype would be unsuitable for European markets. This project aims to develop equipment suitable for European harvester heads and new models to predict timber quality properties in relation to sawn performance.

Acoustic harvester head

This technology will enable both timber grower and processor to improve the value recovered from growing stock, based on an improved knowledge of the wood quality at the time of cutting. It will also reduce the risk for buyers.

For more information see timber utilisation for the silviculture and processing industries. For more information about funding for innovative products and services contact Alison Melvin.


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This and other news stories can be found in the July 2009 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.