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Innovative swedish technology for processing chilean eucalyptus into solid wood products

Alent dynamic, an sme in sweden, has the technology to produce higher quality wood faster and using less energy. They will prove this knowledge to one of the largest forest products companies in chile where they will process certified eucalyptus forest into added value products.

There is a tremendous potential for manufacturing eucalyptus wood into higher value added products in Chile. Plantation forests in Chile cover an area of 2.43 million hectares comprising 59.1% radiata pine and 34.1% eucalyptus. The industrial consumption of wood from these plantations is 43.6 million m3 per year, comprising 70.3% radiata pine and 27.7% eucalyptus. However, even if the ratio between plantations and consumption of these species are similar, the industrial uses are different. While the industrial uses of radiata pine are 33.6% pulp/chips and 51.4% solid wood, only 0.2% of the harvested eucalyptus is transformed into solid wood products. Currently there is a high interest in Chile for increasing the amount of eucalyptus wood processed into solid wood products. One reason is that commercial eucalyptus clones are one of the fastest growing trees (in the order of 50 m3 per hectare per year). The second reason is that eucalyptus plantations can be certified as sustainable managed forest. This gives a competitive advantage with respect to other hardwood species coming from illegally harvested forest. In the context of the Eureka program, processing eucalyptus into higher added value solid wood products will result in a more efficient use of Chile's natural resources. Unfortunately, eucalyptus wood is inherently difficult to dry. Because of the natural propensity to internal checking, collapse and shrinkage, lumber recovery after industrial drying of eucalyptus is very low. Anecdotal industrial experience suggests that lumber recovery after industrial drying could be as low as 20 to 30%. The common explanation is that capillary tension causes internal checks and collapse, meaning that the cell walls cannot withstand the surface tension of the water that is removed from inside the cells. For this reason the only solution available is to dry the wood as slow as possible so that internal tensions have more time to relax. For a commodity product such as sawn lumber very long processing times are not viable. Alent Dynamic (a kiln controller developer in Sweden) created a new control technology that can solve this problem. The technology has been informally termed "pumping drying", as it works by applying heat for short periods of time and then waiting for the moisture to migrate by diffusion before applying heat again and dry the moisture from the surfaces. Since water dries close to the surfaces, the drying time reduces around 10%, while at the same time the system provides long periods of relaxation in which the wood has time to distend and release internal stresses. The technology also reduces 35 to 60% electricity and 5 to 10% heat consumption since it implements regular cycles in which the airflow is stopped. However, Alent Dynamic controller is currently designed to dry softwood species (which in the wood drying jargon they are considered "easy-to-dry"), thus the technology still needs to be adapted and optimized to prone-to-collapse hardwood species such as eucalyptus nitens. This project will achieve this goal in one year. The controller will be reprogrammed and optimized at LTU in Sweden based on eucalyptus boards provided by CMPC Maderas, Bucalemu sawmill, in Chile. LTU owns a Computed Tomography scanner (CT-scanner) combined with a laboratory kiln made of aluminum that was specifically designed to fit within the scanner field of view. The aluminum permits the X-ray radiation to penetrate throughout the drying chamber, thus making it possible to observe the development of internal collapse and checks in real time during drying. Once the controller is adapted and optimized in Sweden, it will be installed in an industrial kiln at CMPC Maderas, Bucalemu sawmill, in Chile. The CMPC kiln has been used for research and development at the sawmill before, and in particular for exploring strategies to dry Eucalyptus nitens. Alent Dynamic will assist the sawmill in implementing the control technology and evaluating the quality of the wood products, and TSST Energia Limitada based in Chile will facilitate the interaction between the different parties both from the technical and business perspective. The University of Bio-Bio, in the city of conception, Chile, will also collaborate in this project at an unofficial level. The University of Bio-Bio has recently installed a new pilot scale laboratory kiln with capabilities to measure process variables that cannot be followed in industrial kilns, and they have expressed interest in installing Alent Dynamic technology in their kiln and collaborating with the project.
Start date: 
01-06-2017
Project Duration: 
14months
Project costs: 
340 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Process control and logistics
Market Area: 

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