Friday Offcuts – 29 March 2018

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This week the Victorian and Federal Government’s made short-term extensions to three of the State's regional forest agreements. It will allow continued logging of native forests on public lands over the term but it does limit trees that can be felled. Some 2,500 ha around East Gippsland have also been excluded along with all large, old trees greater than two-and-a-half metres in diameter to secure key habitat for wildlife. The Victorian Association of Forest Industries and the Australian Forest Products Association have "cautiously welcomed" the two-year move but have called on the Victorian Government to work with industry on the 20-year extension that’s needed to provide certainty and drive investment and innovation in the sector.

As you know, trials and the roll out of autonomous vehicles for both private and business use is already well advanced. Opportunities in the wood transport business in this part of the world are going to be outlined as part of the two-yearly update to forest products, wood haulage, log and timber transport companies along with logistics specialists in New Zealand and Australia as part of the upcoming series running in June.

A couple of recent announcements though have highlighted just how rapid the advances are. An electrically-powered autonomous air taxi was recently unveiled by Kitty Hawk, a company founded by Ex-Googler, Larry Paige. Known as “Cora”, the composite-bodied self-flying vehicle carries two passengers and has vertical take-off capability. Word’s out that Cora won’t initially be for sale to consumers but will instead be available to air taxi operators. According to the New York Times, Kitty Hawk has reached a deal with the New Zealand Government to allow the air taxi service to operate throughout the country. The company hopes to launch the service in as few as three years. Details on these trials and the inclusion of the country’s first locally designed and built vehicle in on-road testing of fully autonomous vehicles (both in Christchurch) are outlined in this week’s issue.

Green-washing - you know those phrases that are added to email signatures. Messages like; ‘save a tree, don’t print this email’, ‘please consider the environment before printing’, “go green and save trees” ... The key message being pushed is that digital services are much better for the environment than the more traditional paper-based communications.

A North American non-profit organisation set up to promote the sustainability of print and paper, Two Sides, has confirmed that they’ve now got over 100 leading North American companies to remove or change inaccurate anti-paper claims as a result of the group’s efforts. They’re also active in Australia as well. Their message is that in order to save trees you need to use paper. As well as including information on the organisations work, we’ve included an interview from the first Asian chairperson to preside over the international board for the Forest Stewardship Council. His argument is much the same. If you use paper, there’s a reason for the plantation industry to exist. And as long as the plantation industry exists, the pressure on the natural forests will ease.

Finally, in Rotorua this week, the MobileTECH 2017 event has just wrapped up. Well over 250 technology developers and early adopters of new technology from across the primary sector have been meeting in Rotorua over the last couple of days. Every year, results on a raft of new innovations being developed, adopted and used out in the field are outlined. As demonstrated by several case studies this year, the event, now well and truly established on the calendar for the country's primary sector, provides developers and researchers a unique opportunity to set up longer term strategic alliances across a number of land-based industries, including forestry. It really has been an eye-opening couple of days. For those attending, details on access to the presentations given over the last couple of days will be sent out shortly. Enjoy this week’s read.

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NZ log exports top 1M cubic metres in January

New Zealand exported more than one million cubic metres of softwood logs in January, only the second time in the country's history that such a high volume has been shipped in the month.

The country exported 1.1 million cubic metres of softwood logs overseas in January this year, up 32 percent on January 2017, according to data from Global Trade Information Services published in AgriHQ's monthly forestry market report. That's the highest level for the month since 2014 and only the second time, volumes have exceeded 1 million for a January month.

"New Zealand’s softwood log exports started 2018 with a bang," AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said in his March report under the heading 'Flying start for log exports'. "The strong start to 2018 bodes well for the coming year, as January is historically the weakest month each year."

The large export volumes in January were partly down to the later timing of Chinese New Year, which moved some of the heavy pre-Chinese New Year trading into January rather than December. New Zealand log exports in January fell 31 percent from December levels ahead of Chinese New Year celebrations, which ran from mid-February through to early March. However, the generally high level of exports this past 12 months were also a factor in lifting January volumes, AgriHQ noted.

New Zealand cemented its position as China's top source of softwood logs last year, with its share of the market lifting to 36.3 percent from 34.7 percent. AgriHQ noted that New Zealand's strong presence in the Chinese log market continued in January, with imports of New Zealand logs jumping 43 percent from the same month a year earlier, and accounting for 40 percent of China's total log imports, significantly ahead of its closest rival Russia with a 21 percent share.

China's demand for softwood logs has increased after Asia's largest economy clamped down on harvesting its own forests and reduced tariffs on imported logs to meet demand in its local market.

"All eyes are focused on the direction that China takes after the Chinese New Year holidays," Brick said. "Activity was relatively dead over the past month, but port-level offtake in the past week or two has reportedly lifted more sharply than expected.

"There’s little to show there will be any deviation from what’s been witnessed over the past 12 months and the general sentiment is for small price increases over the next two months."

Source: BusinessDesk

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Victorian forestry deals extended to 2020

Victoria's forestry agreements have been extended until 2020 in a bid to boost the state's timber industry. The agreements allow the logging of native forests on public lands and provide exemptions to Commonwealth environmental laws.

Extensions have been granted until March 31, 2020 by the Victorian and federal government in state's East Gippsland, Central Highlands and North East regions. It brings them into line with existing agreements in West Victoria and Gippsland and paves the way for longer-term extensions.

"The signing demonstrates our governments' shared interest in ongoing native timber industry, and the jobs and economic prosperity it creates," Assistant Agriculture Minister Anne Ruston said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Victorian native forests produce high quality, appearance-grade timber, and the RFAs ensure this is done sustainably." The federal government wants to provide 20-year rolling extensions for all Regional Forest Agreements, which have repeatedly come under fire from environmental groups.

Source: Australian Associated Press

For further coverage on the announcement, click here

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Self-driving trucks to start hauling cargo

Waymo has clocked up millions of self-driving miles since starting Google's autonomous vehicle project in 2009, celebrating 5 million of them by recently releasing a 360-degree video to demonstrate how its cars see the world around them. Now the company is shifting gear by moving into cargo hauling.

After road-testing its self-driving trucks in California and Arizona over the past 12 months, Waymo's fleet of autonomous big rigs is due to start hauling cargo to Google's data centers in Atlanta, Georgia, from mid-March.

Partnering with Google's logistics team, the pilot trucks will make use of the same kind of custom sensors used in Waymo's autonomous Pacifica minivan, and leverage the same software. But since controlling a truck is quite different from driving a car, the Waymo fleet will have trained human drivers in the cabs to monitor the technology and take over if needed.

"Trucking is a vital part of the American economy, and we believe self-driving technology has the potential to make this sector safer and even stronger," the company said in a blog post. "With Waymo in the driver's seat, we can reimagine many different types of transportation – from ride-hailing to logistics."

As part of the upcoming WoodFlow 2018 series being run for local forestry companies in June, European leaders in autonomous trucking and leveraging vehicle connectivity to improve logistics will be presenting. You can check out the full programmes for both countries on the event website,

Source & Photo: Waymo

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Drone use climbs for U.S. natural resource management

With a fleet of 312 unmanned aircraft, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Aviation Services supported bureau operators, who flew nearly 5,000 missions in 2017, ranging from fighting wildfires to monitoring dams and spillways and mapping wildlife. The accomplishments of its unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drone program, can be found in a recent report by DOI that summarizes flights made by more than 200 certified pilots in 32 states nationwide.

Drone flights to support natural resource management across DOI, including support to firefighters suppressing wildfires, increased 82 percent from 2016 to 2017. The report breaks down the flights for more than 1,000 projects by agency, geographic area, and missions for wildfire and non-wildfire purposes.

“Interior is committed to preventing the spread of catastrophic wildfires through smarter and more aggressive practices and tactics,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “I had the opportunity to join our wildfire professionals last year and was able to test some of the technology that is now being used. After seeing the capabilities, I know it will continue to make a big difference in firefighting. The UAS program is a perfect example of leveraging technology to fight fires in safer and more efficient ways to ensure we are protecting the men and women on the fire line, members of the public, and local communities. Coupled with more aggressive fuels management, this technology will help prevent and control catastrophic wildfires.”

This past fire season, DOI conducted 707 drone missions on 71 individual wildfires. Drones were used by firefighters to gain a tactical advantage on wildfires by allowing them to improve their surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The data and information gathered during these flights was used to support strategic planning for fighting wildfires. These advancements support the safety of our firefighters and the public through the detection of hotspots, improved mapping, and advanced monitoring of wildfires.

“The Department of the Interior has worked hard to build a UAS program that is a leader in non-Department of Defence applications,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Safety, Resource Protection, and Emergency Services Harry Humbert. “This technology opens limitless possibilities for resource managers. The Department is proud of the collaboration that uses technology to support wildland fire and natural resource management more safely and more efficiently than ever before.”

The program started flying missions in 2010 with 208 flights. The aircraft are fitted with video cameras, infrared heat sensors, and other equipment that instantly deliver high resolution images. The DOI unmanned fleet includes 3DR Solo Quadcopters and Pulse Vapor 55TM Helicopters. The newest addition, a Hybrid VTOL Fixed-Wing, joins the fleet in early 2018.

Over the past seven years, DOI has seen drones accomplish missions faster and cheaper than traditional aviation. “We’ve helped DOI programs accomplish their goals for an average of one-tenth of the cost in one-seventh the time of traditional means,” said Jeff Rupert, Director of the Office of Wildland Fire. “Adding drone support to fire suppression efforts could dramatically reduce the size and cost of wildfires, potentially saving millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of acres with triple the hours of critical aviation support.”

Mark Bathrick, Director of the Office of Aviation Services, sees the increasing use of drones as a chance to improve safety and efficiency of land and resource management. “We are always looking for ways to improve safety,” said Bathrick. “Aviation accidents have been the leading cause of fatalities among field biologists. Increasing the use of UAS or drones can increase safety for certain missions. Drones can also instantly deliver high quality data for a fraction of the cost of traditional flights.”

The next stage of the Department’s UAS program starts soon with the testing of a new class of drones to assist in fire suppression and fuels management. Scheduled for field trials later this spring, the new drones could assist firefighters with prescribed fires and with suppressing operations, especially during times when traditional firefighting aircraft can’t fly due to smoky conditions.

More than 4,200 of the DOI drone flights provided broad support to DOI lands and resources. Drone aircraft fitted with wide ranging sensors helped with inspection of dams and wells, wildlife surveys, monitoring of illegal dumping, and land mapping.

Source: U.S. Dept. of the Interior

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Removing the Go Paperless – Go Green messaging

Two Sides’ anti-greenwash campaign reaches a milestone as more leading corporation’s change their marketing messages to recognize the sustainable features of print on paper. In early February, Two Sides North America confirmed that over 100 leading North American companies have removed or changed inaccurate anti-paper claims as a result of the group’s efforts.

The list includes many of the Fortune 500 companies in the financial, telecom, utilities and insurance sectors who have engaged with Two Sides and modified their marketing messages to consider the social and environmental benefits of print and paper, as well as the life cycle of sustainable forests and paper products.

“The ‘go green and save trees’ claims used to promote digital services over paper-based communications are misleading for many reasons, and they are a form of greenwashing that needs to be corrected,” said Phil Riebel, president of Two Sides North America. “The claims don’t consider the renewability of paper, or the numerous social, environmental, and economic benefits of well-managed North American forests.

According to a recent survey commissioned by Two Sides, U.S. consumers are skeptical about paperless green claims made by corporations. The survey, carried out by the global polling firm Toluna, found that 72% of U.S. respondents agree that claims about the switch to digital being better for the environment are made because the sender wants to save money.

Furthermore, 73% agree that government, banks and other organizations want to persuade them to ‘go paperless’, but it’s not ‘paperless’ because they regularly have to print out documents at home if they want a hard copy. In fact, 68% find it easier to track their expenses and manage their finances when they are printed on paper. The full report and U.S. findings is available at

As part of its campaign, Two Sides also notes that it is false to associate paper with deforestation in North America. Deforestation is defined by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as the conversion of forests to another land use or a permanent loss of forest cover. The UN definition specifically excludes sustainably managed forests where the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or via tree planting, as in North American managed forestlands.

Two Sides is urging companies to avoid greenwashing consumers by using best marketing practices that meet guidelines established by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Competition Bureau of Canada. Environmental claims cannot be vague and unsubstantiated - they must be specific, verifiable and based on credible facts. “Our experience to date is that many companies are so focused on reducing costs that they are ignoring marketing rules, the needs of their customers, and the environmental and social impacts of switching from paper to digital,” says Riebel.

Two Sides is an independent, nonprofit organization created to promote the sustainability of print and paper. Two Sides is active globally in North America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Colombia.


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Robots are coming to NZ forests

"No worker on the slope, no hand on the chainsaw." That was the theme of a recent research project funded by the New Zealand forestry industry and Government to reduce accidents and deaths in our forests. While funding has ended for one aspect, it's still a long-term goal and university researchers such as Dr Rien Visser, director of studies in forest engineering at the University of Canterbury, foresee autonomous felling machines, robot trucks delivering logs to mills and drones replanting forests – eventually and maybe.

While other researchers are looking deep into robotic tree fellers, Visser takes the view that robotic chainsaws are some time away – and there's lower hanging fruit to tackle first. He also doesn't foresee robots with humanoid features – two legs, two arms and perhaps a head – clomping through New Zealand forests, as fun or frightening as that might be.

Forestry robots will be wheeled or tracked vehicles – uncool, but high-tech industrial beasts built to survive the steepest terrains, festooned with video cameras, connected to the internet cloud, but still overseen by a human. Think of big bulldozers, without a cab for human control.

Visser, in a workshop put on by the Southern Wood Council in the lower South Island of NZ in mid-March, said mechanisation of the forestry industry had already come to New Zealand. There are fewer hands on chainsaws and more big machines felling and processing trees, especially on flat land. Log extraction is the most promising aspect of autonomous forestry, Visser says. In a January report he wrote for Forest and Wood Products Australia, Visser called it the "most realistic" area for autonomous development.

Skidders and forwarders driven by humans are used for extraction on flat and rolling terrain. Extraction is predictable but sometimes dangerous work, Visser says. Autonomous machines could work on relatively well-defined trails in the forest. They don't need to think much, just move along the trail back and forth, extracting logs to the landing.

"However, for such extraction systems to become very productive and cost effective, [they] need to be able to self-load and unload," Visser wrote in the Australian report. In other words, robots need to be able to identify the trees or logs in the forest, know how to pick them up, and stack them. He thought autonomous extraction technology was a "near-future opportunity", one to five years away. More >>.

Source: Scoop

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Flying autonomous taxi welcomed to NZ airspace

Airways has announced it is piloting future technologies needed to support the arrival of autonomous flying vehicles in New Zealand airspace. This follows confirmation by Zephyr Airworks that it will develop and test its air taxi, called Cora, in New Zealand.

The air navigation services provider will develop a nationwide unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) traffic management system, known as UTM, to enable drone activity across New Zealand airspace as well as integrate these vehicles safely into the national air traffic network.

Airways CEO Graeme Sumner says, “There is no doubt that technology is evolving and Airways’ role is to enable safe and flexible access to our airspace to allow these new industries to thrive. New Zealand’s regulatory environment and relatively uncongested airspace make us an attractive option for new operators. We are looking for ways to safely support more complex operations and facilitate new entrants, including the Zephyr Airworks’ autonomous aircraft, into our skies.”

The trial of the AirMap drone traffic management platform currently underway in Canterbury and Queenstown is the first step in this development. AirMap allows drone pilots to plan their flights, seek authorisations and get information about the areas they’re operating in. The next phase Airways is planning is to develop tracking tools that allow UAVs to be accurately monitored once they are beyond the pilot’s line of site and detect and avoidance capability to keep them safely separated from other aircraft.

Airways also intends to test the capabilty of New Zealand’s existing telecommunications network to track the likes of Zephyr Airworks’ autonomous vehicle Cora and UAVs in uncontrolled airspace and enable better telemetry for drone pilots. Graeme Sumner says, “We’ve been working with the UAV industry since 2014 via and are committed to supporting this burgeoning sector.

“Our first priority is ensuring the safety of our skies and we’re thrilled to be at the forefront of this ground-breaking trial with Zephyr Airworks.”

Source: Scoop

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Kiwi made shoes made from trees

Have you ever wondered why shoes don’t grow on trees? Well the team behind Allbirds did, their curiosity leading the company to ‘branch out’ with their new shoe collection made from eucalyptus pulp.

From humble beginnings as a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Allbirds’ stylish merino wool shoes were an instant hit with outdoorsy adventurers and Silicon Valley programmers alike. One of the fastest growing shoe brands in the world, the Kiwi company sold their one millionth pair this month, just two years after launching.

Allbirds is celebrating this milestone by pushing the conventions of shoe textiles yet again, but this time with a new collection out of a less than conventional material – wood. This latest innovation was the result of two years and US$27.5 million of funding with American investment firm, Tiger Global Management.

Their investigation into alternative materials led them to tencel lyocell, a wood pulp textile produced from ethically sourced South African Eucalyptus trees. Allbirds wove the cellulosic fibre into a mesh material through a unique 3D-knitting process, allowing the shoes the stretch and comfort of cotton without impacting as harshly on the environment.

The new material requires only five percent of the water and one-third of the land compared to conventional shoe textiles, halving AllBirds’ carbon footprint as well as passing the strict criteria for a Forest Stewardship Council certification.

While the tree-based textile is a step away from the wool approach Allbirds are known for, the new collection is more aligned than ever with their brand values. “Our goal was never to be just a wool company,” says Co-founder Tim Brown. “Our goal was to create the world’s most sustainable shoes using innovative new materials.”

The wood collection offers two styles, ‘tree skippers’ offering a modern take on the traditional 1930’s boat shoe, and ‘tree runners’ following the classic Allbirds sneaker style. The in-sole and heel-cup are still made of merino so the soft fit remains (no word on whether they're quite as washable as the first version, however).

With a momentum that has seen a new pair of Allbirds sold every minute since it launched and plans to expand to a fourth country soon, there’s no doubt that the company's movement into plant-based footwear will prompt other large shoe brands to follow suit.


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AUSTimber2020 launched

Two years out from the big event, AUSTimber2020 was launched on Monday, marking the official countdown to what is the largest timber expo in the Southern Hemisphere. Mr Adan Taylor, Chairman the Australian Forest Contractors Association made the announcement at the HVP Flynn Site in Gippsland, Victoria, saying that AUSTimber2020 is an exciting event, and will bring thousands of visitors to the local region.

“The expo is a whole of industry event which showcases the best the forest, fibre and wood products industry has to offer, and gives the general public a chance to learn all about how the industry works,” he said. The launch also allowed those who had already committed to exhibit at AUSTimber2020, along with prospective exhibitors and sponsors to join key industry stakeholders to view the site and hear about proposed changes, including the use of one site for all expo and demonstration days.

Latrobe City Council and Wellington Shire Council have again thrown their support behind AUSTimber, which in 2016 generated over AU$8 million to the local and regional economy.

The AUSTimber Launch coincided with the Maryvale Mill Open Day which is celebrating 80 years of pulp and paper productions. Both events show the strength and importance of the timber industry to the region. The industry is a vital industry for regional Victoria. Directly employing more than 21,000 workers, it indirectly supports another 40,000 to 50,000 jobs, providing a sustainable future for suburban, rural and regional communities across Victoria.

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Going paperless: not as green as you may think

“I think it’s bollocks!” growls Anthony Sebastian as I sit up, clutching my notebook aghast. We’d been talking about those pithy green phrases people usually add as part of their email signature, ‘Save a tree, don’t print this email’ or ‘Please consider the environment before printing’.

He had asked me if I used those phrases in my e-messages and I had hastily said yes, hoping to score brownie points with the leonine man whose formidable presence has been well known within the Malaysian conservation circle for over two decades.

“That’s so wrong. It doesn’t work that way anymore,” he protests, before adding glibly: “Because in order to save trees, you need to use paper!” It’s a controversial statement that would undoubtedly twist the knickers of most nature lovers I know, mine included. I’m debating between walking out in a huff —my inner-greenie affronted — and standing my ground to find out if he’s finally sold his soul to the devil.

For as long as I’ve heard about Anthony “Tony” Sebastian, he’s been championing the environment with the same dogged perseverance, pragmatism and assertive outspokenness that has seen him ruffle feathers, tread on sensitive toes and yet go on to be a prolific voice for conservation on numerous platforms. He’s the proverbial environmental gadfly. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him.

A wildlife ecologist by training and a conservation-planning specialist by profession, Sebastian was the first Asian chairperson to preside over the international board for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Specialising in fields of conservation, agriculture and wetlands, forestry, policy as well as international conventions, the Sarawakian, who continues to remain on the FSC Board of directors is intent on strengthening the council’s presence in Asia. And at the moment, he seems to be intent on ruffling my feathers.

Sebastian had flown in from Kuching to attend a stakeholder dialogue organised a day earlier by FSC on forest certification. A pioneer of forest certification in Malaysia, Sebastian hadn’t only served on the board of the Malaysian Timber Certification Council but has been involved in the early efforts of using certification as a tool for the advancement and betterment of our forest industry since the 1990s. At present, he chairs the Malaysian FSC Standards Development Group (SDG), established in 2010 to tailor FSC’s global certification standards for applicability to Malaysia.

Suffice to say, all this indicates that he knows what he’s talking about. Sitting comfortably across me, his eyes twinkling at my obvious discomfort while I struggle to make sense of his “use more paper” statement, he then asks: “What do you know about FSC?” More >>.


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What sawmills of the future will look like

Will the sawmills of the future be run entirely from an I-Phone or I-Pad? Logging and Sawmilling Journal has looked at what might be in store for future sawmills with UBC wood science assistant professor Julie Cool.

It really is stunning to look at sawmills today, and compare them with sawmills— and the way lumber was produced—30 or 40 years ago. The amount of technology that is now employed in areas such as scanning and optimization is nothing short of staggering.

That can also be said of the technology we employ in our everyday lives. For example, it might be a stretch, but there is probably more computing power in a single SmartPhone today than there was in a sawmill back in the 1970s.

It raises the question about what lies in the future for Canada’s sawmills: will a sawmill be run someday from a Smartphone? And will we continue to see mills become even more technologically sophisticated, at the cost of jobs in the industry?

From her office looking over the forests at the University of B.C. in Vancouver, Julie Cool, Assistant Professor in Wood Machining in the Department of Wood Science at the Faculty of Forestry, pondered for Logging and Sawmilling Journal what mills might look like in five, 10 years—and longer out.

Cool has an interesting perspective; in addition to her position at UBC, she has also worked at industry research organization FPInnovations, and for a consulting firm—and is a mechanical engineer. She received her Masters and PhD in wood science from Université Laval.

Cool’s focus is on wood machining and quality control, in primary and secondary forest products manufacturing. If it involves wood-knife interactions at the sawmill, it’s right up her street. At its core, Cool explained, the sawmilling side is all about wood machining and equipment. “And of course, having the right equipment and tools to cut into that piece of wood is important, to produce the right product, and do it efficiently.”

She noted that sawmills work with a variable raw natural material, with no two logs being the same. That variability needs to be accounted for so mills can manufacture a consistent sized product, in the form of 2 x 6s or 2 x 4s, which is the challenge.

Cool’s work at FPInnovations involved working directly with individual sawmills in areas such as quality control and optimization—and it was, she says, a refreshing change from the academic work she had done at the university. Essentially, she was working with sawmills, mostly in eastern Canada, on how they should direct that most valuable of resources: capital for mill upgrades. Forest companies, of course, whether they are big or small, want to get the most bang for their capital expenditure dollars.

And where that capital should go depends, of course, on the make-up of the individual sawmill operation. With the economic, and industry, downturn in 2008, Cool said that in some cases, the companies that survived were either large companies, or they were integrated, to some degree. For example, they might have had an associated flooring, siding or added value operation. “These companies are able to add value right away,” she explained. “It’s enabled them to survive, and better adjust and adapt to the changing markets.”

Perhaps more than ever in the industry, sawmills are being extremely targeted in their mill improvement investments. Specifically—though it really depends on the mill—the target could be on better optimization, scanning, or log rotation.

But one thing remains steady, says Cool. “The most important cut in the sawmill is the first one. Once you’ve made that first cut, the next processing steps are often set.” So, there is a strong focus on investing in the right primary breakdown equipment.

In terms of “Big Data”, data could be taken all the way back to the woods. A forest company could have a system where it knows, from the moment a log is harvested, exactly which primary log breakdown system at which sawmill would best be able to process that log.

She said another trend that is continuing, often due to a shortage of trained graders, is computerized grading equipment. “You want the right people grading,” she says. Sawmills don’t want graders sending lower grades into the higher grades bin, and vice-versa. However, it can be difficult to get the right, detail-oriented people for grading because mills are competing with other industries, such as mining, in rural areas of Canada, she says.

The response has been more technology, in the form of high-tech grading equipment. It can, and does, pay off, but Cool cautions that it’s not “plug and play”. “There are great grading products out there, but they need calibration. The software needs to be tailored to the type of wood that the mill is dealing with, the individual mill operations, its equipment, and line speeds. The return on investment does not happen right away, regardless of the type of automated grading equipment you put in a mill.”

Cool uses the comparison of a SmartPhone. “When you get a new phone, you still need to transfer all your data and download apps before the phone works for your specific needs—it’s not automatic.

“It’s the same, but on a different scale, in a sawmill. And the devil can be in the details in getting equipment to work properly in a mill”, she says. More >>.

Source:, Logging & Sawmilling Journal

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NZ-made driverless vehicle joins Christchurch trial

New Zealand’s first on-road testing of fully autonomous vehicles will change up a gear later this year with the inclusion of the first locally designed and built vehicle. The ohmio LIFT™ will hit the road in a new phase of the trials on private roads at Christchurch Airport. Ohmio Automation Chief Executive Stephen Matthews says this first build of the self-driving ohmio LIFT is a significant milestone for the company.

“It is proof of our capability and realisation of our world-class driverless vehicle technology, pioneered in New Zealand,” he says. “We are very excited to partner with Christchurch Airport. Their vison to realise the future allows us to demonstrate ohmio vehicles successfully operating as a first-mile last-mile strategy in the airport context. We have the vehicle, they have the roads where we can test safely and we look forward to showcasing the Lift in a world premier event in the next few months.”

Mr Matthews says the self-drive ohmio vehicles are designed to operate on predetermined repetitive routes. The system created allows vehicles to be deployed quickly, with a mapping capability which means the vehicle can learn its course and improve performance using artificial intelligence [AI] to repeat the charted course over and over. Multiple ohmio vehicles can also “platoon” forming a connected convoy, which makes ohmio™ a scalable solution, responding to demand to operate as an efficient and safe virtual tram.

Christchurch Airport General Manager Corporate Affairs, Michael Singleton, says the second phase of the trial which began more than a year ago will allow the New Zealand vehicle to be proven and licenced. “Our joint fully autonomous vehicle trial continues, with the ohmio LIFT proving this country is able to design and construct a vehicle made for our conditions,” he says.

“Collaborating with ohmio means we have a technology partner and producer which is able to take the learnings from the trial to date and then adapt and enhance the vehicle to New Zealand needs. The focus of the trial remains on autonomy rather than a particular vehicle, and we look forward to continuing to explore how autonomous shuttles might play a part in our future at our airport.

“Christchurch Airport’s growing reputation as a test bed for innovation, and in particular autonomy, is growing, because we combine the right physical environment for safe testing with understanding of technological advances,” he says.

Source: Scoop

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Value chain optimisation used for container terminal

The Value Chain optimisation team at Scion have recently taken part in a study to investigate the logistical feasibility of a container terminal in Kawerau in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, NZ. The project has significant benefits to the value-added wood products industry in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

In this 5-minute video key stakeholders from Industrial Symbiosis Kawerau (ISK), Ports of Tauranga and KiwiRail talk about how the Scion value chain optimisation research has been used for this particular project and the potential for revolutionising the way that goods are transported in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Around 30,000 20-foot equivalent containers of goods are produced in Kawerau and the Eastern Bay of Plenty each year. This is projected to grow in the near future to more than 95,000 containers. Most of the goods for export goods are currently trucked 90 kilometres to Tauranga, where they are packed into containers before being shipped.

Scion's feasibility study found that there was enough cargo to justify at least one train a day using the existing rail line. A container transport hub close to the producers and the rail line was thought to be the ideal solution, reducing transport costs, vehicle emissions and congestion on roads.

ISK have now appointed their preferred container terminal operator, ISO and located a suitable site with supportive land owners; Putauaki Trust. Industrial Symbiosis Kawerau (ISK) is a group of Kawerau-based organisations working together to find efficiencies and minimise waste between their diverse industries.

Source: Scion

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Wood - stronger than steel

Some varieties of wood, such as oak and maple, are renowned for their strength. But scientists say a simple and inexpensive new process can transform any type of wood into a material stronger than steel, and even some high-tech titanium alloys. Besides taking a star turn in buildings and vehicles, the substance could even be used to make bullet-resistant armour plates.

Wood is abundant and relatively low-cost—it literally grows on trees. And although it has been used for millennia to build everything from furniture to homes and larger structures, untreated wood is rarely as strong as metals used in construction. Researchers have long tried to enhance its strength, especially by compressing and “densifying” it, says Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. But densified wood tends to weaken and spring back toward its original size and shape, especially in humid conditions.

Now, Hu and his colleagues say they have come up with a better way to densify wood, which they report in the February 7 Nature. The results from their trials are impressive. The team’s compressed wood is three times as dense as the untreated substance, Hu says, adding that its resistance to being ripped apart is increased more than 10-fold. It also can become about 50 times more resistant to compression and almost 20 times as stiff.

The densified wood is also substantially harder, more scratch-resistant and more impact-resistant. It can be moulded into almost any shape. Perhaps most importantly, the densified wood is also moisture-resistant:

A five-layer, plywood-like sandwich of densified wood stopped simulated bullets fired into the material—a result Hu and his colleagues suggest could lead to low-cost armour. The material does not protect quite as well as a Kevlar sheet of the same thickness—but it only costs about 5 percent as much, he notes.

The team’s results “appear to open the door to a new class of lightweight materials,” says Ping Liu, a materials chemist at the University of California, San Diego, unaffiliated with the Nature study. Vehicle manufacturers have often tried to save weight by switching from regular steel to high-strength steel, aluminum alloys or carbon-fiber composites—but those materials are costly, and consumers “rarely make that money back in fuel savings,” Liu says. And densified wood has another leg up on carbon-fibre composites: It does not require expensive adhesives that also can make components difficult, if not impossible, to recycle.

Densified wood provides new design possibilities and uses for which natural wood is too weak, says Peter Fratzl, a materials scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Germany who did not take part in the study. “Instead of creating a design for the material at hand, researchers can create a material to suit the design they want,” he says, alluding to a familiar process among aerospace engineers who have a long history of developing ever-stronger alloys to meet their needs.

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... Wal-mart interview

Jennifer a manager at Wal-Mart had the task of hiring someone to fill a job opening. After sorting through a stack of 20 resumes she found four people who were equally qualified. Jennifer decided to call the four in and ask them only one question. Their answer would determine which of them would get the job.

The day came and as the four sat around the conference room table, Jennifer asked, 'What is the fastest thing you know of?' The first man replied, 'A THOUGHT.' It just pops into your head. There's no warning. 'That's very good!' replied Jennifer.

'And, now you sir?', she asked the second man. 'Hmmm...let me see 'A blink! It comes and goes and you don't know that it ever happened... A BLINK is the fastest thing I know of.' 'Excellent!' said Jennifer. 'The blink of an eye, that's a very popular cliché for speed.'

She then turned to the third man, who was contemplating his reply. 'Well, out at my dad's ranch, you step out of the house and on the wall there's a light switch. When you flip that switch, way out across the pasture the light on the barn comes on in less than an instant. 'Yip, TURNING ON A LIGHT is the fastest thing I can think of.' Jennifer was very impressed with the third answer and thought she had found her man. 'It's hard to beat the speed of light,' she said.

Turning to Louie, the fourth and final man, Jennifer posed the same question. Old Louie replied, 'After hearing the previous three answers, it's obvious to me that the fastest thing known is DIARRHEA.' 'WHAT!?' said Jennifer, stunned by the response... 'Oh sure', said Louie. 'You see, the other day I wasn't feeling so good, and I ran for the bathroom, but before I could THINK, BLINK, or TURN ON THE LIGHT, it was already too late.'

Louie is now the new greeter at a Wal-Mart near you! You'll be thinking of this when you enter a Wal-Mart from now on.

And on that note, enjoy your long Easter weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
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Tel: +64 (03) 470 1902, Mob: +64 21 227 5177, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
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This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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