How can the wood industry take its production to new levels with the help of smart technology solutions? Can proven manufacturing methods and production systems from other industries be adapted for industrial wood construction? Or do new innovations need to be developed?
These issues have been discussed in different groups within the network of companies and researchers of Tillverka i trä. Using the needs and challenges of the wood industry as a starting point, three technology areas have been selected as particularly interesting to look at: flexible automation, production logistics, and AR (Augmented Reality) technology.
At the Production Technology Centre in Trollhättan, a test environment has been set up by researchers at University West. A production cell is used to demonstrate how digital tools and automation solutions can be used for the production of prefabricated houses and industrial window installation, for example.
In parallel, the companies Södra, Derome Träteknik, and Click-In Fixture Systems have established close collaborations with University West researchers and students in order to develop their manufacturing processes in different ways.
Öland-based company Click-In Fixture Systems has chosen to investigate how flexible automation solutions can be combined with the company's new window installation product.
‘The researchers built a demonstrator for automated installation of windows into complete wall modules. That’s where we realised the benefits that house builders can get by installing windows using our product in an automated process. This meant that we changed our business model from targeting only tradesmen who build or renovate houses, to focussing on house manufacturers,’ says Ted Linde, owner and Development Manager, Click-In Fixture Systems.
‘During the spring, students at University West will also investigate how our product can be used in the installation of doors in an automated process. We are very pleased with the collaboration with researchers and students. Through Tillverka i trä, we have gained valuable insights and contacts,’ says Tim Börjesson, Production Manager.
For Derome Träteknik, participation in Tillverka i trä has resulted in a pilot project where a doctoral student and a group of students have investigated whether AR technology can facilitate the company's production of roof trusses. Derome manufactures roof trusses for a wide range of house models, and each roof truss often has a unique design. This means that the roof truss operators are constantly adapting the installation to new dimensions.
‘Today, we use laser light to mark where punched metal plates should be attached, but the technology does not always provide precise instructions. That's why we're testing how AR technology can make operators' jobs easier. By using AR glasses, the operator can receive precise installation instructions directly in their field of vision,’ explains Frank Beno, CEO of Derome Träteknik.
‘Tests show that this is an interesting technology that can improve the efficiency and quality of our roof truss production. The AR glasses can also facilitate the training of new operators. With new technology, we also hope to attract more young people to the profession,’ says Frank Beno.
Forest industry group Södra is investing in the production of cross-laminated timber (CL timber), and is investigating the design of new production factories. The company sees opportunities in production logistics, given that the production of the future will be more digitalised than today's. Södra has therefore chosen to expand its research collaboration with two logistics researchers from University West; one doctoral student and a senior researcher who is a half-time adjunct for three years.
‘The researchers will help us find out how more developed production logistics can lead to more efficient processes and flows. This is important, as we strive to use our raw material optimally, and minimise our carbon footprint,’ says Kristoffer Segerholm, Senior Specialist, Södra Innovation.
‘For us, it's valuable to work with people who don't work in the wood industry, and who bring new perspectives. The researchers can help us to look at things differently. With them, we can work on production logistics issues in the short term as well as in the long term. I also see value in the university gaining insights into the challenges facing our industry.’