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Production improvement by new optimised method in wood quality control and cutting with an high-performance on-line system

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Radio waves for quality control

Quality control is a key factor in the success of most if not all industries. When performed by human operators, quality control is time-consuming and costly and introduces other sources of error into the process through subjectivity, fatigue and other well-documented effects. Development of an innovative scanning technique by European specialists for the wood product industry cannot only improve services, but can also make the workplace safer.

Industrial Technologies

In order to produce a quality product, a company must be able to guarantee quality throughout the entire production process. Recent advances in technology have automated some processes, but quality control is still predominantly carried out by human operators. This is both time-consuming and costly. With ever narrowing profit margins, companies are constantly looking for ways in which to save costs at different points in the production process. Recent innovations, particularly in the fields of sensor development, computing and data processing, offer the prospect of automating several quality control processes. These result directly in improving the quality of the final product and reducing the costs required to produce it. Various parts of the light spectrum (visible, infrared and/or ultraviolet wavelengths) as well as radio waves, microwaves, and other types of waves are employed to inspect the item of interest. Scientists from leading research centres across Europe have developed an innovative method utilising a radio frequency (RF) sensor to scan wood for defects. The main advantage of the new method, for which a European patent has been applied, is the ability to detect defects and irregularities both on and below the surface. The RF scanner can work in real-time and is not affected by dirt, dust or different grades of timber. Another significant benefit is that the RF technology is not harmful to human operators and can replace the dangerous X-ray systems that are currently in use. A prototype was designed, developed and tested as part of a European research project, funded in part by the BRITE/EURAM3 Programme. The consortium is looking to turn its innovation into market potential. The prototype was evaluated in a pilot phase in the timber industry, but the technology is applicable to many other industries, such as art preservation, marble and ceramics, food inspection and possibly the medical sector (e.g. mammography). The RF scanner is easily incorporated into existing systems and is easy to use.

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