Automated polishing for high-quality marble and wood Funding provided by the EU enabled researchers to develop automation technology for finishing of marble and wood pieces. Commercialisation should enhance product quality and boost competitiveness of European manufacturers. Industrial Technologies © Thinkstock Manufacturers of structures using marble and wood receive semi-finished products in the form of marble slabs and wood panels that must then undergo finishing processes such as polishing or sanding. Currently, this process is carried out in a generalised way without regard for the specific piece and its unique characteristics or it is entrusted to an expert’s opinion. European researchers sought to automate the finishing process for greater efficiency and effectiveness at reduced cost. To this end, they developed new technology with funding for the ‘Intelligent system for optimising the on-line finish process for stone slabs and wood panels’ (Woodstone) project. Finished product quality and value may depend on types and number of defects as well as colour variations. Scientists sought to develop a system capable of evaluating a slab or panel with consideration of these properties and of dimensions of the piece. The Woodstone prototype incorporated a digital camera, a three-dimensional (3D) laser scanner and a hyperspectral system along with individual software for each module. Results indicated that, although the least sophisticated, the digital camera was in fact the most useful together with its analysis software. The camera enabled obtainment of overall qualitative and quantitative data exactly of the sort most useful to manufacturers from a commercial point of view. While the other two systems provide detailed information regarding an individual defect or flaw and the exact composition of the panel or slab, application in the field would be limited for routine analysis and finishing. Further development of processing algorithms incorporating more and more aesthetic attributes will allow excellent automation of finishing based on pre-assigned rules. Woodstone’s prototype has great potential for streamlining the marble slab or wood panel finishing process in a tailor-made way leading to better and more homogeneous products. Given that finishing plays a critical role in the perceived quality and thus market value of the final product, Woodstone should be in great demand.