20 March, 2019
The future of processing - design technology and automation
|Many processing and manufacturing facilities have used some kind of robotics
and automation for many years already
Compiled by Benjamin Brits
explosion of technological advances has resulted in a fundamental shift
and transformation of the human experience through new-age requirements
and concept design.
From forestry onwards safety, improving
productivity and getting workers out of the ‘danger zone' has been a
major push for international forestry managers, forest owners, logging
contractors and equipment suppliers, to modify their wood harvesting and
processing operations over the past few years.
driver to increased mechanisation internationally has been the skilled
machine operator shortages that many forestry companies are now
currently facing. The ultimate goal of the world industry is to have ‘no
worker on the slope, or no hand on the chainsaw'.
development and the pace of change over the last couple of years, in
keeping with other industries, has been rapid and exciting for the
industry. Recent research suggests that in 2019, as many as 35% of
leading organisations will explore the use of robots to automate
operations. The timber industry isn't any different. In fact, the switch
is already underway in many overseas countries.
Robotics and automation
Forestry contractors abroad, in conjunction with local engineering companies, have really led the charge.
a myriad of new designs and operations, including vision systems for
remote operation of equipment, have been introduced to extract wood
safely off steeper slopes. More recently, tele-operation of wood
extraction has successfully been trialled in New Zealand where the
operator is sitting separately and away from the felling and log
extraction operations. They would be sitting in an operator's cabin (on
or off site) with live video and audio feedback from the machine being
transmitted back to the operator. The console with joysticks and pedals
(similar to a gaming setup) is a replica of the layout in the machinery.
addition to improving worker safety, this remote controlled felling
technique will change how wood harvesting is undertaken on steeper
terrains. This opportunity also affords the maximum available space to
be used for plantations as risk through safety and control is greatly
Having a similar impact on the wood supply chain are the
rapid advances being made in loading and transporting of wood. Like
remote felling, virtual reality goggles have been introduced where
operators can now work log loading cranes remotely in the relative
safety of the truck cab. The objective, like remote felling is to
develop the technology so that the operator is out of the truck and
operating the crane remotely from a distance.
robotics and automation for forestry companies, everything from
planting, silviculture, wood harvesting, extracting the wood from the
forest site and transporting logs to the ports or processing plant are
moving at a fast pace," says Grant Dodson, chairperson of the Southern
Wood Council (SWC).
There are some clear near-future
opportunities, including operating extraction machines such as skidders
and forwarders without an operator. This will not only increase
efficiency, but allow good operators to work on more complex machines,
and provide a unique opportunity for the way new equipment is designed
leading to the possibility of more intricate work on sites.
robotic systems are already commonplace in controlled workspaces such
as factories. The future of wood harvesting and processing systems is
most certainly going to include the robotic element.
everything we experience, from jet engines to life-like movie monsters,
were made by man or machine. And through the use of cutting-edge
technologies, we can always find the exciting seeds of a future world
waiting in the wings of digital innovation.
Within South Africa,
innovation in design-thinking has evolved across numerous industries.
From the film industry, right through to the art of architecture, South
Africans are truly making their mark and leaving a lasting global
impression for future generations to come.
Modifying professional spaces
design not only elevates our personal experience, but also alters our
professional experience. Within South Africa, we are already seeing the
rise of co-working zones occupied by rising start-ups and smaller work
spaces to accommodate the requirement of a flexible workforce and the
The constant technology advances throughout the world
are being developed for this very purpose and companies and industry
will require to keep up with these advances. Society expands at rapid
rates annually and it is therefore only logically to expect that
technology and design will move together to cater to ‘more, faster and
better' ways required to fulfil needs.
Reaching new dimensions
design is not only changing the professional and personal human realm,
but it also creating a new dimension altogether. For anyone that has
tried on a virtual reality headset, you will be familiar with how the
feeling differs in comparison to the traditional 3D experience. VR has
the potential to shift entire industries.
Take the field of
architecture as an example. VR can be used as a tool to help clients
understand complex designs in a more intuitive way than blueprints or
miniature models. Today, with one click, you can easily jump from a 3D
model to an immersive environment thanks to the convergence of the
industries and technologies. We are essentially bringing gaming
technologies into the real world and we can expect to see more of this
technology flowing into industry to find better and safer ways for us to
The power of VR is also being used in many other
industries from mining, water management, construction and equipment
development. Mechanics or technicians are able to see the inner
mechanics of engines or infrastructure sets, all aiding in the progress
The future of making is already here. With
today's technologies, advances in 3D printing, existing robotics
capabilities and powered by the creativity of manufacturers, builders
and makers of things, we are now able to design and make just about
anything in any sector. An exciting era is upon us.
Source: Timber IQ