Integrated vision system helps speed production, maximize efficiency at Pleasant River Lumber


Right view benefits

In a fully automated process, tree-length logs are cut based on measurement data communicated to a PLC optimization system. The Teledyne Dalsa vision system has automatic ambient light detection and can change the exposure time quickly to provide the righSince the new system was implemented, the change has been so significant that Pleasant River Lumber’s partners see few similarities between the new production process and the previous approach. In particular, they note that the vision system has helped them meet several of their key objectives, beginning with determining the accurate length and diameter of each tree. “The critical starting measurement...enables the rest of the system to calculate exactly how a log should be cut,” said Pleasant River partner Jason Brochu. “Getting an accurate length and width measurement is vital because the saws on the new system are accurate to a quarter of an inch, but this is irrelevant if our initial measurements aren’t right.”

Another of the company’s key objectives was to speed processing time, and the new system increased production capacity. The vision system can calculate the measurements of each tree-length log in about 7 seconds, or evaluate about 9 logs per minute.

“This is nearly 10 times faster—and far more accurate—than our previous process,” Jason Brochu added. “While this is a highly automated process, an operator is still involved for the brief second required to assure that the decision the system makes is accurate. There is an override capability if needed, if a log has a significant defect, for example, but since implementation, we’ve found that the system is accurate more than 95% of the time.”

It wasn’t a stated objective of the project, but Pleasant River Lumber is committed to ensuring the health and sustainability of Maine’s forests, and the new system supports this mission by virtually eliminating waste. “All lumber processing is now done at a central location, so we can capture everything from the small pieces that can’t be used in production lumber to the sawdust and bark,” Christopher Brochu noted. “Then we can sell it all at a profit to get value for every by-product of the system. We now have a zero-waste operation, which aligns with our environmental goals, and gives us a new revenue stream.”

Dimensions match market

Lumber is a “commodity,” so the product itself has little to differentiate it from competitive solutions. Pleasant River Lumber’s new automated system gives the company competitive differentiation in the marketplace, however, in that the dimensions of the lumber produced can be changed quickly to meet market conditions. For example, if certain lengths and dimensions are in greater demand—and so are selling at a better price—Pleasant River Lumber can cut its logs accordingly, meeting the demand sooner.

“Our new production system has made us more efficient, more productive, and more nimble,” said Jason Brochu. “Because we can work quickly and accurately, we have the flexibility needed to change the lengths as often as we need to, to adjust to the current market. With our old system, changing the length of the logs we cut was virtually impossible,” Brochu said.

The newly integrated vision system “is a key element in a new lumber production system that has completely transformed the way Pleasant River Lumber does business,” Christopher Brochu concluded.

- Maureen Clancy is marketing project manager at Teledyne Dalsa. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,


Progress Engineering 

Key concepts

  • Integrated vision system speeds production, maximizes efficiency at sawmill
  • Tree-length log measurements are calculated in about 7 seconds, 9 logs per minute, nearly 10 times faster than previously. 

Consider this

How much faster would your throughput be with faster measurements?

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