"World First" Innovation to the Global market
InFact and Carter Holt Harvey Take "World First" Innovation to the Global market
Press release, Christchurch, 23-Jul-03:
High spec design ingenuity by local electronic product design experts, InFact, has provided Fibre-gen - a technology division of Carter Holt Harvey - the green light for global commercial production of a revolutionary forestry innovation that measures wood quality using acoustic science.
Used in log yards or on the forest skid site, the new Director HM200 allows segregation of premium grade veneer (LVL) and saw logs by measuring acoustic speed and log stiffness prior to processing.
It improves yields of high-value wood products and up to 10% increase in profit by enabling operators to measure and segregate logs by quality and value before they leave the forest site.
Designed for Export
The patented 'Director HM200' is the result of a significant rebuild and enhancement by InFact of an earlier prototype developed by IRL for Carter Holt Harvey.
Led by Nigel Sharplin the internationally experienced team at InFact worked with Peter Carter, project coordinator and technology manager of Fibre-gen, to manage the project design and development.
"InFact were significant in the development of the Director," said Peter. "They worked diligently to take an initial concept prototype developed for us by IRL and turned it into a high spec, high value export product with exciting market potential. They redesigned and stripped the technological components and then enhanced it into a robust, ergonomic and full-featured asset for the global forest industry."
The device works by pressing the sensor against the end of the log and hitting the log with a hammer. Calculating the acoustic speed of the hit along the log the Director is able to provide an immediate and accurate measurement of the stiffness of the wood.
This project involved rigorous design enhancement and development, as well as the commissioning of purpose built components using specialised suppliers throughout New Zealand, including business mobility experts iTouch who helped relay the electronics and improve elements of the software.
Fibre-gen approached InFact to take the development from a working prototype through to a 3rd generation product. In just 12 months InFact was able to design and manufacture the latest model, the Director HM200. One hundred units are being manufactured and actively promoted by Fibre-gen in Canada, the US and Australia.
"As a 'world first' product unique in the forestry industry, we anticipate that the market potential of the Director will be 'significant'," said Peter Carter.
Contract electronics manufacturer GPC Electronics built the first 100 units of the Director destined for sale in the export markets through the expanding CHH division, Fibre-gen.
Rising to the Challenge
"Our challenge was to develop a product that would be reliable, precise, and with an advanced feature set that would rival the functionality of other essential business technology assets," said Nigel Sharplin, managing director of InFact Ltd.
"On a busy skid site the device is often exposed to water, grease, resins and spray paint. To environmentally isolate the electronics while still enable the operator to integrate the collected log data with the office PC, we designed a special moulded plastic casing with an integrated seal groove and screw bosses to form a uniform plastic wall. It offered a real challenge as we needed to achieve the product aesthetic so that it could perform both on site and desk functions."
"Every part, material and component design had to be considered for durability, availability and ease of manufacture. This was to ensure viable and cost effective production for long-term sales success and mass production for a global market," continued Nigel. "It was a very exacting, challenging and satisfying project."
Science over Assumption
Segregating logs by quality has traditionally relied on the experienced eye based on age and species, and the location and climate where the tree was grown.
Fibre-gen recognised the forest industry needed a rapid, non-destructive test for logs to determine their internal wood properties. They commissioned Industrial Research Ltd (IRL) to develop 'Hitman' - an early prototype that would use acoustic technology to measure the internal wood properties on site, with an easy to operate handheld device.
While the prototypes worked well, the original Hitman product failed to cope with rugged field conditions. The heavy wear and tear on the device by the operators played havoc on the casing and electronics. To fix the problems the device had to go back to the drawing board to be extensively redesigned and ruggedised. Importantly, the new model had to be able to perform in all weather and withstand the rough and tumble conditions of forest harvesting operations.
Return on Investment
Depending on the application, the payback for customers of the Director HM200 varies from just a few weeks to a few months. With high-grade supply of wood products and better value recovery, the Director can yield between 5 and 10 percent profit increase from day one of operation.
Of course, Carter Holt Harvey forestry and processing operations are also directly benefiting from the Fibre-gen acoustic tool by increasing the value they extract from every log.
"It's about taking knowledge and intellectual property and applying it in a way that addresses real issues and maximises opportunities in our business," says Peter, "and in this case, providing a tool to enable the capture of additional value that would otherwise be lost."
InFact Ltd is one of New Zealand's leading electronic and mechanical product design companies that specialises in developing and managing the implementation of new products, machines and systems for clients in the consumer, industrial, military and technology industries.
Established in Christchurch in 1999, InFact offers an effective, proactive and practical design service that ensures all projects are completed on time and within budget. By adhering to ISO9001 quality standards customers are assured a structured methodology that is also flexible and accountable.
With internationally experienced in-house expertise, close partner relationships and a wide portfolio of products and services, InFact has the resource and capability to convert ideas into winning products. Visit www.infact.co.nz for more information.
Fibre-gen is a Carter Holt Harvey business that provides specialised technology applications and proven solutions for enhancing process efficiencies, consultation and expertise in new product development to the forest harvesting and wood products industries. Visit website www.Fibre-gen.com.
Carter Holt Harvey is a vertically integrated forest products company with forest holdings exceeding 332,000 hectares and an annual harvest of 5 million cubic metres of radiata pine. This resource is managed on a sustained yield basis and is expanding, and is expected to increase to 7 million cubic metres annually by the year 2010. It is the largest forest products company in New Zealand and Australia, with extensive processing capacity in solid wood, pulp & paper, and packaging products. This capacity will enable the company to meet the increasing demand for wood products in New Zealand and throughout the Pacific Rim well into the 21st Century.