From Latvia, over the Atlantic to British Columbia and south across the Pacific to New Zealand, timber processors have been contributing to the success of the LT300 industrial band sawmill launched by Wood-Mizer at the 2003 Ligna woodworking show in Germany. During the following year, reports its UK manager James Andrews, the manufacturer had notched up a worldwide sales figure of 100+ units.
On top of the 80 LT300 Wood-Mizer industrial band sawmills sold in Canada and USA, another 5 are now operating in Poland and a trio each in NZ in the equally timber-rich Baltic state of Latvia. Nearer home, James Andrews says that a major utility is conducting studies on how it could benefit from using W-M’s latest industrial milling unit.
Using the same technology on which its 31.000-strong small band sawmills are based across the world, the LT300 model has the capacity of sawing 20m3 in a single shift when coupled with resawing and edging equipment – which translates to over 10.000 m3 a year. The equipment is also designed for, and capable of, multiple-shift operation.
Beginning the story in BC, the Canadian LT300 mill at Uphill Wood Supply, Castlegar combines it with a ‘traditional’ W-M LT40 and twin head W-M MultiHead resaw to process timber for both home and US lumber markets. The thin kerf, ‘no-wasted’ principle suits this owner’s environmental sensitivity, James said.
The Canadian firm regards its approach to sawmilling as important because wood-fibre not consumed for energy or as long-lived end-products ultimately gives up its carbon in the form of greenhouse gases. ‘Enhancement in the amount of wood converted to durables can significantly contribute to reduced atmospheric carbon’, it believes.
Uphill produces about half-a-million board feet (1.200m3) of birch in multiple grades, a million feet (2.400m3) of cedar and a variety of miscellaneous products every year. It uses the LT300 for primary breakdown as a ‘true production sawmill bought at a fraction of the cost normally associated with mills of such scale’. The company concentrates on grade and quality as much as sheer productivity.
The new machine removes side-boards from logs until the operator, using electronic controls, sends the resulting cant off to resaw, processing logs of between six and 18ft (2.0-5.5m). Random length can be run back to back and slabs are processed through an edger, with cants being routed to the twin multihead resaw system.
The latter is a horizontal band resaw available in one to six head configurations. Through the use of very thin kerf technology, the system – James says – ‘will yield up to 32% more lumber than gang circle saws’. Backup is provided by the W-M LT40, once used as a portable sawmill. The mill saws short runs, very short logs, special orders and logs up to 32ft (16m).
Residuals as the Castlegar operation are recovered and sold either as firewood or to produce energy in a co-generation plant, itself representing a greenhouse-gas reduction strategy allowing for reduced fossil fuel use.
Nearer to home, The Latvians were the first Europeans to adopt an LT300 and owner Vitaly Goyevs uses it to cut 15.000m3 of lumber a year – and this is increasing. As well as being able to augment output dramatically, he has also saved on material and labour, thanks to its use.
He set up in business in 1997 with seven Latvian bandsaws. In 2001 he installed W-M LT40, in 2002, a MultiHead and in 2003, his industrial LT300 housed in a building in the small town of Ludza. From the outside deck, the inside log singler loads the material onto the mill which is managed remotely by an operator in a cabin – well protected from sharp Latvian winters.
During sawing, as the head returns, the board-removal fingers push the board off the log onto an inclined belt which takes it to a cross transfer table, also controlled by the operator. Here, the board is either sorted for stacking or for further processing.
Cruise control automatically moderates cutting speeds to maximize productivity. Edgers and a ‘multirip’ in the workshop cut beams and wide boards into smaller dimensions. The LT40 is also downstream from the LT300.
In a smaller workshop, small logs are processed and come in one by one to the outside conveyor. They follow butt-to-butt through two multirips which convert the log into three-sided cants. This is the raw material for a W-M MultiHead that produces pallet boards. Both edging and strip are also produced here with four people working shifts in the workshop.
Vitaly Goyevs: ‘All this didn’t require major plant investment and I was confident that the sawmill would repay me anyway. Already, I’m beginning to be proved correct’, he added.
Down under – amidst Kiwi’s ‘difficult’ logs – the W-M’s most effective use has been in processing pruned Radiata pine sawlogs. This is a grade sawing operation with random width clears (normally 25mm boards) from the outside and core cants usually sawn to dimensions or in multiples.
Radiata is a medium to soft wood with a basic density of between 350 and 450kg/m3. Pruned log sizes range between 360 and 1.000mm and the knotty core is usually in the center 200mm or so.
One customer, who has run a multi-million-dollar ‘traditional’ sawmill operation for many years, reports production rates of around 3.5m3 per hour when complete sawing operation is done on the LT300. The latter was intended to complement the original sawmill but it has surpassed it in terms of profit/m3, W-M states.
Operating costs are reported to be about $NZ 7.50 per m3 compared with $NZ 17.00 for the large, multi-million-dollar sawmill. Additionally to the operational savings, the initial capital expended on installation – such as power and foundations – are slashed, it is reported. This also permits flexibility when altering mill layouts to suit changing market demand. In effect, this company earns approximately $NZ 9.50 more per sawn cubic meter than with the high-volume traditional mill, commented James Andrews. ‘This raises the question of whether they want to make sawdust or money! On 15.000m3 pa, this pays for the LT300 in one year’, he added.
Summing up, W-M reports that growing numbers of LT300 operators involved in a range of installations, species and dimensions sawn witnessed enhanced profit from fewer logs. ‘Having selected a profitable method of converting round logs to sawn timber (they) claim the only question remaining is the volume that they wish to produce.
‘W-M’s sawmill design team works with would-be operators to create an operation that aims to maximize profitability and flexibility while minimizing exposure to risk from outside factors’, it concluded.
Forestry & British Timber