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LIGNA 2013 – Captivating preview of the latest in high-tech forestry technology

The Hannover Exhibition Center has long been the venue of choice for world premieres of game-changing innovations. And this paradigm is especially true of LIGNA, the biggest showcase for the global forestry, wood processing and wood working industries and one of the most successful events in the Center’s stable of world-class fairs. From 6 to 10 May, around 1,700 companies from 50 countries will set up shop at the Hannover Exhibition Center to present their latest technological developments to an international audience of 90,000 trade visitors. So what types of high-tech forestry machines, processes and technologies can industry professionals expect to see at this year’s LIGNA? That’s not an easy question to answer because the big industry players and their competitors like to keep their highlight innovations under wraps right up until opening day. Even so, details of some of the broader trends and themes have emerged – enough for the following “tradeshow teaser” compilation. Market- and customer-driven product development Most exhibitors have indicated that their R&D programs are largely driven by a combination of market trends and customer needs. This statement may sound like a truism, but its simplicity hides a number of amazing achievements. Over the last two years, manufacturers of forestry technology, especially those operating in the fast-moving energy wood sector, have substantially upgraded many features of their existing products and developed an astounding array of completely new solutions. Suppliers of harvesting vehicles and machines have poured unprecedented R&D resources into meeting the needs of the operator in the forest. Their primary focus has been on improving workplace ergonomics – to ensure that the design of cabs and controls is optimally adapted to the human body and its cognitive abilities. The basic guiding principle underpinning all development work in this segment is that a machine can only ever be as good as its operator. Visitors to the “Bioenergy from wood” display area will see a wide range of newly developed harvester and feller buncher heads. These types of machines are no longer used just for softwood harvesting and log preparation. The latest generation of feller buncher heads includes competitively priced models that are designed for processing residual log grades and hardwood for use as fuel wood. These units, which can be mounted on small transport vehicles or forwarders, provide a second set of grappling arms that can gather multiple stems per cycle. They offer greater productivity and therefore lower costs in situations that are not suited to harvesters, such as thinning operations. The lucky drivers of the next generation of forestry vehicles will get to enjoy an unprecedented level of comfort. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows that provide the best-possible visibility, and cabs that can be rotated 180 degrees in under a minute. But best of all, they will gain a powerful new ally: state-of-the-art control systems. These provide comprehensive information on the vehicle’s key parameters, can be flexibly adapted to changing requirements and intelligently network all of the vehicle’s functional components. The market leaders, all of which will be represented at this year’s LIGNA, also promise to deliver compact, ergonomically designed control units and joysticks that allow the operator to carry out a vast array of different tasks. Also top of the agenda are clearly structured user interfaces and easy-to-follow screen menus that shorten training times and ensure efficient, intuitive operation. In keeping with the worldwide green trend, some vehicles now also feature an “eco” mode. Florian Attenhauser from German manufacturer Sennebogen Maschinenfabrik explains: “The eco mode aligns the machine’s power output with the types of tasks it is performing at the time. This can result in significant fuel savings.” Improved operating cost management Owners and operators of the next generation of forestry machinery and vehicles will be able to gauge the current state, energy consumption and level of utilization of their capital equipment with a single glance at a display. Having real-time access to this type of information will enable them to ensure their machines are used as economically and efficiently as possible. The technology that makes this possible has opened the way to a number of innovative new services that will also be presented at LIGNA 2013. These include the “efficiency check” offered by a major German distributor of forestry machinery, which promises more efficient work routines and lower operating costs. The check involves a detailed analysis of the operating data generated by a machine’s on-board systems. The results of this analysis are then used to optimize the machine’s configuration and workflows for a given task and work environment. Harvesters and forwarders that generate their own invoices? But there are also more direct ways of extracting value from on-board data ­– for instance, when forestry contractors use them to generate invoices for their forest-owner clients immediately after a harvesting operation has ended. The potential of such a system has been tested as part of the German Forestry Council’s ForstInVoice pilot project, which will be presented to industry practitioners at this year’s LIGNA fair. “On-board data can be used to streamline and, more importantly, expedite the contractor’s bookkeeping and invoicing processes,” explained Björn Urbanke, one of the experts involved in the project. “Contractors are then in a better position to negotiate earlier payment, or at least  part payment, for their services, which will help them with their cashflow.” State-of-the-art IT continues to make major inroads into practically all areas of forestry. For instance, there are GPS-based emergency call and location systems that provide an added layer of security in the inherently dangerous world of forestry work. This year’s LIGNA will feature specially designed GPS mobile lone worker protection systems and even emergency signaling units that are integrated into machines such as winch control systems. Another example of high-power IT in the service of high-tech timber harvesting and processing is computer tomography. This year’s LIGNA will profile a new generation of multi-sensor scanners for sawmills that can “X-ray” logs of up to 25 meters in length at incredible speed (two meters per second), thereby generating virtual cross sections in real-time. The technology gauges timber quality and log dimensions in next to no time, enabling the user to generate and use log-specific sawing patterns for optimal yield. According to its developer, Microtec (North Italy), the technology pays for itself in just one year, thanks to the added value it extracts from logs. And this solution is just one of many innovations on show at LIGNA that will give trade visitors from the forestry sector the information edge they need to compete in today’s markets. Source: LIGNA Read more news related LIGNA published at Infurma Visit the Ligna website
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