Italian timber and log scanning technology manufacturer Microtec has been in the news of late for its prize-winning exploits.

Fresh from being awarded the Italian National Award for Innovation by Confindustria (the main association representing manufacturing and service companies in Italy), it was also cited in the 2016 Marcus Wallenberg Prize for its CT log scanning technology.

The Prize, worth €205,000, was presented to Microtec’s CEO Federico Giudiceandrea and mathematician Professor Alexander Katsevich by King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden during October.

The award, which specifically recognises breakthroughs by individual and groups of scientists in the wood processing industry, is now in its 33rd year.

Mr Giudiceandrea said he was overwhelmed by the honour and described the “groundbreaking” possibilities created by Microtec’s CT Log scanner in the woodworking industry as “most likely the greatest achievement in my career as an entrepreneur”.

“The introduction of this new technology marks the beginning of a new era for the sawmill industry,” added Marcus Wallenberg, chairman of the board of the Marcus Wallenberg Prize.

“The research and innovative implementation have opened new horizons, facilitating further optimization of the sawing process.”

The dIgital log

CT Log allows continuous, qualitative and full 3D log reconstruction.

Size and position of internal wood defects can be accurately described in all three dimensions.

Identifying the internal defects, CT Log evaluates appearance, quality and strength and assesses their impact on the final products before the physical breakdown of the log.

Sawing and bucking solutions are continuously optimised based on the highest quality and resale value, allowing production to be managed according to real-time priorities.

Large Cone-Beam Computed Tomography scanning for the log yard and saw infeed was developed by Microtec engineers using a large X-ray sensor rotating around the log and an innovative mathematical inversion algorithm to perform high speed, high resolution X-ray CT-scanning.

Mr Giudiceandrea implemented Mr Katsevich’s theoretical knowledge with the CT Log scanner, which has now been installed in wood industries across the world to optimise use of raw material.

It works at a conveyor speed of up to 180m/min to keep pace with modern sawing lines.

In sawmills where CT Log is used, an average value increase of 8% has been reported. Microtec estimates this to equate to an investment payback time of less than a year for an average-sized sawmill.

algorithm breakthrough

“The successful project with Microtec is a great example of what is possible to achieve for a scanner manufacturer through collaboration,” said Mr Katsevich, professor of mathematics at The University of Central Florida and chief technology officer of Houston-based iTomography Corporation. “I am happy when my mathematical ideas are implemented in practice, said Mr Katsevich.

Research on using computed tomography (CT) began in order to detect undesirable board features in wood.

The result was promising, but industrial realisation was hampered by the slow speed of the process.

CT images are not captured directly but reconstructed by a sophisticated algorithm. Mr Katsevich’s breakthrough in CT imaging was developing the first fast and exact 3D image reconstruction algorithm – known today as Katsevich’s algorithm.

Mr Giudiceandrea wanted to implement the approach in CT scanning with a high throughput, placing very stringent restrictions on the algorithm.

“He informed me about the requirements that my algorithm was supposed to satisfy, and I told him about some theoretical constraints that the scanner should satisfy,” said Mr Katsevich.

“Our areas of expertise were complementary and we made a great team,” he said.