LIGNA HANNOVER 2009, 18 to 22 May

18.11.2008: LIGNA HANNOVER 2009, 18 to 22 May

Energy efficient production processes at LIGNA HANNOVER 2009: Evaporating the energy costs of timber drying

The official motto for LIGNA HANNOVER 2009 (18 to 22 May) will be "Making more out of wood - technologies for resource efficiency". Resource efficiency is a major issue when it comes to timber drying in particular. As is the case with all living things, wood largely consist of water. Before it can be used, moisture has to be removed from this natural raw material.

Whereas natural air drying might suffice for the private handyman, complex technical drying processes - where moisture is removed via controlled heat exchange mechanisms - are required for market-ready products. The necessity of such processes is not least founded on the strong variability of timber and the individual characteristics of different wood species.

Each species and each kiln batch has its own specific moisture content, which has to be accounted for. In addition, the target moisture content will depend on the final application of the timber. For instance, for staircases, a moisture content of nine percent is usually used, whereas 15 percent is appropriate for structural lumber (figures given subject to a tolerance range of plus/minus three percent). At best, open-air drying will achieve a moisture content of 15 percent - even assuming favorable conditions and a generous drying timeframe.

Air drying is therefore clearly not suitable for certain applications. In addition, a number of other quality-reducing phenomena, such as splitting or warping, can occur during air drying. The energy cost savings thus need to be seen in the light of potentially substantial losses in lumber value. And when the higher costs of storage and of tying up capital over significantly longer periods of time are also factored into the equation, it quickly becomes clear that there is no way around technical drying processes.

Timber kiln manufacturers have a long history of investing in developing energy-efficient processes. However, given the substantial increases in energy costs in recent years, energy efficiency today ranks right alongside quality assurance as the Number One issue confronting the timber drying sector.

The most frequently-used lumber drying process is convection drying, which takes places in specially constructed drying chambers. It comprises three phases: heating, drying and conditioning.

The energy consumption of convection drying can be reduced particularly by recovering waste heat from the exhaust air. The greatest energy savings occur when the drying chamber operates at constant levels, which allows for optimal heat extraction. This places considerable demands on the quality and resilience of the drying systems employed - the associated costs of which, however, quickly pay off. Using a heat pump in place of or complementary to electric or warm-water heating systems further boosts energy savings.

In conventional convectional drying systems, depending on wood species and lumber dimensions, intelligent control technology can save on between 20 and 50 percent of electric consumption - without any quality losses or need for increased cycle times - again assuming drying chamber conditions are kept constant and airflow is optimized.

The second most common drying process used in the wood processing sector is vacuum drying. This can also boast significant energy savings. In vacuum drying, the lumber is subjected to a low-pressure environment, which reduces the boiling point of water and thus leads to vaporization at lower temperatures. The advantage of this process is that the drying process occurs relatively quickly, cutting drying times.

The key to realizing the full potential of vacuum drying is a sophisticated pressure and temperature control system. And specialized software which ensures that the rotation speed of ventilators is adapted to the moisture content of the lumber being dried, minimizing energy wastage. In this way, the vacuum process lowers electricity consumption without affecting quality and drying times.

For some time now, solar energy has also been employed to significantly reduce the energy cost associated with timber drying. Here, solar collectors, situated in the suspended ceiling of the drying chamber, produce the requisite heat while a bank of ventilators installed above the suspended ceiling ensure constant airflow. This configuration, which was initially developed for drying firewood, can also be used for sawn timber. LIGNA HANNOVER 2009 will showcase optimized versions of this drying system, which use complementary supplementary heating installations or heat pumps, for instance, as well as highlighting new areas of application.

Achieving major energy savings necessitates automated control systems, precise monitoring of charge moisture content and suitably-qualified employees managing all stages of the drying process. Drying plant which meets the relevant quality standards and is equipped with the requisite technology significantly reduces energy consumption while increasing efficiency, product quality and safety.

LIGNA HANNOVER, leading trade fair for the world's forest and wood industries, showcases the entire spectrum of the latest timber drying processes and technologies, including all associated measuring and control systems. Since the world's suppliers are fully aware that their customers are more focused on energy than ever before, visitors to the 2009 showcase can look forward to a comprehensive line-up of a number of major energy-saving innovations. 

 

- Anja Brokjans-

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/deutsche-messe-hannover-ligna-2009-may-evaporating-energy-costs-timber-drying---47594.html

18.11.2008 / MaP

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