Valutec, a leading European lumber kiln company, has delivered more than 4,000 kilns in its history. Supplying two more lumber kilns might not seem like a big event. However, not all kilns are the same. For Valutec, commissioning its first TC continuous kilns in North America — for Pleasant River Lumber’s sawmills in Maine — is a big deal.
”The TC continuous kiln is unique in terms of capacity, flexibility and quality,” said Valutec CEO Robert Larsson. “But most of the time it’s not enough just to hear about it and read about it. Customers want to see kilns in operation. That is why these two are so important. It is much easier for sawmill owners and managers in North America to visit another state than travel to another continent.”
Nevertheless, Chris and Jason Brochu, owners of Pleasant River Lumber, traveled across the Atlantic Ocean before choosing Valutec.
”We visited several Swedish sawmills that were using Valutec products, and they exceeded our highest expectations in terms of the details, quality of design, and energy efficiency,” said Jason. “We saw one that was 38 years old that was still operating great. At the end of the day, it was a very easy decision.”
Capacity and Flexibility
The Brochus decided to invest in two Valutec TC continuous kilns, which provided a perfect fit with the company’s emphasis on producing high quality lumber. The TC kiln has become a big success in recent years throughout Europe and Russia with its high capacity and flexibility. The market breakthrough came with the development of individual climate control in each drying zone, where air and heat are controlled separately. The TC kiln provides full freedom to create the ultimate drying process with unlimited freedom to mix dimensions and minimal moisture content variation with reduced risk of checking.
“These kilns are very important to our efforts to increase capacity,” said Jason. “We’ve conducted a detailed analysis, focusing primarily on the kiln’s quality, drying efficiency, energy efficiency, and price.”
Kilns That Are Built To Last
Valutec’s roots in northern Sweden are one reason the company is renowned for kilns that are built to last and and provide high functionality in an extreme climate. Those are qualities that hold a certain significance for the Brochu brothers.
“Obviously, we have a very challenging climate,” explained Jason, at the company’s sawmills in Dover and Jackman, both located in northern Maine. “It’s very cold, with a lot of snow. We were concerned with dual path continuous kilns, with having those doors open all the time, about the heat loss and how to control it, and how much boiler capacity we would need. With the progressive kiln, there are multiple stages inside the kiln, and as the lumber moves inside the kiln, the doors shut on both ends, so the kiln seals.”
“Valutec’s guarantees on steam consumption were a big attraction because with a (dual path) continuous kiln we would have had to upgrade our boilers or add another boiler because of the amount of steam they need,” Jason Brochu said. “With these, we can use our existing boiler capacity. They also guarantee a very low standard deviation on moisture content. We will be able to dry lumber faster and have a better quality product. This is very important for our current products and especially important as the Cross Laminated Timber market develops — with its very stringent moisture requirements.”
The installation of the two TC continuous kilns, which together have a capacity of more than 240 million board feet, was led by Valutec’s assembly manager, Mattias Henriksson, together with an American assembly team.
“The installation process was smooth and without any major issues,” said Jason. “And when we saw one of the kilns in our mill for the first time, we knew we made the right decision.”
Deliveries to countries all over the world are routine business for Valutec, according to Robert. “We have built up a great deal of experience in projects in other countries and know what it takes, from design to planning of logistics and on-site work.”
Invested In R&D
On the global market, Valutec has established itself as the supplier that, over time, has invested the most in research and development of lumber kilns and control systems, according to the company. The TC continuous kiln is no exception and represents a leap in technology that has fundamentally changed the way of working at many sawmills.
“The high flexibility creates significant advantages, particularly when it comes to planning,” said Ingo Wallocha, Managing Director of Valutec. “Competition is extremely tough in the sawmill business, where margins are tight. So high efficiency and lumber quality are especially important.”
Leading Control System
Valutec, which holds a great number of European patents for its advancements in lumber drying, offers a cutting-edge control system. The Valutec solution is Valmatics 4.0, a control system that can optimize the drying process for every type of kiln.
“Sawmills want to streamline production while also ensuring the quality of every product,” said Thomas Wamming, Valutec’s head of research and development. “This calls for intelligent automation, and we’ve dedicated major resources to developing it. Valmatics 4.0 provides the kiln operator with the help and support necessary to optimize the drying process.”
Valmatics 4.0 is the result of Valutec’s research and development and dialogue with the sawmill industry. It builds on Valutec’s proprietary Valmatics control system, which changed the way lumber drying was managed by providing the ability to simultaneously optimize quality, capacity, and energy.
High Level Of Automation
The increased automation made possible by intelligent simulators is necessary to take full advantage of the increasingly common TC progressive kilns, where drying can take place in parallel in up to 10 different zones with different conditions, such as variation in lumber dimensions and moisture content.
The Valmatics 4.0 name for the control system alludes to Industry 4.0, the so-called fourth Industrial Revolution, the trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies and processes.
“We want to see an increasing use of wood,” said Robert. “That means focusing on the issues of efficiency and the right quality for every wood product. We know that sawmills are working incredibly hard to develop their markets and take market share away from other materials. We’re proud to be a partner who facilitates this development through our world-leading lumber kilns, control systems and support.”