Eric Björkman has worked with wood drying since the late 1970s. From the beginning, he had a vision to build kilns with software based on modern control engineering theory.
– But we ran into a lot of problems that we needed help with. So we turned to ProcessIT at Luleå University of Technology, says Eric Bjorkman.
– We got a solution and thus the collaboration was initiated. For us it is a huge asset to have researchers onboard when developing new products.
Must solve practical problems
Also from a scientist's viewpoint, it is valuable to interact with the industry.
– We in academia can give advice and act as a sounding board. For us it is very inspiring to solve real problems in real life, says Thomas Gustafsson.
– This particular collaboration has also been extra fun because I had to learn a lot about wood.
In conventional wood drying wood is exposed to constant hot air. The method Alent dynamics developed means that the hot air is supplied intermittently and that the wood continues to dry during the interval when the hot air is absent. Thomas Gustafsson has worked on developing measurement methods for creating a system to determine when the wood is dry.
– Research-wise, it is very interesting; How do we build such a difficult system? For our research, the collaboration has resulted in several new research ideas, says Thomas Gustafsson.
When it comes to wood, it is difficult to obtain empirical data from large quantities, and that is what Thomas Gustafsson needs for his modeling. Of course, for research purposes you can dry a wooden board and analyze what happens to it – but since wood is a living material, all boards will anyhow behave differently, making drying difficult. The question is how to regulate a kiln so that the boards placed in the middle don't get too wet, and the boards at the edges don't get too dry.
– I have noticed that with wood, there is a large gap between research and practical application. If you can measure, you can control – but here you can not measure. Wood is an unknown factor so you must instead create good mathematical models and try to find alternative ways.