All those logs you see on trucks crawling over the Kaimais to the Port of Tauranga need to be weighed and measured to account for the volume of timber on each truck. Done manually, it’s a long and slow process, but engineers at the University of Waikato and at Robotics Plus Ltd (RPL) in Tauranga have developed a log scanner that does the same job quickly.
The machine, or at least part of it, will be at this year's Fieldays 12-15 June at the University of Waikato stand in the main pavilion at Mystery Creek.
Mechanical engineering student Henri Bardoul was lucky enough to work with RPL on building the scanner for his masters degree.
“I’d already established a connection with RPL during my bachelor’s degree where I worked on a concept design for a robotic apple picker. Working on the log scanner, my job was centred around design of the structure that the scanning robot moved along. Initially it was more like full-time work and then towards the end of the project I spent more time on my degree, investigating the vibration level in the structure the scanning robot worked along.
“I also worked on mechanical design, some minor fabrication, and assembly and installation of the final robot on site.”
Based at Mt Maunganui, Henri was part of a team that first examined a number of concepts before settling on the best solution for the design. His role first involved delving into relevant standards to do with steel structures and working out the design loadings. “From there he designed the structure and its connections to ensure that it would stand up to the loading.”
He worked closely with a certified structural engineer who signed off the design. CAD software was used to create a 3D model of the structure as well as make 2D drawings that were sent to a fabrication engineer for construction.
The next step for Henri was installation, which involved organising and overseeing the contractors and doing some of the installing.
Henri says by working on the project from start to finish, he learnt a lot, not just the technical aspects of the job, but also about research and planning and overcoming challenges. “I had to learn about building codes and design of steel structures. Once I understood those, I used civil engineering concepts to design the structure. Having a certified engineer on hand to oversee the design process was a big help as I always had plenty of questions,” he says.
CEO of Robotics Plus Dr Matt Glenn says this project is another example of a great collaboration between industry and academia. There were two masters students working on different parts of the technology. One of the students, Erin Sims worked for RPL after she completed her masters degree, supported by a Callaghan Innovation Career Grant.
“Installing the log scanner and seeing it working was a great feeling,” says Henri. “It was rewarding to see how everyone in this small team, in the space of a year, had contributed to get the final product up and running as it was supposed to do. I liked the fact we were a small group – that allowed us to keep up with what each person in the team was doing, and it meant that I got to do a range of jobs and develop experience in different areas.”