Improving sawmill residue chip quality

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Virginia Tech

The primary objective of this study was to improve residue chip quality at high production southern pine Sawmills. A general economic analysis suggested that improving sawmill residue chip quality could be beneficial to both pulp and sawmills.

Studies were conducted at several sawmills to determine methods of improving residue chip quality. The first study examined the composition of material entering a residue chipper. Trim ends and oversize chips contributed the most pieces, but only 10% of the residue weight. Two-foot trim blocks accounted for the remaining material, 90% by weight. A number of these pieces resulted from slashing entire boards or cutting longer trim lengths into 2-foot pieces to clear them from the mill.

Two studies were conducted to examine the possibility of leaving trim in longer lengths to improve piece orientation and stability. Both studies found significant improvements in chip quality, the over-thick chips decreased while the percentage of acceptable chips increased. Chip quality improved with each incremental increase in trim length, but increasing trim length to four feet alone accounted for 50% of the overall improvements. Four-foot trim lengths would generate an additional 4-5 tons of acceptable chips per day for the sawmill.

Feed conveyor loading was found to affect chip quality. Highest chip quality was achieved when the feed conveyor was half-full, with two or three pieces entering simultaneously. An overloaded conveyor produced higher percentages of large chips, whereas chipping single pieces increased the percentage of smaller chips.

The effect of seasonal temperatures on pin chip and fine production at southern pine and hardwood chip mills was examined as a secondary objective. The pin chip and fine content at the hardwood mills increased as temperatures decreased, but variability in species and inventory obscured the relationship. Southern pine chip mills experienced 4-5% increases in the pin chip and fine content during the winter months. Pin chips and fines increased 1% for every 10°F drop in temperature.