Today, hardwoods such as eucalyptus are felled and debarked in on many places around the world. The trees are cultivated on plantations for chemical pulp production and, in terms of volume, currently comprise the most important raw material for the paper and pulp industry.
Ever since the early 1990s, Komatsu Forest has enjoyed a deeply rewarding partnership with the forest industry in Brazil and, with the aid of valuable feedback from partners, has developed several productive debarking heads for South American eucalyptus plantations. Over the years, the Komatsu 370E has gained several stablemates: the V132E, the C202E and, most recently, the S162E. However, all of these are modified versions of heads that were originally designed for softwood, that is, for pine and spruce.
To better meet the specific needs and conditions of eucalyptus harvesting, Komatsu Forest wanted to start with a clean slate.
"The questioning of conventional wisdom has been a bit of a trademark for this project, and it has resulted in a number of new technical solutions that also offer advantages in terms of machine and operator safety," says Tobias Ettemo, Product Manager at Komatsu Forest.
A pilot study was conducted on location in Brazil back in 2016, and this helped to identify two focus areas: high machine/head uptime and high-quality timber.
Accordingly, finding smart solutions to reduce both downtime and maintenance costs was the first step. On the X164E, the traditional chainsaw is replaced by extremely powerful hydraulic shears, which effectively slice through each stem. Reduced service and maintenance costs as well as less downtime are some of the benefits this solution offers. Protected hose routing from crane tip to head valve, with the hoses for the feed rollers routed inside the head instead of around the outside, also improves reliability. However, for a head to be profitable, besides low operating costs, it also needs to be productive.
A major boost to productivity can be found in the challenge of debarking the stem as quickly and effectively as possible, and this is why the development work included strict requirements for the debarking function. Normally, the stem may need to be fed back and forth 2–3 times before the bark loosens. Each reversal is a loss of production time, so the ambition was for at least half of the stems to need only be fed through once, also known as one-pass debarking. And this ambition was achieved thanks to a specially designed feed system with a very high degree of stem profile coverage. The head also shreds the bark into shorter lengths, minimising process disruptions at sawmills and greatly benefitting the growth of new stands.
With the Komatsu X164E, eucalyptus harvesting is taking an innovative step forward, and this head is further proof of a successful partnership in which new technology provides new opportunities.