How smart technology improves our products and facilitates optimal recycling
Thanks to cutting-edge innovation our latest generation of laminate floors looks and feels like actual wood and helps us recycle waste wood.
The latest laminate collection can barely be distinguished from real wood. Even when walking on it the difference is hardly noticeable. This is owed to a realistic wood look & feel in the grain and every knot, crack and groove of the floors.
Automatic measuring and control system for an authentic wood feel
“It is the wood structure that creates the feel of authentic wood. If you imitate it perfectly, it’s just like real wood”, according to Fréderic D’Haene (process team) and Mathias Decock and Pieter Gobin (digital team) of Unilin Flooring. “But it takes meticulous precision.”
Fortunately they can rely on refined, innovative technology, such as an automatic measuring system. “Thanks to the measuring system we can replicate that refined wood structure to perfection. It works down to a tenth of a millimetre”, Pieter explains. In addition they also have an automated control system. “During checks the operator is tasked with monitoring a variety of screens. This is often impossible, especially with complex operations. That is why we developed a control system that centralises all quality tests. Now the operator only has to monitor a single screen, telling him at a glance if something is wrong. Moreover, we now have a system based on artificial intelligence that helps the monitor identify defects that are invisible to the naked eye.”
Infrared cameras refine recycling process
We also use top-tier technology for a completely different purpose: cleaning recycled wood. We always use reclaimed wood for the production of our panels but naturally it must be cleaned first. Thanks to state-of-the-art machinery, based among others on infrared technology, this process takes place at lightning speed, says Martijn Lambregts, technical leader at Unilin Panels. “In our cleaning street we separate the recycled wood from other waste streams such as different kinds of metals, rock, glass, plastics, textiles, etc.”
“During that process our machines implement a variety of high-tech techniques, such as magnetism, hydraulic power and X-rays. In this final phase the wood goes through an infrared machine.”
This machine primarily removes textile scraps, plastics and residual metals. It recognises waste materials based on the light intensity they reflect, using this to decide in which waste stream they belong. Martijn: “It does so with the aid of compressed air and valves.”
The machine processes a whopping 15 tonnes of wood per hour and detects some four million objects. This means the computer has just five hundredths of a second to decide which waste stream to use, on a three-metre-wide conveyor belt.
Or how even the smallest details are ‘seen’ in order to upgrade our products.