Southeast Asia wood industry employs ABB robot to increase productivity and lower carbon footprint

2010-06-09 - Pacific Forest, a wood processing company based in Singapore, has improved efficiency, and increased productivity by 200%, by using a robot to produce high quality wood products for the building of lifestyle homes and hotel resorts.

Precise skills and experienced manpower are required to prepare the wood needed for Pacific Forest’s clients, which include prestigious hotels in the French Polynesian islands of Bora Bora and Moorea.

Now carpentry skills honed over several years have been transferred to one of ABB’s multitasking robots to enable it to assist the local workforce in the accurate cutting, machining, drilling and finishing of the wooden parts.

The robot has helped Pacific Forest reduce the amount of work it contracts out by producing an output equivalent to 20 workers. The ABB IRB6640 robot can achieve more precision compared to traditional methods, and has helped the company reduce unwanted wood wastage. The precise cutting delivered by the robot is very important in managing productivity and costs for high density woods such as Balau and Merbau, which are both expensive and difficult to cut.

Products by Pacific Forest are key elements used in buildings like The Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora.

As the first company in Southeast Asia to use a robot in the wood industry, Managing Director of Pacific Forest, Jason Chan said, “As part of our Gaia-friendly beliefs, we looked into ways to reduce our impact on the environment. By reducing the amount of woodworking processes being contracted-out, we can reduce the number of truck trips between factories, hence reducing our carbon footprint.”

Jason and his team researched the capabilities of the robot, and devised a solution incorporating CAD to CAM software to work with the robot. This software helps to generate the path for robot movement, using the data contained in digital drawings generated by CAD software. This CAD to CAM conversion significantly reduces programming time. Pacific Forest also designed and developed a breakthrough clamping system for the robot, which provided the necessary flexibility.

The local ABB Robotics team in Singapore assisted Pacific Forest by training their robotics engineer, and also working very closely with them to ensure all technical difficulties were overcome. They also provided assistance with programming to ensure a smooth introduction of operations.

Besides increasing productivity and lowering Pacific Forest’s carbon footprint, the robot also helps in reducing process costs and increasing the safety standard of the workplace. Dust, wood splinters and noise are now all "fenced in" with the robot, allowing engineers to work in a much more pleasant environment.

The ABB robot achieves improved productivity and precision; and helps reduce material wastage.

ABB will shortly deliver a second robot to help Pacific Forest further improve its productivity. The company's aim is for full automation in a few years with a total of five robots. As part of its sustainability plan Pacific Forest is also looking into developing new wood substitute products to replace natural wood.

About Pacific Forest
Pacific Forest Products is based in Singapore and has expanded from its humble beginnings in 1988 into a multifaceted business with a sales turnover of S$15 million in 2009. The company’s core activities include the design and building of lifestyle homes, hotel resorts, and the manufacturing and trading of wood products.

Notes on abbreviations used
CAD = Computer Aided Design
CAM = Computer Aided Manufacturing

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