[2012-07-30] When Vimek, a forestry machine company in the village of Slipstensjön met people from Umeå University, a problem was turned into an opportunity. Together they have developed a new wheel construction.
It’s all about bogie design. It's about a design that has less impact on the ground and can maneuver in difficult forest terrain. It's also about the meeting of two worlds: a business world that talks about soil and ground properties and machine performance, and a research world that translates all that into digits and simulations.
Let's begin from the beginning. Lars-Gunnar Nilsson works in the village of Slipstensjön, 90 km from Umeå. He is part owner of the forestry machine company Vimek and was thinking about a new vehicle on wheels, a new kind of bogie. Since a warmer climate makes the ground softer, forestry machines must be even more gentle so that they don't spoil the forest floor. Together with his son and colleague Johannes Nilsson, Lars- Gunnar transformed his ideas into a prototype of a bogie in a scale of 1:10, built with plastic wheels and a bike chain.
Jeanette Edlund, a doctoral student at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, found out about the project. She was curious, of course, since it was related to her own research on the way forestry machines damage the ground. She told Martin Servin, lecturer at the research centre Umit at Umeå University, about the project. Martin thought it was interesting, but wondered if it was really a unique idea.
But that was exactly what it was. As it turned out, the researchers were able to help design an even better bogie. A new full-scale model is now in the shop in Slipstensjön, mounted onto a forestry machine. With 60,000 SEk from the Forest Technology Cluster and Sveaskog, father and son were able to buy an old tractor to form the chassis of the bogie.
Initially they weren't so sure that the university's involvement would be a help. When they first met the Umit researcher they were doubtful.
“We weren't used to working together with people from that kind of profession. Furthermore, problems often crop up when too many people are involved in a development project, which is mainly for decision-making purposes. Too many cooks spoil the broth,” says Johannes Nilsson.
Nonetheless, it ended up with a visit to Umeå University. There they met postdoctoral research fellow Ehsan Keramati. Though Ehsan had never done research on this sort of machinery before, he did simulations to optimise the design of this bogie.
“It's really exciting to work with this kind of a simulator. Science and research are intended to develop and improve the world. Being a part of the development of the forestry industry in this way is incredibly stimulating. We have learned a lot on both sides,” says Ehsan Keramati.
Ehsan Keramati calculated the effect of changes in the bogie design. In consultation with Lars- Gunnar and Johannes Nilsson, he investigated how the bogie would perform in different scenarios and the importance of various functions.
“We are really pleased and open towards collaboration with the university again,” says Johannes Nilsson.
Now the two Nilssons are waiting for the ground to be damp enough to test and assess the bogie in reality.
“It would be good if someone who has Vimek's original bogie could test our new bogie and tell us if it's better or worse,” says Lars-Gunnar Nilsson.
Vimek has a patent on the solution and hopes that more people can see its advantages.
“It is necessary for small manufacturers like Vimek to obtain the support of bigger operators and other skills in order to develop ideas like this,” Johannes Nilsson continues.
The project is over now. The work has given us new experiences, new contacts and more collaboration, like the one with Vimek's track manufacturer, Olofsfors.
“Olofsfors has become a very valuable spin-off collaboration for Umit. Their products are world market leaders and we are going to learn a lot from them about the dynamics between machines and the forest floor. At the same time we are testing our new simulation methods on factors that are important for company development and more sustainable forestry. It's stimulating to know that this research can have a positive effect on the environment and the job situation here in the region and in the world,” says Martin Servin.
Text: Emma Lindqvist
Photo: Elin Berge
What is a bogie?
A bogie sits underneath a vehicle and usually has four wheels. It reduces axle pressures by distributing the weight of the vehicle on more axles. It also makes it easier for a vehicle to take curves and manage heavier loads.
UMIT Research Lab is a research centre at Umeå University specialised in advanced simulation and computational engineering. The lab is an innovative environment where researchers from fields such as computer science, physics and mathematics collaborate with industry to develop interactive tools and methods. The lab is funded primarily by: Umeå University, Umeå municipality, The Baltic Group and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket, Mål 2).
Vimek is a forestry machine company based for many years in Slipstensjön, 30 km from Vindeln, 90 km from Umeå. The company moved its factory to Vin- deln two years ago, but still has some development operations in Slipstensjön. It manufactures lightweight machines for more gentle forestry. Vimek has an annual sales of about 60 million SEK and some 20 employees.
Editor: Karin Wikman
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