Scientists at Virginia Polytechnic Institute are using computer vision to save trees. A system developed by Earl Kline and Richard Conners scans raw boards for defects so furniture makers can work around them--wasting less wood. Human inspectors do that now, but not as effectively.
A high-resolution color camera scans passing boards and sends an image to a computer, where color and grain are compared with preprogrammed grading data. A separate laser camera sees surface cracks down to 1 100 inch. Within a year, researchers hope to add an X-ray scanner to look inside the board for knots, holes, and decay. A computer also tells the saw where to cut. Conners says the machine will cost $75,000 to $150,000, depending on how many cameras are incorporated. The U.S. Forest Service has helped fund and develop the machine in the interest of forest management.