Developed in the forests of Sweden, a new concept in timber forwarding has been unveiled. Named the Centipede, it has the potential to take harvesting operations into the future. 

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CURRENTLY being tested in the forests of Sweden is a new machine designed to ensure the most sustainable possible management of forests all year round for both the environment and people.

This new prototype concept is doing it all using tracks instead of conventional wheels, turning a long-mooted idea – something even the great Lars Bruun couldn’t quite get over the line – into reality. 

The Centipede, the result of a major, three-year project, may be the first forwarder to run successfully on tracks, bringing with it reductions in fuel consumption and improvements in durability and operator comfort. 

With its low-impact approach and increased productivity, the Centipede is the fruits of a labour that saw eight Swedish forestry companies – Södra, Sveaskog, SCA, Holmen, Norra Skog, Mellanskog, Stora Enso and BillerudKorsnäs – join forces with Komatsu Forest. 

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“This is a comprehensive project, in which the parties are taking a long-term approach to promote sustainable forestry,” said Erik Nilsson, chief technology officer of Komatsu Forest. “In the project, we have fundamentally challenged today’s technology and taken a step into the future.” 

So what will that future look like (other than the obvious loss of wheels)? “We have built a machine that is able to solve or reduce the problem with ground damage, increase the transport speed, and reduce the vibrations for the operator in the cab,” said Erik during a video showcase. “Technically speaking, we have built a system that has a large support area against the ground, with the newly developed track system.” 

With its innovation, the Centipede can be driven both on plots of land that are normally regarded as winter sites and ones that are significantly impacted by precipitation. In addition to being able to satisfy timber supply throughout the year, it is believed to have a number of characteristics that will directly increase production. 

“I think it’s cool because this is a technological leap,” said Rebecka Rodin, head of harvesting operations at Stora Enso. “Forestry has worked with methodology development and sustainability in many ways. 

“Now we have reached new heights and new levels in terms of technology. 

“It is promising for the forest as an industry and for the future of sustainability as well.” 

As a result of its design, the Centipede can move around the terrain significantly faster and can carry a larger load than the Komatsu 855, which was used as the benchmark. Both of these features create conditions for significant increases in productivity. In addition, simulations suggest fuel consumption is reduced by up to 15 per cent in soft terrain. 

“First and foremost, stability,” said Mikael Sundling, a test operator for Sundlings Skogsservice, when asked about the benefits of the design. “And not having to sit in a machine all day and be tense when working with large loads in steep terrain.

“In terms of carrying capacity, it’s something completely different. With the Centipede, you move on top of the snow, you do not dig to get traction. It all feels very good.

“This is the biggest technological leap I have witnessed for many years.” 

Magnus Bergman, manager for technique and digitalisation at SCA Skog and chairman of the project’s steering committee, said: “The forest industry and Komatsu are now jointly taking a major technology leap with a machine that is more gentle on the environment and the operator, at the same time as it enables a more efficient flow of timber. 

“With the Centipede, we can meet the challenges arising from increasingly shorter periods of frozen ground and, for this reason, the machine is one of the most important development projects in forestry.” 

Magnus Petersson, head of contractor and technology development at Södra, added: “Those of us who are active in forestry know how important it is to cultivate the forest without damaging the ground. 

READ MORE: Forestry Journal looks back on the life of Lars Bruun

“Our members who own their forests want to hand over land to the next generation that is managed with a low-impact approach. This enhances the forest’s financial, social and cultural values. By being involved in the development of the next generation of forest machines, we are doing something that is highly valued in family-owned forestry.” 

An extensive preliminary study was implemented and a new machine concept was developed during the project. The machine has been thoroughly evaluated through simulations and test drives. The comprehensive testing will continue in spring 2022. Only then will it become clear if the concept will become a reality. 

“Minimising ground impact in our managed forests is an important issue,” said Anders Järlesjö, head of forest technology at Sveaskog. “This is therefore a significant and long-awaited development and it is also fully in line with Sveaskog’s long-term orientation for more sustainable forestry. 

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“With this, we can see an opportunity for us in the forest industry to jointly take a major step forward with an efficient forest machine that is gentler on both the environment and the operator.” 

To learn more about the Centipede concept, visit