Panel saw makers focus on increased production and precision

Panel saw makers focus on increased production and precision

Sean Derning

WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS interviewed a number of panel saw manufacturers and distributors to find out how affordable, more capable panel sizing equipment is allowing woodworking manufacturers to become more productive.

Since computer programs have been implemented into woodworking equipment, they have helped increase machine accuracy and productivity by leaps and bounds. Yet, one drawback that kept these highly accurate and productive machines out of the hands of many manufacturers was the price of the equipment’s technology.

Today, buoyed by recent price reductions of advanced electronics, panel saw manufacturers are exploding the myth that powerful and complex panel saws require substantial capital outlays. Indeed, many woodworking operations are now reaping the benefits of increased savings on machinery as well as becoming more productive through faster saw setups, increased accuracy and optimization, and enhanced user friendliness.

These changes have come about because machinery manufacturers are adapting and marketing machines that focus on changing trends in the marketplace — quicker setups to decrease downtime and facilitate profitable short-run production.

“There have been no single biggest developments in the panel sizing industry in the last five years, but many individual significant developments,” said Randy Jamison, national sales manager of Selco panel saws for Biesse America. “Industry requirements have changed in the last five years and increasing demands for speed, flexibility and reliability have accounted for the changes we’ve seen.”

The productivity trio

Speed, accuracy and flexibility are three demands that wood products manufacturers are constantly applying toward machinery manufacturers. To panel saw manufacturers, this challenge has translated into more productive machine designs and quick-change tooling technology that does not sacrifice the quality of the cut. “Electronic programming in machine design has complemented this new machinery design and increased productivity ten to fifteen percent,” according to Werner Duering, president of Schelling America Inc.

Electronic programming of panel sizing equipment started with electromechanical switches that had actual moving parts and were susceptible to heat, cold and plant conditions. The next type of control, NC controls, were faster because they were more reliable and eliminated many unnecessary electromechanical switches. Today’s CNC controls use microprocessors which are more powerful than their predecessors and make it easier to diagnose problems because the time needed to trace problems, such as faulty circuit, has been reduced.

Woodworking operations in a sense lose money when their machinery is down for repair. Thus, saw manufacturers have worked to improve the reliability of their machines.

“Reliability has become a critical requirement of the panel sizing machines,” said Jamison. “This has been made possible through innovative use of computer technology that has become available in the last five years.”

Giordano Checchi, president of Giben America, said one of the biggest developments in the panel sizing industry is, “the ability to control machine functional parameters directly from an office computer or a main frame at the moment when a sizing job is being programmed.”

But Checchi added panel saw users should be warned that becoming increasingly dependent on high-tech computers can result in increased down time if employees are not properly trained on the advanced equipment.

“If more computers are used, then the more complex the system will be,” Checchi said. “Most times it is the operator’s fault that the machine isn’t working right. The operator must understand the computer system. It would also help if computer manufacturers made computers more reliable.”

Linking electronic diagnostic with a telephone modem is helping some panel saw users decrease downtimes. The modems can connect the panel saw to the distributor who sold it, the manufacturer who made it, or both. If a machine’s computer can isolate the problem, and if it is not too serious, the manufacturer/distributor’s technician can walk the user through solving the problem. If users can solve the problem themselves, technicians will not need to make service calls, thus reducing downtime and repair costs.

“If a piece of scrap falls in front of a sensor, the diagnostic systems can tell the operator which sensor to check instead of having a technician make a service call and check the entire system to solve the problem,” said Bill Pitt, vice president/ general manager with Holzma-U.S., Division of Stiles Machinery Inc.


Another benefit panel saw customers have been enjoying has been the increased availability of affordable electronics for table saws as well.

“These affordable, user-friendly electronics equipped on pressure beam saws have enabled many smaller shops to take the jump from previous cutting methods to pressure beam panel saws,” said Steve Jones, sales manager with Altendorf America. “On the other hand, the electronics, such as CNC control, and rip fences, on sliding table saws make the automated table saw a very affordable choice when upgrading one’s cutting capacity. Reported time savings of up to 30 percent have been realized.”

The good news for panel saw customers is that panel saw manufacturers say technology will continue to become more affordable.

“Horizontal beam saws offering downloadable controllers have become much more affordable and will continue to become more affordable,” said Rusty Denson, product manager with SCMI. “Small to medium shops are and will continue to utilize production methods that were previously only profitable for larger companies.”

Although price can be an important consideration with panel saw customers, the most important aspect of choosing a saw should be if the machine is capable of meeting the needs of each customer. For example, a panel saw required for a cut-to-size operation at a 200-man cabinet plant will be different than that of a 20-man cabinet shop.

“We’ve found that small to medium cabinet manufacturers make complete kitchens, while larger cabinet manufacturers are making kitchen parts that will later be made into kitchens,” said Dane Stafford, marketing manager with Colonial Saw. “Those making complete kitchens achieve maximum productivity with a tilt head vertical panel saw, while companies making inventoried kitchen parts are more productive using a programmable horizontal beam saw.”

Looking ahead

The largest response from panel saw manufacturers regarding upcoming developments was the vision that “working cells” will be adopted by the woodworking industry shared by the end of the century. A manufacturing technique currently being practiced in Europe, work cell technology benefits include reduced operator time, more efficient production and higher accuracies.

Working cells operate on the principle that once a panel is cut, the machines communicate the required set-up. The machine set-up for the remaining operations, (edgebanding, boring, etc.) will be communicated automatically through systems such as bar coding.

“This technology is available and the concept is being discussed, but it is only used in a few operations in this country at present,” said Claus Staalner, vice president of sales with Tekna Machinery. “We need to emphasize vocational training because an uneducated work force and high-tech machinery affect one another. With more automated machinery, such as work cells, adjustment of equipment is automatic and there is less of a dependability between worker and machine.”

Checchi added, “In the near future, the total control of the machine functionality, sizing job by sizing job, material by material, with specific manufacturing parameters being sent to the machine computer for total control of yield, productivity and machine time will be commonplace for panel sizing operations.”

Two other aspects, bar coding and voice recognition commands, are also seen by some manufacturers as being trends that are already available or on the horizon. Bar coding, already being utilized in this country and in Europe, allows companies to identify the batch, customer and type of part that will be produced from each piece by the coded sticker attached to it.

“Networking with label printing devices has made panel saws more responsive to changing customer requirements, more capable of running today’s low quantity, quick turn around orders and made the saws more of a workcenter in today’s manufacturing plant,” said Pitt.

Although in its infancy, some respondents mentioned the possible introduction of voice recognition commands used in panel sizing equipment. Voice recognition equipment takes the operator’s spoken command and translates that command into how the machine should set-up to produce a part. The voice recognition command could appear on panel sizing equipment to increase productivity and user-friendliness.

“In the telephone industry, they are already using voice recognition commands to help control costs and increase productivity,” said Pitt. “Voice recognition will probably first appear in the metal industry because it is about five years ahead of the woodworking industry as far as this technology is concerned. And voice recognition commands will have to overcome such hurdles as plant noise and operators with different accents.”

With attractive prices on technology that allows companies to become more productive, and as a result, more competitive, panel saws can become the heart of a profitable woodworking operation. By offering accuracy, affordability and quality cuts, companies with the correct high-tech panel sawing system can stay focused on the bottom line and breathe a little easier.

Horizontal beam saws

The Scheer 5050 series of postforming and crosscutting saws available from Richard T. Byrnes Co. Inc. features a Siemens PLC controlled by a 386 PC, outside adjustment of scoring, air cushion device on tables, cast iron carriage construction and more.

The FW-Unique from Schelling America Inc. utilizes easy-to-use controls, durable construction and is also reported to increase speed and accuracy.

Giben America offers the Prismatic 101 single line panel saw that has been designed with a patented double-pressure beam allowing for full panel control through the last trim cut. A patented side alignment system includes two independent, retractable rollers, one in front of and one behind the cut line. The system ensures that panels are held securely against the fixed square fence throughout the cross-cut cycle. Other standard features include a maintenance-free saw carriage, timing belt power transmission, pneumatic quick blade release, rapid adjustment of the scoring saw and adjustable modular lift table infeed.

Holz-Her-U.S. says the line consists of a basic manual beam saw and two automatic beam saws. All three models feature an independent scoring unit. The saw carriage, adjustable in all axes, moves on hardened and ground steel guideways for precise, vibration-free cutting. All models can be equipped with air floatation tables with independent fans.

The Holzma HPP 81 panel saw from Holzma-U.S., Div. of Stiles Machinery. can cut small part quantities quickly and with minimal lost time between patterns. Features include heavy-duty construction, cut/groove software, kerfing software and a full range of available built-in CNC controls that includes synchronized label printing.

The Schwabedissen S 50 CNC panel sizing system features two separate ripping saws and one cross-cut saw (a scoring saw is available on request) on separate saw carriages. Drives are equipped with servo-drive motors. Offset cross-cut patterns are realized through combination of fixed and split table. The machine is equipped with noise and dust protection. Electronic control comprises five axes.

The Selco WNA 200 shuttle system cutting center, available from Biesse America, features a cutting speed of up to 300 fpm, 25-hp saw blade motors, a quick-change system and electronic saw blade adjustment. It also features electronic adjustment of scoring saws, automatic loading of thin material and complete CNC control.

The Alfa series vertical panel saws from SCMI feature Master X Plus computer with graphics and downloading capacity as well as fast positioning speeds. Other features include: a side alignment device for squaring panels, a heavy-duty saw carriage and safety equipment. The saws are available in either 10-ft or 14-ft versions. Four models are available.

European Woodworking Machinery now represents Anthon, a European manufacturer of saw systems for wood panels and nonferrous metals. Anthon’s product line features yield optimization computer technology. Included are saws with cutting heights of 3-7/8 in., 5-7/8 in. and 7-7/8 in.

The Profi saw system from Anthon GmbH & Co. features a patented turntable that can offer time, material and space saving head cuts. The cutting programs can be directly loaded by disc or on-line to the saw system computer. The computer can also be connected to telephone lines, according to the company.

The Mayer PS 9Z panel saw available from Force Machinery is a high-speed saw for the custom woodworker. It is a simplified CNC panel saw that provides user friendly programming and determines cutting heights and lengths automatically. It also senses thicknesses and lengths to allow for automatic cutting and reduced set-up times.

The Gabbiani Delta series beam saw from Stefani Group America Inc. features a 15- or 20-hp motor with scoring saw and is capable of cutting 30,000 sq ft per shift, according to the company. Available in four models, the machines feature rack and pinion drive system and “Star” brand square rails for tracking.

Available from Tekna Machinery, the Gabbiani Macchine Class PCT panel saw is a computer dedicated electronically controlled, single-blade scoring panel saw with a lift table. Features include: AC servo brushless drive motors, built-in software, PC on-line or diskette downloaded programming, pusher travel speed electronically adjustable to 165 fpm and carriage speed electronically adjustable to 300 fpm.

Eric Riebling Co. offers the Martin T-72 ultra precision table saw equipped with scoring saw attachment. The lower frame is constructed of a composite of steel and concrete. This creates a distortion-free and stable machine frame with low noise emission, according to the company. The machine is equipped with hydraulic tilting and raising and lowering of arbor. Digital display is standard equipment for tilting of the saw blade. The T-72 is available in four carriage sizes: 2.2, 2.7, 3.3, and 3.7 meters.

Pistorius Machine Co. panel saws have a repeat stop, which reduces adjustments for horizontal cutting of strips that are the same width, and a programming rail to set fixed dimensions for serial work. To avoid chipout, the number of revolutions is brought to approximately 5,800 rpm.

Vertical panel saws

The GMC KGS 510 vertical panel saw from Atlantic Machinery Corp. features a 4.8-hp motor that operates at 5,800 rpm, accurate flip-down stops, 14-ft maximum length of cut, 77-in. maximum height of cut and 10-in. carbide tipped saw blade. The company also offers a larger manual model and an automatic model with many available options.

The Elcon vertical panel saw from Adwood Corp. includes the Limpio dust extraction system that is reported to reduce the percentage of dust released into the air by constantly removing dust from the front and back of the panel at the cut point. With the system, the panels are supported over the full height of the panel during cutting.

The Pro-V vertical panel saw from Hendrick-RWH Industries saves space and is fully automatic. Other features include a full length pneumatic hold-down bar that gives you virtually chip-free stack cutting up to 2-1/2-in.

Available from Colonial Saw is the electronically controlled vertical Striebig OPTISAW panel saw line of four models. The OPTISAW automatic model is capable of 100 panels per shift from a single operator, incorporates auto feed for both the X and Y axis, cutting speeds of 31 fpm to 78 fpm and standard LED readout.

The Model SR-5, a full-time panel saw and a part-time panel router, available from Safety Speed Cut Mfg. Co. Inc., conserves floor space. The machine comes with a 2-1/2-hp Milwaukee saw motor and a 2-1/4-hp Milwaukee router motor, a mid-way fence system and flow thru frame style. The Model SR-5 also includes a vertical lifting router handle and a floating mounting plate.

The Her-Saf panel router from Safranek Enterprises Inc. features: pneumatic clamp package, dust system, vertical index, adjustable bar stop and second router mount. The Her-Saf panel router can also be used for dadoing, according to the company.

The Schneeberger Stratos electronically-controlled vertical panel saw from Progressive Machine Inc. features automatic tool positioning through the company’s new Positron positioning system. Control of the machine is accomplished by means of manual control grip or an input keypad located directly on the saw beam. A quality cut is achieved with a flexible scoring saw as well as by workpiece clamping and holding.

The Saw Trax transportable vertical panel saw from Tinkerdell Inc. can be set up in four minutes, according to the company.

Sliding table saws

The Altendorf F-45 POSIT machine from Altendorf America features a CNC controlled rip fence that enables the operator to enter up to 300 standard cutting dimensions and recall them at the touch of a finger. The fence then automatically moves to the required position.

The VG P-3200 sliding panel circular saw from Derda Inc. has a maximum cutting length of 3,200mm, maximum cutting width of 1,300mm, and sliding table dimensions of 3,000mm by 420mm. Standard on the machine are motor protection, emergency stop, automatic starter, blade tilting, scoring device and miter fence.

Lazzari USA offers the Juno 3000i sliding table saw which features tilting shafts and aluminum carriages. The scoring unit is powered by a 1-hp motor. An electronic blade tilt angle readout speeds up positioning from cut to cut, while a blade tilting regulator for the scoring blade and blade height adjustment are located on the right-hand side of the machine and can be easily reached by the operator.

Wadkin USA’s SP 130 sliding table panel saw handles panels up to 51 in. by 98 in. and solid materials up to 4 in. thick. Features include: a scoring saw mechanism with automatic height adjustment, a 10-in.-diameter blade, a 4-1/8-in.-diameter scoring blade and a heavy-duty motor.

Mini Max’s S300 sliding table panel saw with scoring, features 3- to 5.5-hp motors, 300mm saw blade and 120mm grooving blade, driven by two independent motors for a 50-in. rip capacity to process 4-ft by 8-ft sheet stock.

The Model MR-21 panel ripsaw from Multiscore reportedly minimizes cutting labor by single-pass ripping an entire panel, including narrow strips, and does simulataneous sawing and grooving. Options include: top or top and bottom sawing arbors, jam-nut arbor/spacer system for close blade spacing, jump-arbor for non-continuous slotting and combination saw/groover cutting heads.

The overhead panel saws from Unique Machine & Tool Co. are designed for a variety of applications, the company says. Cut lengths are available from 48 in. to 144 in. with hold-downs and custom tables available to meet customers’ specific needs. The saw carriage is fitted with ball-bearing bushings which ride on hardened steel shafts.

The DMMA-35 14-in. universal panel saw with sliding table from Fortis Machinery Corp. is powered by a 5-hp motor and has locking handwheel knobs for securing the blade at the desired angle. Other features include a dynamically-balanced spindle rotating on precision ball bearings, a 53-1/2-in. stroke on the sliding table and additional angular miter can be used for cutting small elements.

COPYRIGHT 1993 Vance Publishing Corp.

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