Computer advances drive panel saws forward.
User-friendly. It's one of the most overused words in the modern English vocabulary, yet still very apropos for describing the culmination of developments that is driving panel saws to greater heights of productivity, flexibility and operability.
In preparing for this article, WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS surveyed representatives of leading panel saw manufacturers and distributors to learn more about the most recent improvements. The information contained here is largely based on the responses to the following two questions:
1. What do you consider to be the most significant new development or trend in panel sizing to occur since IWF '94?
2. Can you cite an example of how this development has impacted wood products manufacturers?
The key advancements that the dozen respondents noted have become more pronounced since the 1994 International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair include:
* A shift from proprietary controls to IBM PC-compatible systems by many panel saw manufacturers.
* Increased use of downloading capabilities from the office to the saw.
* Greater use of optimization software, including smaller cut-to-size operations.
* Increased opportunities for using bar code labels to form machine workcells.
* The development of on-line diagnostics.
"The most significant trend I noticed is the movement of the entire industry toward a standardized computer environment," said Doug Armitage, applications engineer for Force Machinery of Union, NJ. "There are almost no hold-outs to the PC-based computer being the choice for the saw control and operator interface. Saw manufacturers are attempting to make the operation of the saw computer more effective in the larger network of the workplace."
Stephen Bailey, sales engineer for Schelling America Inc. of Raleigh, NC, also emphasized the significance of the "nonproprietary nature of the computers" used on many of today's panel saws. "The new computers are truly IBM-compatible with such features as a floppy disk drive, hard drive and expansion slots for adding network or ad-ditional serial cards. Anyone familiar with DOS version 6.22 and a desktop PC can walk down to the saw and easily understand the operating system and hardware. The advantage is a very flexible operating system and hardware components that can be replaced from parts purchased at your local computer store."
John Linss, vice president of sales and marketing for Giben America Inc. of Norcross, GA, said, "Factory floor integration through IBM-compatible PC-based solutions offers the most promise for today's panel processing manufacturers. The PC solution presents tremendous advantages both today and for the future. Because the PC is the world-wide computer industry standard, the technology will never be orphaned by the (saw) manufacturers.
"Therefore, PC systems will always be both non-proprietary and upgradeable....This technology will prevent an otherwise productive machine from being made obsolete by advances in control technology. The hardware will always be able to be upgraded and software upgrades are as simple as loading a new set of files via floppy disk or modem transfer," Linss said.
Downloading info from a PC
Richard Hannigan, national sales manager for Holz-Her U.S. Inc. of Charlotte, NC, was one of several respondents to note that an increasing number of panel saw users are taking advantage of the capability to download cutting instructions from an office personal computer.
"Data relating to job information, cutlists and optimization can be input into a PC in the office and transmitted directly via disk or on-line to a saw in the plant," Hannigan said. "Tremendous software development has taken place which allows this process to be easier and much more flexible than in previous years....Small batch runs can be input through the computer, optimized and cut in a very short time without wasted labor or material.
"The current software on the market will also allow owners to track machine running time, job cutting time and material flow, which will have a direct impact on efficiency and profitability. I expect that significant developments in software and saw technology will continue to take place in the next five years and will also bring some of this technology down to small shops that use vertical and sliding table saw machines," Hannigan said.
William Pitt, vice president/general manager for Holzma-U.S., Div. of Stiles Machinery Inc., said telephone modems offer companies an opportunity to transmit information to a panel saw from remote locations. He cited the example of a customer who sends cutlist instructions to his plant's saw. via modem hooked to his laptop computer, while traveling.
For those whose saws do not have modem hookups, there are alternatives for sending cutting instructions from long distance, said Rusty Denson, product manager -- panel processing for SCMI of Duluth, GA. "We worked with a customer with five remote facilities who does all of the programming out of one facility. They download the cutting instructions for each plant onto a disk and send it by overnight mail to each plant."
The woodworking industry's embrace of office computers, combined with the increased cost of raw materials, has prompted more and more panel saw users to integrate optimization software into their operations to reduce waste and increase yields.
Mike Hawkins, sales coordinator for IMA-European Woodworking Machinery of Franklinton, NC, said, "Not very long ago, the emphasis was on the capacity of the saw. The size of the panel books was the byword. It seems the thing most people talked about was how much and how fast the saw could cut the panel patterns.
"Since IWF '94, most of the customers we deal with have come to understand more completely that capacity is only one element of the process. Nowadays we see a resurgence of attention in optimization and, even more, handling of the panels after cuts," Hawkins said.
"It's becoming more and more apparent that even moderately sized and in some cases smaller companies are using optimizing software," said Cahir McCoole, vice president of sales for Hendrick RWH Ind. Inc. of Salem, MA. "Two or three years ago this type of software was very expensive and was out of reach for many smaller shops. Today it is much more affordable so they can see the value. Plus, because most of the programs are Windows-based and walk the operator through their use, they are much easier to ream.
"Companies that use low-cost materials and do the same type of cuts over and over may forgo optimization software," McCoole added. "But if you are dealing with more precious materials like plastics, laminated boards or solid surface materials, it's worth taking a few more moments to verify the optimal way to cut your parts to increase profit margins by cutting down on waste."
"The use of optimizing software continues a trend that really took off about three years ago," Denson said. "Not many beam saw customers we talk to do not at least inquire about optimizing packages."
In addition to adapting optimizing software to be more efficient, Dane Stafford, vice president of sales and marketing for Colonial Saw Co. Inc. of Kingston, MA, said, there "has been an increased focus on manufacturing flexibility, particularly in the areas of JIT delivery of panel stock and a reduction of inventories of ore-cut panels. Cabinet manufacturers, particularly, have been streamlining to leaner, more responsive operations to optimize both material and manpower investments."
Bar coding and other forms of printed labels used for parts identification are more common to manufacturing plants in Northern Europe. Yet, the concept of using bar codes to facilitate the networking of machines into workcells is becoming less foreign to more sophisticated North American woodworking operations.
"The panel saw has become a more important part of the production in the factory. It is no longer viewed as just the machine to cut parts," said Larry Tolbert, technical support manager for Richard T. Byrnes of West Chester, PA. "Much more data is being passed on to other operations by way of the panel saw. This is normally accomplished by way of labels printed at the saw at the time each part is cut. These labels often contain data regarding the part itself as well as other data necessary for machines that will be processing the part in other areas of the plant.
"A good example would be the data necessary for a point-to-point machine to run a particular part," Tolbert added. "This information is passed to the panel saw and then a bar code is printed on the label as the part is cut. This bar code not only identifies the program to be run, but also instructs the point-to-point as to which field on the machine the part will be run."
Pitt said, "The manufacturing concept in which a panel saw and point-to-point are both sent their machining instructions from the same piece of software and then the two machines are actually linked via the bar code on a label generated on a real-time basis at the saw, has been a major breakthrough since IWF '94. The on-line label printing system ensures that the correct information gets linked with the correct part and the bar code being utilized to recall the correct machining pattern from memory ensures that set-up time at the point-to-point is not only error free but also transparent."
Other benefits of this workcell concept, Pitt added, include the increased feasibility to run small batches efficiently and profitably, and reduced job turnaround time making the manufacturer more responsive to customer requirements. "In sum, the manufacturing cell is an excellent solution to the manufacturing demands of the '90s," he said.
Hannigan said this bar code/workcell concept can be expanded to include other types of machinery, such as an edgebander.
Randy Jamison, Selco product manager for Biesse America of Charlotte, NC, said bar code labeling for part identification, production planning software and statistical information from the saw "are no longer a magical and mysterious component of the panel saw. Most of these tools have existed for many years and have been fine tuned and simplified. These tools have become a normal part of all panel saw discussions."
While today's panel saws incorporate engineering advancements and materials requiring low or no maintenance that help increase a saw's lifespan, the machines are still subject to malfunctions because of their heavy use. Fortunately, at least for companies that can afford to purchase the too-of-the line models, computerized diagnostics and the ability to get help from the saw manufacturer via modem can help minimize costly downtime and service calls.
"Reliability and enhanced diagnostic capabilities have come a long way Jamison said. "This is due mainly to increasingly more sophisticated control technology and to an ever-increasing sophistication of the end users.
"Troubleshooting is no longer a tedious process," Jamison added. "The on-line diagnostics allow even the least sophisticated user to effectively diagnose and repair the machine." The result of these and other improvements is "increased up time and machine utilization efficiency," he said.
Armitage spoke for many of the panel saw manufacturers in noting that while panel saws themselves have not changed appreciably over the last two years, significant software developments are nonetheless enabling users to derive greater productivity from their saws.
"The software has improved on all fronts," Armitage said, "from the ease of optimization packages to special performance programs for monitoring the output of a machine during production. Several of the best mechanical advances I noted are a direct result of integration of the more flexible control to aid in setting the machine more precisely in a wider variety of applications. These include digitized blade height that allows grooving in different depths to 0.1 mm accuracy with no manual setting, and automatic variable speed of the saw blade, carriage feed speed, program fence speed and blade projection based on the operator's choice of materials type from a menu on screen."
On another front, Hans Mason, products manager for Altendorf America of Grand Rapids, MI, observed that the availability of smaller beam saws at "correspondingly lower prices," has made them easier for shops with up to 20 employees to cost justify. "A typical business growth move is from the table saw to the saw beam. With lower costs and smaller footprints, the shops can `step up' to a beam saw sooner than they could a few years ago."
"The future for panel processing is bright," Linss said. "For those manufacturers of vision, truly automated systems are available which present tremendous opportunities for flexibility and control. Today, panels can be totally processed through a variety of machines, utilizing centralized control, without human intervention on the factory floor. The result can be a true, efficient and profitable integration between the front office and the factory."
Available panel saws
The following horizontal beam, sliding table and vertical panel saws represent an overview of recent market introductions. In fact, nearly all of these machines were displayed at the International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair held Aug. 22-25 in Atlanta.
Circle the appropriate number(s) on the Reader's Service Card in this issue to receive additional information. For an even more comprehensive selection of panel sizing equipment, refer to WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS' 1996 Red Book Buyers' Guide.
Horizontal beam saws
Giben America Inc. offers an extensive line of single line and angular panel sizing systems. The saws, including the company's Prismatic 301, utilize the G-Drive control system, which employs IBM-compatible technology. Features include non-proprietary and upgradeable control systems, the emergency use of a standard office PC as a controller, real-time graphics and diagnostics, operator pre-training possibilities, and various opportunities for multiple machine and software integration. GibenOn-Line, Giben's service and diagnostics system, provides troubleshooting via modem communication from Giben's service office to the customer's machine. Circle #295
The Mayer PS 2 and PS 9 computerized panel machines are fully automatic and programmable to offer window cutting, automatic adjustment of saw blade speed based on material type, grooving and cutting or other special fabrication operations. All Mayer saws use the IPC-5100 and Mayerware, a 80486-based Windows software package that includes real-time cutting graphics. Mayer is distributed and serviced by Force Machinery Co. Circle #296
Selco has introduced the EB 110 Series of front-loading panel saws, available from Biesse America. The EB Series offers a 3 1/2-in. cutting height, CNC machine control and on-line labeling capabilities. AC servo motors and rack-and-pinion drive of the positioning fence are among the features. Circle #297
Holzma-U.S., Div. of Stiles Machinery Inc., offers the HPP 22 panel saw. It is available in front-loading, automatic back-loading and angular system configurations. The HPP 22 features a 5.4-in. blade exposure, up to a 40-hp main saw motor and fence positioning feeds of 230 fpm (forward and return) and saw carriage return of 330 fpm. Circle #298
The Schelling FL panel saw comes in three basic configurations: manual infeed, automatic infeed and vacuum infeed. The saw comes in a 10-ft and 12-ft capacity and has a 5-in. cutting height. Other features include frictionless magnetic tape encoder system and an IBM-compatible computer. Circle #299
IMA-European Woodworking offers Anthon horizontal panel saws that range from smaller machines with 4-in. cutting heights and cutting speeds of 32 fpm to CNC machines with 8-in. cutting heights and speeds of 100 fpm. Larger, custom-designed installations are available with a wide range of options for infeed systems, scoring systems, blade diameters and cutting motor horsepowers. Circle #300
The Scheer PA5000 series of automatic panel saws from Richard T. Byrnes Inc. has a durable, cast-iron saw carriage guided by precision linear bearings and is capable of 4-in. stack cutting. All saw carriage functions are computer controlled including length of travel, saw height, speed (up to 70m/minute) and scoring saw on/off. The machine can be front loaded, equipped with optional rear loading or supplied as an angular system. A 486/25mhz IBM-compatible PC, with 80MB hard drive, runs the machine program while a Siemens S5-U95 PLC controls machine functions. Circle #301
Tekna offers the Gabbiani Elite single beam panel saw featuring a strengthened frame and fast saw blade carriage return. The Elite also has photo-electric cells which activate the feeders and load the next panels to be cut while the machine is still making the last cut. Circle #302
Holz-Her's Optima pressure beam saw is available in either frontloading or backloading models. Optima's features and options include: sliding saw carriage for vibration-free cutting, quick-change saw blade system that requires no tools, 3-hp heavy-duty scoring unit, 100mm cutting height; choice of Tria 4000 or Tria 5500 CNC control systems and built-in optimization package. Circle #303
The Homag Espana CH-12 automatic panel saw from Altendorf America, Div. of Stiles Machinery Inc. incorporates one-man operation and stack cutting of panels or single sheets. The CH-12 features computer downloading capability for optimizing production. The rear program fence of the CH-12 is equipped with six pneumatic clamps for automatic positioning and advance of panels as they are cut. Circle #304
Sliding table saws
The JUNO 3000i from Lazzari America Inc. features 3,200mm sliding table working stroke with lock in any position, a 7.5-hp main motor and a 1-hp independent scoring motor with external scoring adjustment. Other features include tilting shaft up to 45 degrees, 400mm saw blade diameter, precision goniometer and overarm safety guard. Three other models are available including the LUNA, which is equipped with a 3-axis CNC control unit. Circle #305
SCMI offers the 10-ft Hydro 3200 sliding table saw that features hydraulic adjustments of the 0- to 45-degree tillable blade group. The saw also features a digital read-out of the blade speed, 59-in. rip capacity, 9-hp main motor and 1-hp scoring motor. Other features include anodized aluminum table and a heavy-gauge cross-cut fence. Circle #306
Derda Inc. offers a sliding table panel saw that cuts panels at three spindle speeds. An electromagnetic brake stops the main blade rapidly. Scoring and main blades tilt from 0 to 45 degrees. Blades are powered by independent motors. Circle #307
Unique Machine & Tool Co. offers overhead panel saws designed for a variety of applications. Cut lengths are available from 48 in. to 144 in., with hold-downs and custom tables available to meet a customer's specific needs. A complete range of materials can be cut including plastics, wood, countertops and metals. Circle #308
The newly redesigned Martin T-72A sliding table saw from Eric Riebling Co. Inc. incorporates digital read-out on the rip fence which can be adjusted from left and right positions of the sliding carriage by a hand-wheel. Martin also offers new options including a cross-cut fence with digital (LED) read-out. The more advanced Martin T-72A automatic sliding table saw is equipped with a control panel and 3-axis control for rip fence, height and tilt with 100 different values for each axis. Circle #309
Vertical panel saws
Atlantic Machinery Inc. distributes the P. Meniconi line of vertical panel saws. Standard features on all models include an attachment for cutting short panels, a stop for vertical cuts and four positions for horizontal cuts. Available options on some models include a scoring unit and dust collection system. Circle #310
The Striebig Optisaw 1-Plus vertical panel saw from Colonial Saw Co. Inc. features a rigid frame, automatic shifting support laths and a scoring blade. The saw has a 75in. by 169-in. cutting capacity and a full cutting depth of 3k in. The Optisaw 1-Plus can be fitted with Striebig's WSG angle cutting attachment, Digitron two-axis digital measuring or the new Positron automatic programmable stop system with optimizing software interface. Circle #311
The Hendrick PRO-V is a single blade scoring, hold-down vertical panel saw from Hendrick RWH Ind. Inc. Hendrick says the saw has a straight line accuracy of +/- 0.005 in. The PRO-V is fully automatic. The operator need only place the material against the stop, press the foot pedal and press the start cut button. The PRO-V can cut 1/2-in. squares to 5-ft x 10-ft sheets. Circle #312
Safety Speed Cut offers a brochure describing its line of vertical panel saws, including standard and optional equipment and machine specifications. The company offers seven different lines of panel saws and routers. Circle #313
A & S Machinery Inc. features a variety of saws including the 5X5-V Upright panel saw. It features a vertical cut of 2 3/4 in., length of cut up to 122 in. and spindle speed of 3,450 rpm. A counter balance weight offers additional safety and ease of operation. Circle #314
Laguna Tools Inc. offers the Harwi line of vertical panel saws. There are four models to choose from as well as custom-built machines. The saws are made from a continuous metal piece welded frame. A dust collection system is optional. Circle #315