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High-tech panel processing follows panel improvements.

As particleboard and MDF manufacturers make new strides toward engineered perfection, manufacturers of woodworking machinery and tools push the limits of accuracy and flexibility.

Improvements in panel processing have been across the board, so to speak, and that includes the machinery used to process particleboard and medium density fiberboard (MDF). The new improved panels have given reason for the development of some very innovative and high-tech woodworking machines including CNC machining centers, computerized panel saws and point-to-point boring machines.

Werner Deuring of Schelling America Inc. in Raleigh, N.C., says that the "tremendously improved properties" of Engineered Wood panels have prompted woodworking equipment makers to develop a higher level of technology that addresses critical issues such as accuracy, flexibility and repeatability. "CNC panel saws, for example, answer the need for better and more repeatable cut-to-size capabilities," Deuring says. "Today's panels allow for longer tool life for saws blades and smoother cut edges on the panels."

"Panel saw manufacturers have developed equipment for cut up -- heavy-duty machinery that is capable of cutting the full-size mats manufactured in sizes like 5 feet by 16 feet and 9 feet by 24 feet to sizes which are popular with furniture manufacturers," Deuring says, then adds, "The cut-to-size needs of furniture are low-labor and extreme accuracy. Today's advanced panel sizing systems can do most of the work including: high-volume cutting, sorting, stacking, strapping, and preparation for shipping."

Machining centers

Tony Brown, sales manager of CMS North America in High Point, N.C., agrees with Deuring that the improvements in particleboard and MDF have challenged machinery manufacturers to upgrade their equipment offerings. "The overall quality of the boards, the consistency, have made it necessary for us to develop machining centers of enhanced performance," Brown says. "People who use MDF for kitchen cabinet doors, for example, demanded a higher quality product from the machine industry, meaning very accurate cuts with repeatability which also puts a greater demand on tooling."

Brown says that another plus with the new consistent panels is the ability to work at higher feed rates than are possible with solid wood because of its inherent irregular grain pattern. "Today's boards are flatter without warps or twists. MDF is consistent time after time and that allows a manufacturer to establish the correct tooling for such a consistent products," Brown says.

Bill Pitt, vice president and general manager of Holzma-U.S., a Div. of Stiles Machinery Inc. based in Gastonia, N.C., says both Engineered Wood and engineering systems have become increasingly sophisticated. "Today, panel manufacturers are tailoring their particleboard and MDF to the market utilization designing exactly what a customer wants to use a panel for. If a panel customer needs more structural stability, panel makers use stiffer, larger flakes. For a finer face, they change the wood geometry.

"There are lots of possibilities for machinery systems and we are rising to that occasion," Pitt continues. "Our primary industry customers, those that produce panels, are becoming more involved in offering 'value-added' services such as cut-to-size. It has become a big item for the market and is actively growing."

Another change in business as usual in the panel industry, Pitt notes, is the reluctance of furniture and cabinet manufacturers to spend money on large inventories of panels. "This trend toward just-in-time production scheduling has resulted in the need for machines that are increasingly flexible to keep pace with quick changeovers."

Pitt says CNC panel saws allow high-speed set-up changes because these saws have the ability to retain patterns in a computer on or off the cutting floor. Because of computerization, the saw can process a variety of patterns for different orders in quick succession from a cutlist, eliminating costly set-up time at the saw. Pitt says this offers manufacturers the flexibility to do volume production, but in "little bites" of small lot sizes as opposed to long runs of one lot size. "Yield goes up tremendously because the machine can accommodate different orders and complicated cutting patterns, offering a tremendous amount of savings for the end user," he says.

Bar coding

Pitt says an important trend in the industry is information handling -- linking production scheduling in the office to the shop floor. This has been extended through the use of bar coding. He explains that bar code labels attached to the workpieces can contain a variety of information about a customer's order including monitoring where it is in the manufacturing process, estimating how long the manufacturing process takes and specifics about the order that relate to the concept of optimization.

"Labelling offers a means of two-way communication between product planning and control. Tracking also gives one the power to produce a forecast of cutting time and the ability to check it in real time. Labelling can include bar coded instructions that link machining centers together by information rather than mechanically," says Pitt, adding that mechanical links are conveyors between machines. Informational links, he says, allow the machine centers to communicate with one another by reading labels using a bar code wand. The bar code, for example, can tell the machine which one of 10 different edges to apply or the exact pattern or profile to use that is stored in the memory of a CNC router.

"The ultimate goal is to efficiently produce products with virtually no changeover and a maximized optimization of yield and time," Pitt says.

Tooling advancements

Charles P. "Chuck" Robertson, general sales manager for North American Products' office in Atlanta and a member of the PB/MDF Institute, observes the current state of the machinability of panels. "Even with the utilization of computers and the new and modified equipment now in use to make the cutting of particleboard easier, there is one critical area that can not be overlooked -- the proper selection of cutting tools for cutting particleboard and MDF," Robertson says.

"The selection of saw blades can usually be determined by the density of the composite being cut. The coarseness of the grain, particle size and chip geometry must be considered in the saw blade selection to insure the most effective results. There is an ideal. The design of the saw blade must match its rpm with the feed rate of the material through the cut, so that the desired chip per load per cutting tooth will be maintained," Robertson says. "If this is not done, chip out and fiber tearout will occur and a decrease in the length of tool life will be the direct result."

The engineering of composite panels has been greatly improved with the end results being greater uniformity and cleaner cuts. "The engineered product seen as a completed product in a furniture showroom is actually superior to the furniture purchased by our parents 50 years ago," Robertson says.


"I need the Institute to stay current in the particleboard and MDF industries. The Institute does more than track trends or establish demographics of the marketplace. The Institute affords me the opportunity to stay in touch with the expectations of an ever-changing industry. The end result is that I, as a professional salesman, am more knowledgeable about my marketplace."

--Chuck Robertson, North American Products


"The Institute has been instrumental in increasing the use of a wide range of panels in the United States. We attend meetings to exchange ideas and give input on the marketplace and promotional programs. The Institute's chief mandate is to promote the image of Engineered Wood. We support that issue."

--Bill Pitt, Holzma U.S. Inc., Div. of Stiles Machinery Inc.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:woodworking machinery
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Surface quality & edge integrity now panel norms.
Next Article:Engineered wood creates new hardware & assembly options.

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