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PCs link offices to saws.

Seven industry experts discuss leading trends in panel sizing technology.

Thank the personal computer for helping make today's panel saws operate smarter and faster with fewer miscues and greater yields.

The majority of panel sizing experts interviewed for this story singled out PC controls as the most important recent innovation in panel saw technology. The experts noted that PC controls for panel sizing are affordable for small-volume manufacturers as well as high-production operations.

Factory Integration

John Linss, vice president of sales for Giben America Inc. pointed to factory floor integration with personal computers as a significant development in panel-sizing optimization.

"Factory floor integration through IBM-compatible, PC-based solutions offers the most promise for today's panel-processing manufacturers," said Linss. "The PC solution presents tremendous advantages both today and for the future. Because the PC is the world-wide computer industry standard, PC-control systems support is always readily available. It also provides for reliable, flexible and seamless communications as well as simple technology upgrades.

"Furthermore, because workcell integration solutions are the strongest growing area of panel-sizing applications today, reliable communication plays a critical role. In addition, through the utilization of PC technology, the days requiring proprietary one-source workcell solutions are over." Linss explained that this is an important development because one company cannot easily provide the best solution for every one production requirement and situation.

"In a workcell, you need software for product design and job planning, cut list generation, CNC program generation, label design and label printing. You also need a panel saw, a machining center and an edgebander. Therefore, inherent in any one source solution is the possibility of a weak link somewhere in the chain," said Linss. "The end result of using PC-based technology is a client-centered solution because integration is inherent in its architecture. Therefore, the client can choose the most appropriate components of the workcell for the application with full confidence in the result."

Graphic Diagnostics

Bill Pitt, vice president of Holzma-U.S., Div. of Stiles Machinery, considers graphic and photo error diagnostics as one of the most important recent refinements in troubleshooting panel saw problems.

"Graphic and photo-error diagnostics are notable because if a problem starts these improvements make it easier to identify problems on the panel saw," said Pitt. "When there is a problem with a machine, most of the time is spend trying to identify the problem. With graphic and photo error diagnostics, one can get right to the problem and reduce downtime."

"Another important improvement is the additional power of PCs. Today, programs allow labels to be generated with a part drawing. The part drawings show the actual component with all the necessary machining operations. This visual prompt is much more effective at transferring information to an operator than text. This information is, as a result, processed quicker and with lower error rates," Pitt said.

Also important is the change in barcodes themselves. "The multiple lines of barcodes make barcoding technology available for a variety of tracking and set-up operations downstream from the saw," said Pitt. "Previous generations of labels only had one-line barcodes, limiting their usage. Networking allows PC-based/CNC machines to be networked in a manufacturing cell environment, which consists of a CNC panel saw, point-to-point machining centers, barcode set up, edgebanders, CNC routers, etc. The manufacturing cell is an ideal technological solution for eliminating set-up time, compressing the manufacturing process, handling short-run quantities and achieving short turnaround time."

PC-Networking for Small Shops

Erich Mazurek, product and sales manager for Gabbiani/Mahros, Tekna Advanced Technology, said he considers PC-Networking to be the best improvement in panel sizing when used for cell technology.

"Technology is available to centralize machine operations within a working cell," Mazurek said. "Through RS232 lines or direct network connections, the panel saw not only machines the panels for the woodworking process but also distributes the information and commands (on-line labeling and bar-coding) required for the edgebander and the point-to-point boring machines for just-in-time production.

"Even though, in the past, this technology was only justifiable for the larger manufacturers, cell production has become simplified and affordable for the smaller woodworking shops, as well. This enables them to stay competitive by tying all facets of their operation together, from order entry to the finished products."

"Much of the off-the-shelf woodworking application software comes readily available with cabinet and millwork design inventories already within the software for the 32mm system," said Mazurek. "This really helps the smaller manufacturers get up off the ground, without having to be worried about learning CAD designing and linking all the machines together within a work cell. Cell technology is modular, so companies can purchase the required machines and software as their companies grow."

Controlling a Work Cell

Randy Jamison, Selco national sales manager for Biesse Group America in Michigan, observed, "PCs have provided a more commonly understood and more widely accepted environment with which to communicate with the panel saw as well as other equipment in the factory. Machine controls are still the most efficient and reliable means of controlling a complex machine. I believe that the future will be best suited for those who are able to effectively combine the reliability and power of a machine control with the flexibility, ease of use and low cost of today's PCs," said Jamison.

"Management of the panel saw as a work cell is the largest benefit of PC computerization. From controlling production, yielding, efficiencies and general material flow to tracking routine maintenance, guiding troubleshooting efforts and diagnosing failures, the computer has brought the ability to manage the panel saw as a work cell more efficiently.

"The PC also provides access to thou sands of software developers and existing software programs. This becomes important to those companies that require and are capable of using the information available to them. To me, this is a question often ignored and/or misunderstood."

Jamison said he thinks the widespread adoption of PC-based controls is important to the future of "all of us as manufacturers of machines. The difficulty as a manufacturer is finding a reliable platform with which to base these control systems."

Eliminating Paper

Werner Deuring, president of Schelling Austria and CEO of the Schelling Organization, said the personal computer's role in the machine industry has developed almost as quickly as its role in the computer industry.

"PCs play an important role in many manufacturing areas," Deuring said. "They can improve the production process and the user friendliness of a machine, such as a panel saw. This, in turn, results in higher productivity and lower cost per part because of increased communications via onlines, downloads, and uploads."

Deuring said that with PC controls gaining ground in manufacturing, every machine becomes an integrated part of the network of machines that are capable of loading and transferring information to a main host computer and to others. "This is a labor-saving development that results in a lowering of the cost of each part produced," he said. "Linking the machinery on the manufacturing floor to PCs in other locations simplifies and improves the entire process.

"Also, packages are available that will generate a cutting chart somewhere in the office, transfer it to the panel saw providing online information, then upload or feed back the information once the job is done for further processing. The panel saw is communicating with the other machinery, via online information. Bar code printing information at the saw, for example, allows users to program and feed information to the next machine in the process, linking all manufacturing," explained Deuring.

"The most important work usually begins with the panel saw. It is a key piece of equipment in any operation. Improving the way it works singly and in conjunction with the rest of the process that follows is very important. The computer developments have improved the process and eliminated the need for manual dissemination of information. With the computer links, there is no more paper trail."

Deuring explained that a salesperson for a furniture or cabinet manufacturer can take an order for a cut-to-size operation in his office. "The sales person receives the request," he said. "He generates the job in an optimization program and learns the costs of the job and the time needed to do the job both in real time and with a real price evaluation. With the optimization program, with a press of a button the panel saw can be programmed all while seeing what is involved in the costs associated with the job. In addition, the panel saw is linked to the rest of the machinery."

More Info Quicker

"The PC at the panel saw has now become an extension of the office PC network," said Larry Tolbert of Richard T. Byrnes Inc. "This allows more office data to reach the production area quicker. Having more data available for the panel saw allows this data to be put on a label for the part at the same time the part is being cut. This information stays with the part through the tire production process."

"A network connection between the office and the PC at the panel saw not only speeds set-up time at the saw but enables faster changes in production scheduling on the shop floor that the 'sneaker network' could provide," Tolbert said. He explained that the sneaker network is the name for the process of "walking" a floppy disk program or printed cutlists to the panel saw operator.

"Having the PC on the panel saw has also allowed panel saw manufacturers to write operating software that is very powerful, yet easy to use," he said. "These programs help the operator switch quickly between various modes of operation, as well as letting the operator optimize smaller cut-lists right at the saw."

Integrating Data

Rusty Denson, product and sales manager for SCMI's Industrial Line, said, "Probably one of the more recent improvements in the panel sizing area and of importance for all aspects of businesses is the ability to integrate data from various software programs into one useable format. While saw controllers and office PCs have been communicating effectively for years, the bottlenecks have most often been in the office. For example, data in one design program had to be manually inputted into the format of another software supplier while the cost-estimating program from yet another software vendor required the same information, but the file format was not compatible."

Denson added, "More emphasis must be placed on the total software package rather than Individual functions. Rather than the customer asking 'Will it barcode?' the questions should be 'What will barcoding do for me and what I envision for my business?'

"Many times businesses put the proverbial cart before the horse by buying features and saying 'What do I do now?' The panel saw and (its controller) should be the final step in a well thought-out process with the customer saying 'This is what I want to do. How do I go about it?'" With today's everchanging technology, Denson said a customer who buys features without a plan for putting it into operation, risks seeing it quickly become obsolete.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Digital Woodworking; improvements in panel sizing with increased use of personal computers
Author:Kaiser, Jo-Ann
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Apr 1, 1998
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