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Panel saw optimization: minimizes waste, maximizes yield.

Optimizing panel cutting operations offers a host of benefits. Industry experts discuss what a shop needs to do to realize these advantages.

To increase yield while reducing waste is every manufacturer's goal and panel saw optimization is a means of reaching that end. Consisting of a computer, optimization software and a computerized panel saw, the optimization system determines the most effective way to cut panels.

In a typical operation, orders are inputted into a computer, parts are designed based on that data, and the optimization system calculates the most efficient cutting pattern. This information is downloaded via modem to the saw's computer, which in turn sets up the saw.

Optimizing minimizes waste, saves machine operating time, reduces operator labor and lowers energy consumption. Because of these benefits, many industry experts recommend that shops consider optimizing their panel sizing operations.

Yet, the decision to optimize should take in a variety of factors, according to industry experts. Some questions to be considered include:

* Is optimization cost-justified?

* How efficient is the overall cutting operation?

* What software features are needed?

* Is there enough technical support to service the system?


Companies need to analyze their current methods, procedures and equipment when deciding to optimize. Robert Gowen, president of Pattern Systems International, Mt. Arlington, N.J., said that many operations, particularly the smaller ones, do not know their waste factor. He added that in many cases, calculations are left up to the saw operator who considers his job as cutting, not calculating layouts to maximize yield.

"By analyzing your operations, it should be reasonable to expect a 3 percent increase in yield using an effective panel optimizing program which is like buying the board 3 percent less than you currently are," Gowen said. "Better yet, it drops right to the bottom line -- increased profits."

Also, because the goal of optimization is to reduce waste and increase yield of material, a shop's typical cutting applications must be considered.

Larry Tolbert, technical support manager, Richard T. Byrnes Co. Inc. of West Chester, Pa., said he recommends comparing yield and sawing time. "Optimization affords great yield, but produces complicated cutting patterns which take longer to cut," he said. Zennie Royals of Stefani Group America, Greensboro, N.C., said that a shop must achieve a proper balance between raw material costs and the operating costs of the saw. Gaining a one-half percent yield is not cost-effective if it takes 20 percent more time to process, she said.

For a shop to be truly optimized, every aspect of production must be maximized. The software package, the material handling system, the saw itself, and the technical support must operate at maximum efficiency, said other experts.

Software features

Optimization software must be user-friendly, quick and serviceable. On-screen help and pull-down windows make the software easy to operate. Fast data entry and easy review of results are also desirable features.

Graphic simulation of cuts is also very helpful said Giordano Checci, president of Giben America, Norcross, Ga. Since the machine optimizes according to input, the results will not necessarily be correct; simulation of the computer operation gives the operator a chance to recheck his work before downloading the information into the saw's memory.

The software must also allow a number of yield options based on cutting speed versus material cost, said John Linss of Danckaert Woodworking Machine Co., Atlanta, Ga. "When material cost is lower, the financial advantage of speed may be chosen. When the material cost is high, the goal is to maximize the actual yield from each panel," Linss said. A library reference for "shorts" and odd panel sizes generated from previous cuts will also contribute to improved yields, he added.

Integration with other areas of production is also important. The optimizer must be able to read files from other programs (import) and create files for other programs to read (export), Gowen said. Also, a fully integrated optimization system should speed up the overall process of designing cutting patterns, labeling, stacking, sorting and job batching.

Saw features

Operator comfort and ergonomics are important saw considerations, said Steve Baltayan of Holz-Her. To reduce downtime, setting, adjustment and re-equipment of the machine should also be very easy and fast, he said. "The machine must also offer precision cuts and a long useful life, almost as a matter of course," he said.

William Pitt, vice president and general manager of Holzma U.S., div. of Stiles Machinery in Gastonia, N.C., said that the panel saw itself needs to be electronically controlled, preferably with automatic downloading of the cutting instructions, and it should be equipped with a high-speed positioning fence with clamps.

The clamps link the panels being cut to the positioning fence, assuring tight tolerance accuracy, high throughput, and, further, freeing the operator up, so, he can be doing one operation such as off stacking, while the saw is doing another, such as cross cutting. "The panel saw should be of heavy construction, run at high operating speeds to accommodate today's short runs, and built for reliability with minimal maintenance," Pitt added.

Material Handling

Material handling to load sheets to be cut onto the machine with minimal direct labor can include a simple scissors lift at the front of the panel saw or a fully integrated automatic lift positioned at the rear of the machine," Pitt said.

To enable the operator to off stack parts as quickly as the saw cuts them, small scissors lifts or similar devices must be placed at the outfeed of the cross cut operation of the saw. This way, the operator can simply slide and place the cut parts onto the load.

Saw and software support

Another key element for achieving an efficient panel cut up operation is ensuring that good support is available for both the saw and the software. Adequate technician help, adequate spare parts stock, or adequate technician help, optimization and information handling software must be available from the saw's supplier. "The system will be only as good as the backup. If the panel saw is down for want of a 50 cent part, it is down none the less, and those lost production hours can be painful and expensive," said Pitt.

The ultimate stage of panel optimization is the integration of front office order processing with panel sizing operations, said Linss. A seamless flow of order entry, panel optimization, cutting list and panel saw program generation followed by label and report printing is possible with today's technology.

"This type of application is not for every company, however, and the company that chooses this option should have sufficient information management personnel to provide in-house support," he said.

The following panel saws and optimization packages are available. For more information circle the corresponding number on the Reader's Service Card.


Cabinet Vision's software optimizes for yield or labor, allows for saw kerf and allows for edge trim cuts. Users can specify vertical, horizontal or combination rips, add additional parts to an optimization run and can change part size and quantity on screen. The system allows for different stock sizes simultaneously and allows for again direction or non-grain material.

Hendricksaw says its Just Enough software is a new approach to panel cutting optimization. It is designed for the 90% of its customers that are in the business of cutting expensive panels of material. The software is reportedly user-friendly, easy to learn, limited in scope and simple. Orders are stored in the files to be retrieved at a later time for duplication or reports. Standard reports are: Cutting Directions, Stack Tickets and Job reports.

The push-feed Up-Cut Optimizing System from GreCon North America is ideal, according to the company, for smaller manufacturing shops and can offer better lumber utilization and profit for the user.

Available from Tekna Machinery, ASCOP optimization for Gabianni saws is part of a family of software written by Advanced Software for SCM products. ASCOP runs on any IBM compatible computer, 286 or above. The program is very user-friendly, the company says.

Cut Planner from Pattern Systems automatically sorts materials so the user can enter parts from a list of mixed materials. Data entry is reportedly fast and easy with a user defined setup routine that eliminates the need to type in repetitive information. Layouts, in the form of a thumbnail display, can be viewed on a single screen. The Cutlist Summary Report provides statistics of several cutlists for a job on sheet sizes and quantities used and their yield.

Keytrix Systems offers Optimizer/2001, a new panel-cutting optimizer software. It supports Giben, Scheer, Holzma, SCMI and other panel saws. Keytrix has also expanded its estimating and detailing programs for custom casework and millwork.

The Panel Optimization software available from Cabnetware is fully integrated with The Detailer and CabnetWorks -- its cabinet design and cutting list programs. After designing a job, all parts can be fed directly into the optimization program. The program automatically allows for saw kerf, trim cuts, multiple re-rips, stacked sheets and for stock parts. It also allows for grain or non-grain materials.

Heuristics International Inc. offers software which can achieve up to a 15% savings in raw materials cost, simplifies cutting procedures and saves time, according to the company. The program copes with different grades of material and grained material.

Holzma US Inc. offers Cut-Rite Plus, an optimization and production control package with product library and parts library. It features: capacity up to 120 different parts per run and 20 different board sizes; batch processing of up to 15 different runs per set-up.

Giben America offers a variety of optimization systems including: Optisave, a pattern cutting system with time calculations for scheduling and cost estimating, and OptiLedi, with menus for material quality and batching/sorting.

Mid-Ohio Systems offers the version 1.0 Opti-Cut, an optimization and nesting software package, developed by Datatec International. It is a stand-alone automatic nesting system that can optimize the cutting requirements of rectangular shapes for shearing type operations. Each job can consist of up to 50 different rectangular pieces of varying quantities. Opti-Cut determines the optimum placement of the parts on up to six different blank sizes.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes list of optimization software packages; panel cutting optimization
Author:Dunne, Beverly
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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