Accessories, optimization help to increase panel saw efficiency.

Every woodworking business has at least one and, oftentimes, several types of saws on the shop floor, so a little advice on how to improve saw productivity can pay big dividends. Some of the industry’s leading panel saw manufacturers and distributors offer the following few tips for custom woodworkers.

Tom Houska, marketing professional, Safety Speed Cut:

One of the easiest ways to improve panel saw productivity is through the use of stops. There are typically a couple different options from which to choose:

• The first method is utilizing a “quick stop gauge” that consists of a metal extrusion with an embedded scale and an adjustable stop block. This type of system provides an easy-to-use method of making repeat cuts at any length. This system also has an optional digital readout that mounts on the stop block, adding digital precision and repeatability.

• The second method is using a “stop bar gauge.” This is a multiple-stop system for production shops. It consists of a metal extrusion with an embedded scale and multiple flip stops. This method makes it very easy to set up a variety of stops at different lengths, thus eliminating the need to take multiple measurements.

Bill Pitt, vice president/general manager, Holzma U.S.:

Custom shop production is characterized by lots of short runs with frequent panel material changeover. A fast, front-loading, horizontal pressure beam saw can be an excellent tool in this environment, especially if the demands of small quantity, frequent material changeover cutting are anticipated. Below are some tips to help in that regard.

• Use your optimization program to figure out the number of each type of panel you will need for a job, then use the panel summary in your optimization program to assemble your sheets in a single bunk and send that kitted bunk of panels to the saw. Taking the step of building up a mixed bunk of materials will save lots of wasted time in material changeovers and their consequent interruptions to cutting at the saw.

• Position a scissors lift with its long dimension parallel to the long dimension of the air table of the panel saw furthest away from the right angle fence. The scissors lift will enable the saw operator to easily handle even the largest sheet of material by himself, and further, by positioning the long dimension of the panel parallel to the long dimension of the air table, the infeed motion for getting that panel onto the air tables will be a pivoting one, rather than a pulling one, which will make it much faster and easier to get the panels onto the machine.

• Be sure that all cutting patterns calculated by your optimization software are downloaded directly into the machine control, thus eliminating all set-up time and the potential for set-up error at the saw. Studies show that eliminating pattern entry at the saw can save 30 to 40 percent of the production day, especially in a custom shop where pattern changeover is constant. In addition, you can save 2 to 4 percent of annual panel consumption just by eliminating manual pattern set-up errors.

• If your pressure beam panel saw offers an on-line label printing option, buy it. In custom shops where run quantities can be one at a time, it is much easier to track a component if it is labeled. The label can contain whatever information is relevant to your manufacturing operation: job name, part name, part dimensions, ship date, even additional machining or assembly instructions. In higher production environments, it’s relatively easy to track pallet loads containing hundreds of parts. However, in a short run, just-in-time, one-of-a-kind, one-at-a-time environment, an identifying label will facilitate finding the part and eliminate having to remanufacture a part you have already cut once.

Paul Hix, division marketing director and product manager/Cutting Solutions, Altendorf America:

When you're moving into a sliding table saw, the benefit of digital readouts allows the operator to easily and efficiently set their flip stops for the dimensions they want to start with. That’s beneficial, because it is not only time-saving for the quality, but it also is time-saving for the ease of setups and the reliability of consistently repeating that cut.

The next step is to go motorized, depending on how many variations of setups there are. Being motorized allows for quick and easy access to the position where you want to set your flip stops, prior to when you are positioning the workpiece on the saw and when you are getting ready to execute the cut.

Shimless scoring systems make it easy for the saw to be set up when you're using a new blade or replacing the main blade after it has been sharpened. This also reduces the amount of test cuts you need. Also, as you move up into the more advanced CNC sliding table saws, touchscreen controls become a very efficient process.

When you're actually processing a panel, from an efficiency standpoint on a slider, you want to emulate the cuts that you would have on a beam saw. Trim cut your parallel cuts first, and then make your trim cuts and your cross cut. Having some type of an optimizer allows you to maximize your cutting sequence versus your material and your material costs, therefore making your operator the most efficient when making the cuts, rather than making a parallel cut and then a cross cut. This way, he makes all the parallel cuts first and then makes the crosscuts, which therefore eliminates the amount of movement in the shop as well as the multiple handling of the workpieces.

Illustration by Chris Nititham

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