Tips for buying an entry-level machine, plus set-up advice.

Q. What are the must-have features to look for when buying an entry-level moulder?

A. Carter, Product Manager,
Stiles Machinery Inc.:
One of the features an entry-level moulder must
have is a cast-iron body. Cast iron is porous, and those pores absorb
vibration. Steel bodies allow vibration generated from high-spindle rpm and
out-of-balance tools to transfer throughout the machine. This will find its way
to the workpiece’s finish quality.

If a steel
body is to be used, you will generally find it to be larger and weigh much more
than the equivalent cast-iron body. The larger the steel body, the more
possibility that vibration will not be an issue. The problem with small shops
is that they normally do not have the room for a machine with such a large

A. J.R. Powell, Product
Manager for Moulders, Weinig:
As a
manufacturer of moulders and other complementary equipment, we cannot
over-emphasize the importance of operator training, especially for the
first-time moulder owner. Proper training goes hand-in-hand with success and
consistently leads to fewer operational obstacles, faster set-up times and a
much higher quality in the production pieces, right from the start.

As the number of different profiles to be produced daily by
the moulder increases, minimizing set-up times becomes an increasingly
critical, but manageable, variable in achieving productivity and production
goals. This is where proper training of the moulder operator shows its worth.

Additionally, the first-time moulder buyer should carefully communicate the species, size and
complexity of the profiles he plans to produce, so that the best decision can
be made in matching the number of spindles and the horsepower of the moulder to
the task.

A. Bruce Akhurst, VP of Sales
and Marketing, Leadermac USA:

Must-have features include:

• Mechanical digital readouts on all cutterhead axes and
top head chip breakers and pressure plates for reduced set-up time and
repeatability of product.

• Dual digital counters for the near side head and top
head(s). Radial measurements are very desirable in order to reduce set-up time.

• Hard chrome bed surfaces, guides, chip breakers and
pressure shoes for wear resistance and better control of product.

• There are varying qualities in spindles and spindle
bearings. Leadermac has four high-precision bearings per spindle, which result
in tighter spindle tolerances, producing a quality finished product.

• It is best to consider a turn-key solution, including
tooling, cutterheads, measurement stands and, most importantly, proper
operation and maintenance training. Without the proper training, you will have
a difficult time producing a quality finished product quickly and safely.

Q. What is the secret for fast, accurate setups?

A. Carter: The secret to fast,
accurate setups is adequate tooling inventory and organization. Most customers
will benefit from having a minimum of three sets of tools revolving through the
system at all times: One set running on the machine, the second ready and
waiting, and the third in the tool room being serviced. The more changeovers
per day a shop needs, the more tool sets that will be needed.

For example, if it takes 40 min. for
the tool room to prepare one set of tools and the moulder’s average run time is
10 min. and changeover time is 5 min., then the moulder will out-run the tool
room in the first 2 to 3 hours of production, unless the tool room is at least
8 to 10 sets of tools or more ahead of the moulder production.

The second issue is with organization.
Most confuse set-up time with down-time. Set-up time is exchanging tools and
making necessary adjustments in order to prepare the moulder for the next job.
Down-time is when the operator is running to the tool room to get tools that
are not ready, find product dimensions, find lumber, etc. Those have nothing to
do with the actual set-up time, but show a lack of planning.

A. Powell: Every customer’s moulding order brings with it a sequence
of steps to ensure that the highest quality product is produced. From preparing
the profile knives to shape the moulding, to adjusting all the spindles to the
correct positions, accuracy is essential.

Accurate and timely communication of the order and the
profile specifications — from the production office through the tool room and
then to the moulder — greatly improves the set-up speed for any job. By linking
the profile information via computer to the required action stations in the
process, the operator eliminates the potential for time-consuming delays caused
by “human error.”

A. Akhurst: To achieve fast setup:

• Measure the radius and axial positioning of the knives on a set-up stand and then take
the cutter to the moulder. At this point, the operator will dial in the
location on the digital counters of each spindle. This will get the operator to
a close proximity to a finished product, and then only fine-tuning is required.

• The latest developments are touch-screen controls with
preloading of pattern information and setworks on axes as desired, as well as
electronic digital readouts at head locations, telling the operator what
position to set to. The new controls have memory capacity and include a whole library
of information and history.

• Ensure that tooling is properly balanced, otherwise
finish quality suffers. This also causes vibration, which results in premature
spindle bearing failure.

• Most users maintain a library of
patterns they run and the appropriate radial and axial position of each head to
run that profile.

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