Continued advancements and capabilities are making boring and drilling machinery more versatile, yet it is important to match a specific machine to a specific company’s needs.

Unique characteristics of the substrate being used should be taken into consideration when deciding what type of hold-down method to utilize. Photo courtesy of Stiles Machinery Inc.

To gain insight into what’s new in regards to boring and drilling machines, Wood & Wood Products recently spoke to several manufacturers of these plant floor workhorses.

According to John Park, general manager of Delmac Machinery Group, one of the first things to keep in mind when talking about boring and drilling machines is language.

“Boring and drilling machines indicate that is all the machines do — a hand drill fits this description,” Park says. “We promote multi-function machines that perform multiple tasks. The development is to stop thinking in terms of specific functionality of the machine, and in terms of lean manufacturing — removing waste from the manufacturing process, creating value for the customer, and perfection of factory performance.”

Advancements and capabilities over the years reinforce this viewpoint. Jeff Conger, Weeke CNC product manager at Stiles Machinery Inc., says he also sees a continuing evolution of the machines in the future, especially when it comes to setup time. “We will continue to see new advancements and capabilities in boring and drilling machines that enable them to set up and change over quicker as the batch quantities of the average company’s usage continue to plummet,” he says. “Today’s boring and drilling machines process parts faster than ever before, however all this benefit is lost if the machine takes a long period of time to set up. Machines with virtually zero setup time are available today to the market and the commodities of scale of this technology will continue to help them become more affordable to more and more shops.”

“There are constant advancements in boring and drilling machines being pushed by market demands,” agrees Jason Varelli, RBO/Comil product manager for Biesse America. “In recent years these advancements have been focused on reduced setup time aimed at batch-one production and increased productivity. These types of machines/solutions are already on the market and every year new machines and/or new improved features are introduced to increase performances and efficiency.”

“[Our machine] is focused on those companies looking for cell manufacturing or looking to bring automation to their current manual drilling, boring and grooving production needs,” says Stephen McGhee, sander and CNC product manager for SCM Group USA.

Multi-functional machines can create more value for a company, as well as help provide a leaner production. Photos courtesy of IMA America

Peter Tuenker, president of IMA America, says that his company differentiates between throughfeed drilling machines and stationary drilling and routing machines. “The advances in these machine systems have been marginal over the past few years, mostly in the controls, the drive technology and the programming software,” he says. “We have put a lot of effort into a third area of drilling technology — we have been successful in incorporating throughfeed drilling and dowel insertion capabilities into our throughfeed edgebanders. We are now able to handle all horizontal drilling and dowel insertion, as well as some of the vertical drilling close to the edge of the panel [mostly for construction holes] on our throughfeed edgebanders.”

We are Living in a Material World...

In addition to increasing a machine’s capabilities, pairing the right type of hold-down mechanism with the specific material being bored or drilled can make a job run much smoother. Unique characteristics of the substrate being used, such as flatness, weight, density and size should be taken into consideration when deciding what type of hold-down method to utilize with that material, according to Conger.

“Unfortunately, specific guidelines that dictate which type of method to choose do not exist, making it even more important to work with companies that offer both flat table bleed-through hold-down systems along with machines that utilize vacuum support rails and pods,” Conger says.

“Technical process requirements dictate clamping systems that are designed for the item being produced,” says Park. “For example, solid wood generally requires flexible clamping systems or dedicated fixtures, panels are generally held with vacuum and lightweight panels require precise control of pressure on a panel saw pressure beam.”

Varelli adds that new materials, and more so new applications, have brought new challenges that have spurred the development or the improvement of specific machine functions. “Some newer developments are misting capability for aluminum cutting and a high speed electrospindle for plastics,” he says. “In the specific area of hold-downs, the right system is a function not just of the material, but also of the application and the production environment in which that material is used.”

New materials and applications have spurred the development of specific boring and drilling machine functions. Photo courtesy of SCM Group USA.

Tips on Buying

There are numerous factors to keep in mind when purchasing a boring and drilling machine. In addition to quality and price, a company’s requirements in regards to using the machine, as well as the reputation of the manufacturer of the equipment, should factor into the choice of machine.

“When purchasing boring and drilling machines, one should consider production capacity, floor space, machine accuracies, repeatability, reliability, and of course, the supplier of equipment [support, parts and service],” says McGhee.

“Customers always have to ask themselves what kind of operation is in their business plan,” says Varelli. “Typical parameters to consider are overall target productivity, variety of components, setup time and its effect on the productivity target, and budget available.”

“The best advice to give any customer looking to purchase a machine is not to buy solely on price, but to consider rather the value the machine brings to your organization and how it provides a total solution,” says Conger. “Many machines look alike if compared only on paper, but this doesn’t take into account the organization that will support the machine if it’s down. Taken as a whole, it comes down to risk reduction of purchasing a combination of the best machine with the best organization backup to get you up and running the quickest.”

“The customer needs to first identify the value stream for the product,” adds Park. “They need to examine their process for leanness, identifying what they need to produce. Drilling holes is surely but one aspect of the process. Once completed, maybe a small, inexpensive line drill fits the cell best. Or a CNC nesting machine that starts with a raw panel and completes all machining prior to banding and horizontal boring may fit better. A CNC nesting machine that loads and unloads itself allows the formation of a cell in which one operator can manage not only the CNC, but a horizontal bore/dowel machine and edge bander and possibly, assembly, depending on sales volume.”

Tuenker agrees. “It really depends on what type of product a customer wants to drill, as well as the needed quantity of parts on any given day and the individual batch sizes,” he says.

“It is also important to determine whether the drilling process can be incorporated into other value added processes like cutting, edgebanding or the assembly of the part,” Tuenker adds. “A user who needs to drill a couple of hundred parts each day can do that on a stationary machine, and these stationary machines often can be used for other processes such as routing, grooving or edgebanding. Somebody who needs to drill thousands of parts each day pretty much has to look at throughfeed drilling machines. Depending on the batch sizes, they then need to determine whether they need to look at an electronically-controlled throughfeed drill for quicker changeovers or a conventional manually adjusted throughfeed drill.”

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