Woodworking machinery manufacturers say there is much more to boring and drilling machines than simply putting holes in panels.

Boring and drilling equipment is essential to nearly every part of the woodworking industry, from small one- to two-man shops to companies with employees in the hundreds.

Photo courtesy of Stiles Machinery Inc.

Boring and drilling machines are utilized in nearly every facet of the woodworking industry, from small shops to large enterprises.

Wood & Wood Products recently spoke with several manufacturers of boring and drilling equipment to gain insight into what is new in terms of boring and drilling machines. Jason Varelli, Biesse America’s key account manager, RBO/Comil product manager, and Cesare Magnani, Biesse — Intermac North Ameria product manager, both agree that, “Boring and dowel insertion equipment is necessary for all casework applications utilizing dowel construction. Dowel construction is the most used method worldwide for fastening cabinets.”

John Park, general manager for Delmac Machinery Group concurs with Varelli and Magnani. “Drilling panels, solid wood and composites are fundamentally the most basic requirements for manufacturing product in our industry,” Park says.

However, what some woodworkers might not be aware of are the expanding capabilities of new boring and drilling machines, thanks to CNC technology and improved software.

Before You Buy Woodworking Machinery

When investing in any kind of woodworking machinery, it is best to approach the marketplace with an understanding of one’s requirements, as well as the variety of factors that can have an impact on the quality, usability and longevity of the woodworking machine.

“Although the technology has progressed over the years, the criteria to judge one woodworking machine versus another have really not changed to that great of an extent,” says Jeff Conger, CNC product manager for Stiles Machinery Inc. “What was important 10 years ago is still important today.”

There are a variety of factors that need to be considered when purchasing a boring or drilling machine, with items, such as quality, reliability and product support, ranking in greater importance.

“First, a customer should look for quality, reputation and product support,” explains Scott Clark, director of engineering for Kreg Tool Co. “Customers should then determine their needs based on operations and requirements.”

Varelli and Magnani also suggest other factors to be “considered and weighted according to the company’s needs, including: productivity, reliability, how user-friendly to operate, setup time, floor space and the support the manufacturing company can provide,” they say.

The machine’s composition and configuration can also play a part in the decision-making process. “I would expect customers to consider the structure of the machine,” says Tim Rose, South Atlantic regional manager for SCM GROUP USA Inc. He recommends looking at factors, such as: “the weight of the base, the quality of the steel, the type of table, the brand of electronics, the presence of a PC front end, the quality of the documentation for parts and the electrical schematic.”

Michael Cassell, Holz-Her US Inc.’s North American CNC product manager, also recommends customers look at the machine’s ability to communicate with design software, its flexibility and the ability to provide vertical and horizontal drilling.

In addition, Park says customers should also “look for multiple reference systems for part placement flexibility. The choice of an overhead CNC working center versus a stationary single-side CNC drill and dowel machine, versus a feed-through CNC drilling machine, depend on a host of factors, including lot size, part characteristics, degree of automation and production rate.”

But no matter what the requirements are, there is a boring and drilling woodworking machine available to meet everyone’s needs, while providing improved capabilities, faster speeds and enhanced features.

Advances in CNC technology enable boring and drilling machines to do more than just drill holes. Many of today’s boring and drilling machines are also capable of routing, grooving and sawing.

Photo courtesy of Delmac Machinery Group

Beyond Boring and Drilling

By no means is technology static. It is constantly being updated, becoming more effective and more streamlined. Advances in boring and drilling machines are no different. Manufacturers are building equipment that is more user friendly, while CNC technology is opening the door for a wider range of uses for these machines.

“Although drilling is still one of the most common functions of these woodworking machines, we have seen the technology evolve into multi-faceted machining centers that incorporate routing, grooving and sawing for just about any imaginable application,” remarks Conger.

Rose agrees, saying, “Today’s machines are used for everything from simple drilling to complex three-, four- and five-axis routing.”

“Some of the recent advances that we’ve seen include mechanically locking drill spindles and user guides to assist in setting up the vacuum pods and rails,” adds Conger. “Another area that continues to improve is the speed of operation of both flat table as well as pod and rail machines.”

According to Park, the newer machines combine vertical and horizontal drilling, as well as hardware insertion. CNC working centers also feature completely automatic set-up of the vacuum and clamp system, he adds.

Enhancements to the woodworking machine can come in the form of improvements to the cycle time, including tool changing and tool path and drilling optimization, says Rose. “[Our company] is always exploring the latest in CNC woodworking machinery,” he adds.

Improvements on the machine’s tools also can improve operator efficiency and the quality of the finished product. Cassell says quick change chucks are one of the advances commonly seen on boring and drilling equipment. Another advance he notes are “drill spindles with locks to eliminate the ‘floating’ of the drill cylinder.”

But no matter how sophisticated the machine, it still will require regular maintenance to ensure it is operating to its optimal performance.

Tips on Troubleshooting

It comes as no surprise that even the sturdiest woodworking machines require regular maintenance and other troubleshooting to sustain optimal performance. Something as simple as keeping a boring and drilling machine clean can have a dramatic effect on longevity.

Park and Rose agree that users should follow the manufacturer’s recommended service guidelines.

“Daily general housekeeping processes and an efficient dust extraction system are the two key practices that any shop can implement to prolong the life of their machine,” explains Conger.

With such a variety of options available, manufacturers of boring and drilling equipment say it is important that customers understand their needs in the shop before they buy. Many also recommend purchasing a machine that will be able to accommodate future production increases.

Photo courtesy of SCM GROUP USA Inc.

“One of the single most important aspects of machine maintenance is to keep the machine clean,” says Park. “Keep the workspace free of clutter and debris. Clutter on the work table can damage a CNC machine or the part being manufactured.”

Other troubleshooting tips revolve around more specific aspects of machine usage and maintenance.

“If a customer owns a pneumatic machine, we recommend checking the oil level daily and filling as needed,” says Clark. “With the electric machine, we recommend that the customer checks the belt tension regularly to provide optimum performance.”

“Good quality tools and tool holders will minimize vibration and extend the life of your router motor bearings,” adds Rose.

Keeping the part immobile also is important in the overall quality of the cut.

“In drilling, particularly in melamine, rigidity is important to reduce chipping and blow out,” explains Cassell.

In the end, though, it is proper and regular maintenance that will make the difference in getting the most out of any piece of equipment.

“Good maintenance is a key factor to maintain the performance of any machine through the years,” say Varelli and Magnani.

Visit www.redbookonline.com for the industry’s most comprehensive, searchable database of woodworking machinery and supplies, including boring and drilling equipment. For more articles in the Increasing Productivity series, visit the Online Archives at www.iswonline.com.

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