An innovative alternative

Biesse ~ Skipper 100

The Skipper 100 is not an evolution of a traditional CNC point-to-point machine, but it's a revolution in the concept, according to Federico Broccoli, president/CEO and North America operations director for Biesse America.


The obvious difference is that Skipper moves parts toward the cutting unit rather than vice versa. "The greatest advantage is you can work two panels at a time, one on top of the other, giving to the machine almost double the productivity of the traditional point-to-point," Broccoli says.


Features include top and bottom routers and grooving saws for toe kick, notches, grooving, pocketing and sink cutouts. Because the material is clamped, with robotic axes moving them in the machining area, no setup time is required. One person can operate three machines, says Broccoli. "You have the productivity of six point-to-points with one man," he says.


"The target customer is the customer with typically high volumes, low batches, basically a custom type of production," says Cesare Magnani, North America Biesse product manager.


Biesse introduced a Skipper prototype at the Milan show four years ago. It won a Challengers Award, Broccoli says, because "the judges understood very well the potential of that machine."


Curing 3D substrates

Dubois Equipment Co. Inc.

UV3D-52-2 Dubois 3-Dimensional UV Oven

Dubois Equipment Co. Inc. was tapped for a Challengers Award for its 3D UV oven. The oven provides both even dosage and peak intensity across the full width of the conveyor belt on all of a product's surfaces. According to James Arvin, president, typical 3D UV ovens emit light at an angle, which results in both uncured and overcured edges and surfaces.


The Dubois oven was specifically designed to cure 3D substrates and provides an even dose and intensity to all of the surfaces of a product. This eliminates uncured and overcured surfaces, as well as reducing heat build-up. The oven uses about half the energy of typical 3D UV ovens.


According to Arvin, the staff was concerned about presenting for the Challengers Award judges. "We were afraid that it might sound too simple," he says.


The oven was engineered and built from the ground up. "We tend to think ground up on things," Arvin says. "As a smaller company, we have the opportunity to do some things that larger companies aren't able to do as easily."


Measure construction spaces

ETemplate Systems, a division of Tri-Tech Solutions Inc.

ETemplate digital measuring system

The ETemplate digital measuring system uses digital photography, together with algorithms and spatial geometries, to accurately measure construction spaces. The system consists of a number of plastic markers, adhesive markers, area gauges and a camera. If the surface to be measured is horizontal, then plastic markers can be used. If the surface to be measured is vertical, then reusable adhesive markers can be used.


Markers (plastic or adhesive) are placed around the edge of the area that needs to be measured. Four plastic markers, representing x and y coordinates, must appear in the photos. Additionally, scales are placed within the area. Photos are then taken of the markers from at least two angles. A typical job requires eight to 12 photos.


Once the photos are taken, the user downloads them into a computer. The ETemplate software processes the photos and creates a CAD drawing of the area. The CAD drawing can then be downloaded directly to a CNC router for cutting, with an accuracy of up to 1/32 of an inch over a 12-foot contour. The system can be used for measuring and cutting such things as countertops, stair parts and radius millwork.


"We are extremely pleased to win the Challengers Award," says Paul Hansen, president. "We have pushed hard to expand our market to the woodworking industry, and it is very gratifying to receive such acceptance and accolades as an industry innovator in such a short period of time."


Veneer grading standards

Navy Island Plywood

Navy Island grading standards

Navy Island Plywood's grading system is designed for anyone including manufacturers of cabinets, fixtures and furniture who works with veneer products.


The grading system, which took six years to develop, is based on accurate measurements of all the visual characteristics of a number of species. "We realized the need for a change in the standards and decided to start on it, thinking it was going to be a lot easier than it was," says Jeff Stone of Navy Island Plywood.


The system includes definitions of character marks, grain structure, leaf matchings and figure types; a scale to determine overall color and color variations; and cumulative numeric grading scale based on 100 points, with negative characteristic values subtracted from the total.


Stone believes the system received a Challengers Award for two reasons. First, there has been a significant need to quantify wood products. And second, the absence of standards in any industry adversely affects that industry. "By being able to standardize (wood products), this industry can go to the building trades and say, Now we can give you what you want.' "


Affordable technology

Weinig Group/Michael Weinig Inc.

Valu-Vision Rip Scanner

Weinig Group/Michael Weinig Inc.'s Valu-Vision system is designed primarily for small- to mid-sized customers who want, but can't afford, the technology of a full linear scan. "This product fits in the middle, at an affordable price point," says Chris Aiken, president, Control Logic Inc.


The system combines the precision measurement of a vision system with visual acuity of an operator in the ripping process. "We put the user interface right on the surface of the board," Aiken says.


"It effectively turns the surface of the board into a touch screen," says Mike Anderson, Raimann product manager. The operator can make overrides on the board with a light wand.


It also can be added to other measuring systems purchased earlier by Weinig customers. "They can upgrade their system very easily," says Jeff Davidson, president, Weinig America.


Valu-Vision went into development shortly after the 2004 IWF. "It's been about a two-year effort for our group to pull all of the technologies together," Aiken says.


Aiken believes the judges recognized the market need for this product, especially because customers are running smaller batches, with a number of species changeovers a day. "This is the first technology that fits in the middle with a nice price," he says.


New angle on sanding

Holz-Her U.S. Inc.

Kundig Brilliant (Oblique) Sanding Unit

Holz-Her U.S. Inc.'s Kundig Brilliant Sanding Unit is designed for customers who want to achieve a high-quality finish in various applications, including solid wood, veneer, lacquer and sealer.


"This product, with a relatively simple technical solution, allows us to solve various problems surrounding sanding," says Richard Hannigan, vice president of sales for Holz-Her U.S. Inc.


Instead of the conventional 90-degree angle, the unit pivots the sanding head to an oblique angle to the conveyor. Because the abrasive belt sands at an angle, the belt cuts with less resistance and produces a flatter finish. The process also hides belt damage lines and extends belt life.


The system spent about two years in development. "A lot of that time was devoted to perfecting the electronic control for electronic segmented platens to adjust themselves for various angles of attack," Hannigan says.


The judges acknowledged the system's merits with a Challengers Award. "We think the judges believe that with a very low-cost modification to machines, we're able to achieve much better finishes . . . without the use of very expensive, highly technical solutions," Hannigan says.


VOC abatement system

Stiles Machinery Inc./Climate Technologies Corp.

Fumes-to-Fuel VOC Abatement with a Payback

The Fumes-to-Fuel system is designed for companies that have to deal with volatile organic compound (VOC) abatement, such as those with finishing lines. The system has applications in a number of industries, says Greg Jansen, division manager, e-tech technologies for Stiles Machinery Inc.


He says companies traditionally have used regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs) to burn off VOC fumes. The Fumes-to-Fuel system captures VOC fumes in an enclosed system and converts them to electricity.


The system cuts VOC emissions by as much as 50 percent and greenhouse emissions up to 90 percent.


The Challengers Award acknowledged the product's green appeal. "I think the judges . . . know we're getting challenged more and more to become a little more green friendly, Earth-friendly business wise," Jansen says. "This system really allows companies to take a step in that way and truly make a difference in how we affect the environment."


The system also was "recognized for innovation and significant contribution to the improvement of the environment."


The seven winners of the 2006 Challengers Distinguished Achievement Award, presented at IWF 2006, exhibited a range of innovative products.


Despite the diversity, however, the products featured one common quality they advance the industry by solving problems and by enabling wood products manufacturers to become more efficient and more competitive.


Here's a glimpse of the seven companies and the products chosen as the latest winners in the 40 years of Challengers Award competitions.

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