Good Panel Saw Cutting Practices
By Bill Pitt
Photo: idX Corp.

The panel saw is often referred to as the workhorse of the woodworking shop. What follows below are some tips and techniques to consider when choosing — and using — a horizontal panel saw.

1. Good cutting practices begin with good planning and organization in the office.

2. An optimization package should be used to both design cutting patterns and schedule the workload and throughput for the factory. Cutting patterns should be sent electronically to the saw in the desired sequence to best meet the production requirements and eliminate setup at the saw.

3. Whether you process by route, individual job, or another method, the labeling of parts to assist in tracking them through the plant is the best practice. Labels can be color-coded, bar-coded, or equipped with radio frequency (RFID) chips to assist in tracking.

4. Pull material at the end of one day for the next morning’s production; this way there will be no downtime in the morning.

5. Maintenance is important. Take five to ten minutes at the end of each day, to clean the saw, and 20 minutes at the end of each week.

6. Do not offload the last part of a cutting cycle; pull it away from the cutting line, load the next sheet into the clamps of the saw, initiate the next cutting cycle and then offload the last part. This approach will keep idle time to a minimum.

7. Start the ripping cycle as far from the controller side of the saw as possible. This way there is room to turn the first strip or strips, orienting them for crosscutting.

8. Make sure that the saw has plenty of air table space so the operator does not have to unload unfinished parts to make room to finish the cutting cycle.

9. Drive the use of offal from the office, utilizing an optimization program and usable parameters. Do not leave it to the operator to know the offal and determine how utilize it. Set up a simple storage system for the offal, label it as it is generated and recycle the offal through optimization. Set up a system and enforce it.

10. Be aware of the number of steps required at the front of the saw to the waste dumpster and minimize them.

11. If the saw used is a front-loading model, always have the material on a scissor lift positioned at the side away from the right angle fence and oriented for crosscutting first. This way the panels can easily be pivoted onto the air tables at the front of the machine, which is much easier than having to pull or push them onto the tables.

12. Don’t forget tools for destacking. Freestanding air tables and scissor lifts can work wonders to reduce operator fatigue and speed up the destacking process, increasing part throughput. If possible, the destacking operation needs to be reduced to a sliding and placing motion, not a lifting and toting one.

13. While ripping is still taking place, pre-stage the first strip or strips to be crosscut on the air float table of the crosscut fence in order to minimize transition time from rip to crosscut.

14. Utilize the cut/groove sequence available on the panel saw for the accurate machining of drawer components.

15. Kerfing of panels to be bent around a radius can be programmed to run while the operator is on break or at lunch, increasing throughput and reducing operator idle time.

16. Develop fixtures for quick and accurate angle cutting of frequently required components.

17. Use a laser light to show the tracking of the blade for use in straight lining solid lumber or trimming center bookmatched veneered panels with respect to a glue joint.

18. Use the panel saw’s built-in stress relieving capability, such as Stressfite, to eliminate the chance for banana bow, which can throw off dimension and squareness.

Bill Pitt is vice president of Holzma U.S., div. of Stiles Machinery. For more information visit, call (704) 861-8239 or email [email protected]


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