Wood Business

What’s to come with saw filing and cutting tools technology

Jan. 2, 2012 - "As the forestry industry is being revitalized, everyone wants to be in a position where they can take advantage of that,” notes Mike Cloutier. “Companies are upgrading, and I think every major sawmill will have filing room automation in their mills within the next two to three years. This also helps address the labour shortage.” Cloutier is the president at Cut Technologies, a west-coast saw manufacturer and distributor for Vollmer, MVM and Kahny that is experiencing strong demand for items like Vollmer’s CHD 270 robotic automated grinder. “It allows facing and top-grinding at one machine center, and allows you to put 100 saw blades in of different sizes and walk away,” Cloutier notes. “Vollmer is selling quite a few in the U.S., and although we’ve sold none to Canadian sawmills yet, we’ve done a lot of quoting.” Simonds and Armstrong brands also offer automated machines for levelling bandsaws and circular saws. “Simonds offers a machine to automatically straighten bent bandsaw teeth while working as a back-feed on a saw sharpener,” says product manager Russell Barratt. “Armstrong offers machinery to automatically swage and shape wide bandsaws and operates in line with the bandsaw sharpener.”

Key Knife’s new HY2 Spiral Chipping Head for drum chipping applications, such as Chip N Saw and curve gangs. By spiraling the segments, the HY2 allows more knives to fit into a given diameter, allowing mills to run their line speed at 700+ FPM. Photo courtesy of Key Knife.
Representatives of the BC Sawfilers Association (BCSA) agree that more automation must come as filers continue to retire. “We’re getting inquiries [from companies in need of filers] every week from all over B.C., so we’re already hitting a crunch,” says BCSA vice-president Bruce Doroshuk. “Although the wages being offered are great, some filers aren’t willing to relocate to areas where the cost is living is a lot higher. You can’t replace 30 years of knowledge with a new person.”

Garry Ponipal, BCSA president (and head filer at Tolko Lavington), agrees. “In a couple more years, the skill and experience lost through retirement will mean a severe lack of trouble-shooting ability in the filing rooms of the industry,” he says. “It’s critical that the skills and knowledge are passed on.” Ponipal points out that the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Vancouver did offer a four-year apprenticeship program in sawfiling, but in 2008, when companies started struggling and began holding off on training apprentices, the program suffered – and it’s currently being shut down. “We’re working with government and industry on a new program, and it’s supposed to be up and running by end of this year,” Ponipal notes. “We’re not sure which institution will be involved.” 

The economic downturn has also affected vendors, but Ponipal gives them top marks for continuing to innovate and develop new products that make things easier for filers, such as a linear slide for band mill grinders. Armstrong offers a lineal slide retrofit for its #4 Bandsaw Sharpener, which Barratt says allows better utilization of grinding wheels and provides ease of use and setup. Other innovation has stemmed from customer demand. “Dimensional lumber in building supply stores now carries barcoding on the end as well as company logos, so the ends now need to be extremely smooth,” Ponipal explains. “This has led to the development of V-top carbide tips for planers, which require a V-top grinder, and several manufacturers such as Vollmer, Wright and Williams & White have stepped up and developed them.”

Williams & White’s V-top grinder is integrated as opposed to a bolt-on solution, says CEO Justin Williams. “This results in greater power to the grinding wheel from the drive motor.” The company also recently launched a new hydraulic top and face grinder, the TFH-Series 2 for circular sawblades. “The feed-finger design reduced the amount of moving components, which means greater reliability and durability,” Williams says.

Quebec-based Équipements YGE Inc. recently created a new cutting-edge lubricant called GuideLub. All lubricant systems had been based on a long-term study conducted in the 1970s and ’80s that assumed the existence of a hydrodynamic layer between running saws and the babbit wear plate, says production manager Jérôme Guillemette. “This quickly led to the oil viscosity as the main parameter to the film thickness.”

Mike Cloutier of Cut Technologies with a fully Robotic Vollmer service. Photo courtesy of Cut Technologies.
However, most of the time the saw is floating on air pressure, when the machine idles between logs and even sometimes during cutting. “There is actually no need for a steady creation of a hydrodynamic layer,” says Guillemette. “Because it is water-based, GuideLub allows water to come in contact with the saw to remove build-up heat created by the cutting action, instead of oil that tends to form an isolating layer.”

GuideLub also biodegradable, and YGE is working on a biodegradable vegetable oil-based product for bandsaw 

More Innovation
Filers like Ponipal are also seeing an increase in plate thickness and kerf that provide faster sawing. Companies face a trade-off, notes Dr. Bruce Lehmann, between thicker plates and higher speeds and using thinner blades that waste less wood. Lehmann is the Sawmilling Western Group Leader at Canadian forest research institute FPInnovations’ Wood Products Division in Vancouver, and he says that most of itssawing R&D work over the last few years has focused on how to run circular saws at the so-called “super-critical speeds,” or with thinner plate. “We’ve found that this is possible, but the speed needs to be carefully selected,” he says. FPInnovations has done this for many sawmills with good results. “The mills could do trial-and-error testing themselves, but this is expensive (cost of new pulleys) and if the change doesn’t work, lost production,” Lehmann notes. “In some cases, we’ve also been able to avoid washboarding by redesigning the tooth shapes. In our lab we can test the mill’s saws to determine the best speed beforehand.” He says the combined benefits of either increasing the feed speed or reducing the plate thickness is usually in the range of $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

To help companies increase line speeds, Key Knife recently introduced its HY2 Spiral Chipping Head for drum chipping applications, such as Chip N Saw and curve gangs. “It’s the next step in our popular HY2 product line,” says Don Corcoran, vice-president of international sales and marketing. “By spiralling the segments, the HY2 allows more knives to fit into a given diameter, allowing mills to run their line speed at 700+ FPM (feet per minute).” For example, a 15-inch diameter can fit up to five knives per segment, and a 16-inch diameter can fit up to six knives per segment. “The HY2 also has a larger gullet capacity, decreasing the likelihood of downtime caused by plugged gullets,” notes Corcoran. “Lastly, the new configuration with larger gullet capacity has proven to decrease pins and fines. All this will allow sawmills to increase their production of high quality lumber and improve the overall value of their chips.”

An Accu-Sharp TFX-CH system from Williams and White. Photo courtesy of Williams and White Inc.
To help reduce wear, applying chrome to the outside surface of saw blades is also becoming popular. Cut Technologies recently introduced its Cougar XX Chrome saw, which is its highest-performing blade. The company has also sold about 50 Kahny automatic carbide-tipping machines in Canada. “We’re also seeing a strong push for mills to run faster processing times with new machine installation,” says Cloutier. “This created a demand for a higher performance saw which will hold inboard saw deviation and give the mills run times with no unscheduled saw changes.”

There is also more competition among mills to produce value-added, customized products, says Ponipal, which means the equipment and personnel in the filing room must be top-notch. “Regular dimensional lumber markets are saturated, so if you can provide custom products, such as ties with vertical grain, you’ll not only gain a better dollar but you’ll work towards making sure your business survives,” he notes. “You have to be able to meet customer needs whatever they are. We cut a lot of custom ties here, and they’re green-sawn right to the customer, and so the quality of sawing has to be high. That means tolerances are very tight in the filing room. Cutting out the planer and drying is a huge win, but the pressure is on filers and their equipment. Both must be excellent.”

April 28, 2017  By Treena Hein

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