Tooling Spotlight: Bevel Cutterheads

 

In our tooling spotlight, we break down what you need to know about our most effective tooling solutions. This MVP is the Leitz variable angle bevel cutters.

The Tool:

Leitz variable angle bevel cutters represent the next generation of flexible high-performance tooling solutions.  Featuring field-replaceable PCD tips or shear-set radial inserts, Leitz variable angle bevel cutters provide infinite angular cutting possibilities in natural woods and highly abrasive manmade materials.

What makes it better:

The Leitz bevel cutterhead system offers individual advantages for every potential application and thus helps to achieve a clear production and quality superiority. The system is not only flexible and sustainable but also improves production efficiency.

When to use it:

Leitz variable angle bevel cutters offer unmatched flexibility. Suitable for various materials from solid wood to wood-derived materials and plastics. They can be used on machines for manual feed, throughfeed machines, and CNC machining centers.

Turnblade knife system – Traditional standard straight-knife version for use in all applications.

HeliCut knife system – 4-sided, radius face inserts, shear-set with compression, provide particularly good cutting quality and excellent value in solid woods.

WhisperCut knife system – Replaceable (sharpen-able) shear-set PCD tips with compression provide excellent performance in abrasive materials.

 

The results:

Adjustable variable angle bevel cutters consolidate the need for various cutters set to exact angles.

Replaceable PCD or micro-grain inserts provide an economic solution for processing all material while maintaining exact tool tolerances.

Precisely adjustable cut angles ensure minimum machine downtime and first-piece perfection.

Up to a 40% time saving through newly designed adjustment mechanism.

Add this MVP to your line-up:

Download our Bevel Cutters brochure.

Contact Leitz at insidesales@leitz.org or (616) 431-4096, or fill out the form below, and we’ll get in touch.

What You Need to Know for a Successful Transition to CNC-Based Manufacturing

Manufacturers commonly buy CNCs because these flexible machines promise to replace several manual machines and dramatically improve the capabilities and efficiency of the production shop. This transition is, of course, very achievable, but because of inaccurate tooling and application choices, many buyers are missing out on fully optimizing their CNC machine performance.

When key machining principals such as proper part fixturing, achieving ideal cutting velocity and chip load are overlooked it can significantly affect process efficiency and ROI. Developing strong relationships with your router supplier and qualified tooling experts will prevent catastrophic errors and expedite the integration and optimization of this critical machine technology.

Utilizing existing hand routers and shaper tools

Many first-time CNC buyers will continue to use their inexpensive carbide-tipped tools on their new high-tech machine. These brazed carbide tools may “work,” but are generally not rigid, precise, balanced or durable enough to provide ideal CNC performance. Brazed carbide tools are, by necessity, much softer and less wear resistant than solid carbide or carbide insert tools. Tools designed around the CNC’s operational specifications and your output will yield more efficient and higher quality results.

Solid carbide router options

Solid carbide tools are also available in a range of hardness and durability levels that cannot be differentiated by eye. Carbide is essentially tungsten particles held together with a cobalt binder. Softer, less expensive routers are formed with 10% cobalt glue; harder more durable carbides generally have 3% cobalt concentration and may also include trace elements which resist thermal or mechanical dulling.

CNC operators may inadvertently settle for “softer/less durable” solid carbide tools because they’ve broken harder versions. Understanding why these higher quality tools broke (vibration, part movement, improper chip load, etc.) and addressing the issue will help you extend tool service-life and lower annualized tooling expenses.

Coated carbide tooling

Carbide coating options that improve surface lubricity, heat deflection, or increased cutting-edge hardness offer the next level of enhanced performance. These coatings are relatively inexpensive and generally provide much greater value to the user. Depending on how the tool must be sharpened, these coatings can sometimes provide extended performance over multiple service cycles.

Diamond tooling

Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) routing tools can provide the lowest tooling cost per unit of production, but the higher initial tool cost and risk of damage can be intimidating. We recommend transitioning to diamond tools only after you are comfortable with the operation of your CNC and are enjoying problem-free routing with solid carbide tools. We also recommend forming a partnership with a PCD tooling supplier who can guide you through the proper utilization and care of these delicate yet durable tools. The baseline cost comparison for PCD vs. solid carbide routing tools is generally less than 7:1, but the average performance comparison should exceed 15:1. Used correctly, PCD tooling will dramatically reduce tooling inventory and required tool changes, while maximizing machine uptime and process efficiency.

Tool holding

Tool holding generally drives most CNC processing issues. Machine tooling start-up kits generally include basic collet chucks in one of three common collet versions (ER32, ER40 or SYOZ25/RDO35). Collets provide dimensional flexibility, allowing an operator to hold cutting tools with 1/8” to 1” diameter shanks in the same chuck body. Collets are, however, the first weak-link in an otherwise very rigid and precise machining process. The multi-directional torque applied to the collet when tightening or releasing tools can push the tools out of concentricity, and slight rotation or slipping of the tool will create internal damage which compounds tool run-out. Even the premium SYOZ25 collet system, which due to its 52mm grip length and 2.5-degree taper is the most precise option, can induce tool eccentricity and allow tool deflection. Collet systems also require significant maintenance and wear out over time, but issues which lead to poor tool performance are not always easy to visualize.

Eliminating collets

There are several collet-free chucking options available, but the easiest and most effective is Leitz ThermoGrip heat-shrink chucking system. ThermoGrip uses the thermo-mechanical properties of steel to grip tool shanks under tremendous pressure, effectively yielding a one-piece chuck and tool. Leitz ThermoGrip CNC chucking system provides the most rigid and precise CNC tool holding possible, optimizing cut quality, throughput and safety, while conservatively yielding $15,000 in annualized savings per machine shift. ThermoGrip ensures perfect tool concentricity under working loads, resulting in greater than 25% increase in tool life and at least 10% improvement in machine throughput at optimal finish quality.leitz, thermogrip, tooling, woodworking tools

We challenge customers to test their existing top running router bit style with the ThermoGrip. Once installed, their operator will immediately report:

  • Much quieter cutting
  • Outstanding cut quality
  • The ability to increase feed speed, without degrading the quality
  • Significantly longer tool life

 

Ultimately, this test is eye-opening for most customers, and a major step in optimizing the efficiency of their routing processes.

In conclusion

In order to optimize your CNC-based manufacturing process, you must be aware of available cutting tool related technologies and understand how to properly implement and utilize the technology. Tooling is the single machine accessory which can either limit or optimize your manufacturing efficiency and success. Having a knowledgeable tooling partner, with a worldwide perspective, will greatly enhance your ability to continuously improve your internal processes and keep your company at the forefront of the industry. How can Leitz help you?

Talk to your Leitz Representative about a partnership for continuous improvement. Fill out the form below or call us at 800.253.6070.

How Jefferson Millwork & Design Inc. Optimized Their Production Process with Expert Tooling

While it’s easy to put the majority of focus on the machine, your tooling has a major impact on your production efficiency. It creates a vicious cycle when tooling needs to be constantly serviced or replaced. Tools going out the door for frequent service results in an unnecessarily large tooling inventory just to keep machines running.  Additionally, tooling that wears out quickly forces manufacturers to buy new tooling more often.

When Tom Jewell with Jefferson Millwork & Design Inc, a nationally recognized, award-winning architectural and cabinet woodworking manufacturer, contacted Leitz for information on new router bits, their Leitz representative went beyond only providing pricing. After hearing Tom’s issues with dust collection and how quickly they were running through router bits, their Leitz representative offered to come to their location, review their application, and develop a plan to resolve the problems that were slowing down and adding cost to the manufacturing process.

Jefferson Millwork & Design Inc implemented Leitz Diamaster Pro diamond router bits and the Leitz ThermoGrip chuck. They are now experiencing a 6-7x improvement in the life of the tool. The longer tool life has helped them cut costs and reduce the downtime required to replace the bit while improving product quality. The Leitz ThermoGrip tool holding system uses an inductive heating concept to provide stronger, more concentric tool clamping. This leads to increased tool life, better surface finishes, and improved cost efficiency.

Inefficient dust collection was also plaguing Jefferson Millwork & Design Inc’s manufacturing process. To clear dust, the machine had to be shut-down and the dust manually blown off of the table. Adding an extra step and completely stopping production each time dust collection was required was a costly inefficiency that slowed output. Leitz installed a turbine to help with dust collection and eliminate the extra step and production shutdown.

By working hands-on with Tom and the team at Jefferson Millwork & Design, their Leitz representative was able to identify key areas to optimize the overall production process. Because of Leitz’ commitment to partnering with customers to ensure they are as profitable and successful as possible, the customer is saving time, saving money and has an improved cut quality. Jefferson Millwork is so pleased with the results, they are implementing an additional three set-ups and running the Leitz solution on all their applications.

Form a partnership for continuous improvement with Leitz. 

Get in touch with your Leitz representative by calling 800.253.6070or filling out the form below.

Tooling and Integrating Your First CNC

Congratulations, you’ve just bought your first CNC!  The price tag was a bit overwhelming, but breaking the price down into monthly and weekly costs makes the expense easier to rationalize.  The manufacturer has assured you that this machine will replace the majority of your current manual equipment and perform the same tasks much more efficiently.  Builds which would take weeks can now be accomplished in hours with greater accuracy and quality.

You’ve configured the machine footprint on your shop-floor, contracted an electrician to install the proper disconnect, and a dust collection company to install an external collector and piping.  The machine will arrive tomorrow, and the riggers will be here in the morning to off-load and set the machine.  A service tech from the manufacturer will arrive the following day to complete installation and begin training your operators.

Ready, set, WAIT… Tooling! You’ve completely forgotten about the tooling!  Unfortunately, this scenario is all too frequent.  Manufacturers focus on the machine, not realizing the machine is simply a big tool holder.  They don’t consider the importance of proper tooling when the tooling actually controls the efficiency, productivity, and ROI of the machine!  Make the wrong choices regarding tooling, or run tools at the wrong parameters, and your new production battleship becomes a tugboat.

Take for instance a Midwest cabinet manufacturer, who contacted us to urgently tool up their first CNC.  Thankfully basic collet chucks, solid carbide routing tools, and boring bits were stock items, but there are critical considerations when deciding which tools to utilize.

Tool holding is one of the most important considerations because this is the first point at which a weak link can be introduced to an otherwise rigid and precise machine.  Collet chucks may suffice for start-up purposes, or when running seldom used tools, but flexible collets allow for significant tool deflection and run-out.  Thankfully the customer was aware of and understood the value of the Leitz ThermoGrip heat-shrink chucks.  This collet-free chucking system extends the machine spindle rigidity and precision through the cutting tool.  By maintaining the perfect tool centerline, cutting pressure and workload are equally divided, providing excellent cut quality while yielding upwards of 25% longer tool life and allowing significantly higher processing speeds.  Thanks to the ThermoGrip chucking system, the customer believed in and is now realizing more than $16,000 in annualized operational savings (based on current single-shift production levels).

leitz, thermogrip, tooling, woodworking toolsThe customer inquired about the value of the Leitz solid carbide router bits offered, stating they could by the “same style” compression bit at a slightly lower cost from another source.  As always, we suggested the customer test both tools and track differences in longevity.  Solid carbide routers may look alike but can be made from dramatically different grades of carbide.  Carbide is essentially powdered tungsten (cutting element), held together with a cobalt binder and some trace performance elements.  The differences cannot be seen visually, but a hard carbide composition with 3% cobalt concentration will generally far outlast a softer carbide with 10% cobalt concentration.  Add to this a protective coating, and the slightly more expensive tool may outlast the lesser tool by a factor of 2 or 3 times.  The customer completed their testing and chose to use the Leitz tool for this reason.

This company also wanted to convert their old shaper profiling tools for use on the new CNC.

While It may be possible to convert certain shaper tools for use on a CNC, that may not the best choice. Your new CNC will process material at a much faster rate, and more than twice the RPMs, generally using lighter, more compact tools.  Beyond size and weight issues, the CNC will hold much tighter tolerances, but only if you equip it with precision tooling.

The customers’ existing three-wing, carbide-tipped tools may have “worked” on their shaper, but workpieces required significant manual repair and sanding.  Wanting to eliminate this expensive off-line processing, the customer was interested in higher quality profiling tools.  They found this quality in Leitz ProfilCut Q profile insert system, a light-weight and highly precise profiled insert system which provides almost perfect knife-to-knife precision.  Not only did these tools fit within the machine spindle weight and collision diameter specifications, but they also cut extremely quiet and provided a cut quality which did not require post-machine sanding.  The customer also appreciated the fact that they could manufacture various profiles through simple knife changes, and that these coated knives provided exceptional service life.

Even more critical than tool design is ensuring the operator understands how to optimize performance through proper operational parameters.  Even the best tools can be quickly destroyed by part movement, overheating, or excessive cutting pressure.  The Leitz consultant took the time to educate the operators about essential variables such as rim speed, chip-load, mass removal and part fixturing.  Above all, operators must ensure workpieces are securely held in place, vibration is eliminated, cutting pressure is regulated, and friction heat is removed from the cutting process via the wood chips.   Understanding how to apply these relatively simple machining parameters is the key to maximizing CNC process efficiency and profitability.

How can we help your production team maximize their process efficiency?

Leitz is the trusted tooling partner for today’s manufacturing leaders. For over 140 years, Leitz has set the standard for tooling development, innovation, application expertise, and service. We empower our customers with the right solutions to optimize their entire manufacturing process to meet their business goals.

Form a partnership for continuous improvement with Leitz. Fill out the form below or contact us at 800.253.6070 to talk about solutions.

Optimize CNC Machinery and Ensure a Superior Finished Product with High-Quality Tooling

Speed, higher production rates, and accuracy are just a few of the benefits of CNC machining. Yet, despite the implementation of a new CNC machine, a specialized wood product manufacturer was experiencing inferior finish quality on their solid wood boards, including fuzzing in the cut and poor staining consistency.

The unsatisfactory cut quality forced the manufacturer to invest in additional labor, which added costs, produced extra scrap and slowed down the production process. The cut quality was unacceptable and overall, the manufacturer was extremely disappointed in the output.

The manufacturer and the Leitz representative discussed the issues the competitor’s tooling solution created. After addressing the manufacturer’s concerns and reviewing a sample workpiece from the customer, their Leitz representative identified undulations in the cut surface from inaccurate tooling and determined the customer needed a more concentric tool to maximize efficiency. The Leitz ProfilCut Q program was recommended to the customer.

ProfilCut Q is a technologically advanced insert system with precision shank rigidity and concentricity. The uniform clamping system utilizes profile knives and standard turnblade inserts to get the job done economically with the best finish quality. The unique clamping system places zero stress on the tool body, allowing for the use of aluminum alloy and round-bodied designs to reduce weight, noise, and vibration while optimizing balance, dust flow and finish quality. Clamping elements are protected from dust and resin build-up for quick and easy knife changes— without setting gauges or other measuring equipment. Repeatability is guaranteed.

After implementing the Leitz ProfilCut Q system, the customer achieved a virtually perfect output from the first run on their CNC machine. The customer was astonished by the cut quality the Leitz tooling solution provided and is beyond pleased with the results. The customer has now realized that sanding pieces coming off the CNC is unnecessary, and has since eliminated this very costly process step.  This manufacturer is now able to move parts to the finishing line directly from the CNC.

The finished product using the Leitz ProfilCut Q tooling system.

Leitz understands that two of the biggest areas for manufacturing companies to hemorrhage cash are inefficiency in labor and excess scrap. By taking an innovative and service-oriented approach to tooling solutions, Leitz helps organizations achieve operational efficiency without compromising the quality of the finished product.

Learn how the ProfilCut Q tooling system can optimize your manufacturing process. Fill out the form below or view the brochure here.

Maximize the Benefits of Diamond Tooling with Continuous Education, Expert Service, and High-Quality Tooling

A premier office furniture manufacturer located in the Midwest increases the benefits of diamond tooling through education, service, and quality tooling.

Diamond tooling offers several benefits over traditional carbide tooling. However, if you are not getting longevity out of your diamond tooling, the cost benefits rapidly diminish.

This is the exact issue a market-leading office furniture manufacturer was experiencing. Unusual amounts of wear and damage to their diamond tooling and exceedingly long turn-around times from their tooling service provider were increasing production expenses and ruining efficiency.

Working with their Leitz representative, the manufacturer was able to identify and implement four areas of strategic improvement.

Tooling Quality

More PCD tip height on a tool’s cutting wing = more serviceable tool life. A taller PCD tip height will allow you to sharpen the tool more times before having to replace the tool. There are currently no industry standards for custom tool tip heights, so it’s important customers understand this significant tooling characteristic. Leitz designs their custom tools with maximum amount of usable tip height more than any other tooling provider and, therefore, provides the customer with more efficient, lowest applied cost tooling solutions.

Continuous Education

Diamond tooling is harder than carbide tooling. As such, it is also much more brittle. Most machine operators lack an understanding of the gravity of the cost difference between diamond and carbide tooling as well as how to properly handle diamond tooling to ensure the longevity of the tools. Leitz is providing ongoing education to teach the operator team how to handle and protect diamond tooling and increase tool life.

These photos show PDC damage due to improper tool handling. There is layered breaking within the PDC layer itself, similar to how shale rock would break. This can only be caused by side impact to the PCD.

Material Improvement

In addition to damage from mishandling, through extensive tool evaluation after running, including high-resolution photographs, the Leitz service team was able to identify and document frontal impact damage to the tool caused by impurities in the materials being cut. The manufacturer was able to return to their material provider and discuss reimbursement for damage and investigate alternative material options.

These photos show PCD damage due to impurities in the material. Damage is straight down through the entire layer of PDC and into the tool body.

Expert Service

Because of the multiple Leitz service centers located around the country, Leitz can provide a faster turn-around time for tool servicing. The manufacturer is now able to carry less tooling in-house with results in cost savings on their overall tooling inventory.

Although the furniture manufacturer was using a quality competitor, Leitz has provided a total tooling solution for the customer that will deliver more efficiency and maximize their investment. By understanding the difference in tooling service and handling, the manufacturer has watched their efficiencies grow and has realized positive downstream effects from the changes implemented during the manufacturing process.

Let’s talk about increasing the benefits of your PCD tooling through better service and education. Contact Leitz at (800) 253-6070 or fill out the form below.

The Top Three Qualities of Precision Tooling Service

Sharpening a tool 5-6 times is relatively easy, but the ability to sharpen the same tool 12-15 times can reduce your overall tooling costs by 50% or more.

Your cutting tools play a vital role in the overall quality and performance of your finished product. Precision servicing of your tools is critical to maximizing the investment you have made in your tooling solution. It’s important to partner with a tooling service provider with the expertise to ensure the longevity of your tooling and, in turn, the ongoing efficiency of your production process and quality of your product. These are the three most important qualities to look for when you select your tooling service partner.

leitz, woodworking tools, wood manufacturing

Consultative Approach

Your tooling service partner should assess your entire production environment and suggest tooling solutions which will optimize your productivity and profitability. This consultative method can be utilized throughout the service cycle as well.  Each time a tool is ready for service your representative should offer ideas to maximize current tool capabilities through usage and servicing options to make certain your tools operate at optimum performance levels for their entire lifecycle.

State-of-the-Art Equipment

Experienced service technicians use the finest grinding machinery, precision measuring and inspection equipment, dynamic balancing equipment, and the most current grinding know-how available to keep your cutting tools performing at optimal levels. Your service provider should make an ongoing investment in the quality of their sharpening and reconditioning equipment.

Experience of Service Technicians

Service technicians should receive continuous qualification updates and training with a special focus on technology and production Service and quality standards should be uniform, consistent, understood and applied by every technician in every company service center. In our rapidly changing industry, the best technicians have up-to-date knowledge on current trends and techniques they can apply to enhance your production success.

The best tooling value can only be accomplished through precision service which maximizes the total service cycles and the overall productivity of each tool. Precision tool service will also yield longer service life between sharpening or repair, resulting in fewer tool changes, less machine downtime and improved productivity.

About Leitz Service >

Leitz has a network of 180+ company-owned service centers around the world, and 8 regional service centers in North America alone. Each service center provides complete tool sharpening and repair services plus convenient pick-up and timely delivery of customer tooling. We continuously upgrade our service center equipment to ensure the most precise tool reconditioning and repair services possible. Our experienced tooling technicians are the best in the world and provide the best possible tooling value to our customers. Our experience allows us to properly service any “safe” tool regardless of original manufacturer.

Let’s talk about your tooling service program and how Leitz can impact your efficiency and productivity >>. 

Tooling Spotlight: Diamond Routers

In our tooling spotlight, we break down what you need to know about our most effective tooling solutions. This MVP is our line of Diamond Routers.

The Tool:

Leitz Diamond Routers perform at high processing speeds, equal to or more than comparable solid carbide tools–offering greatly improved service life.

Recent advancements in tool design and construction have allowed Leitz to expand the small diameter diamond routing and nesting tools to 2+2 and 3+3 wing design.

Available in diameters as small as 3/8″ and in various cutting lengths, Diamond Routers will greatly enhance most CNC nesting and sizing applications.woodworking tools, diamond tooling, routers, tooling, leitz

What makes it better:

  • A wide variety of specifications available
  • Technical and economic superiority in critical tests with leading machining center manufacturers
  • Significantly longer tool life
  • Fewer tool changes
  • Optimized machine throughput

When to use it:

With CNC and other precision machining. Optimize performance with the Leitz ThermoGrip™ heat shrink tool holding system.

Diamaster PRO Z1+1

 

·       Entry level for lower production requirements

·       Useful for all company sizes

Diamaster PRO Z2+2

 

·       Economic solution for increased performance requirements

·       Optimum price to performance ratio

Diamaster PRO3  Z3+3 – Nesting

 

·        High-performance tool for nesting applications

·       True 3-wing router bits provide continuous cut quality

Diamaster PLUS Z1+1

 

·       Recommended for composite materials

·       Ideal for various non-wood applications

Diamaster QUATTRO Z2+2

 

·       Standard tool for most industrial applications

·       Ideal for both pre- and finish cutting

Diamaster PLUS Z3+3

 

·       Standard for industrial users with high-performance requirements

·       High feed speeds with excellent finish quality

Diamaster PLUS3 Z3+3 ·       The choice for industrial pre- and finish cutting

·       True 3-wing design for continuous cut quality and maximum performance

The results:

All the benefits of Diamond Tooling, including longer tool life, fewer tool changes, and optimized machine throughput, combined with a wide variety of cutting lengths and size options results in increased performance, cost savings, and a tear-free and chip-free finish.

Add this MVP to your line-up:

Download our Diamond Routers brochure.

Take advantage of our current promotion on Diamond Routers and ThermoGrip™, now through the end of 2018.

Contact your local Leitz consultant at (800) 253-6070, or fill out the form below, and we’ll get in touch.

Tooling Spotlight: ThermoGrip® Tool-Holding System

In our tooling spotlight, we break down what you need to know about our most effective tooling solutions. This month’s MVP is ThermoGrip CNC Tool-Holding System.

The Tool:

The Leitz ThermoGrip® heat-shrink tool-holding system offers unrivaled precision. The one-piece chuck design eliminates excess tool run-out common to collet and hydro tool-holding systems. Heat shrink technology allows for higher machine output, while yielding optimized cut quality and significantly extended tool life.

Heat shrink chucks offer the simplest and most rigid link between the machine spindle and cutting tool. Heat shrink chucks are inexpensive, one-piece tool holders, without moving or mechanical parts to wear or maintain.leitz, thermogrip, tooling, woodworking toolsThe ThermoGrip® tool holding system uses an inductive heating concept to provide stronger, more concentric tool clamping. This leads to increased tool life, better surface finishes, and improved cost efficiency.

What makes it better:

  • Highest torque transfer; essentially a one-piece tool and HSK-F63
  • Safe, rigid balanced to 36,000 RPMs
  • Optimized tool performance, finish quality
  • Increased cutting speeds (by 30%)
  • Improved machine productivity
  • Compact, solid design with no wear parts; right or left rotation
  • Easy cleaning/maintenance; unlimited lifespan
  • Reduced tooling costs; fast tool changes

When to use it:

With CNC and other precision machining.

The results:

The annualized savings utilizing Leitz ThermoGrip can be astounding. You will reduce tooling costs by a minimum of 25% and increase machine and operator productivity by at least 20%. ThermoGrip users have noted annualized savings of at least $15,000 per shift, with expanded production capacity. The ThermoGrip system generally pays for itself within months, and the maintenance-free chucks provide virtually unlimited service life.

Add this MVP to your line-up.

Download our ThermoGrip PDF.

Contact your local Leitz consultant at (800) 253-6070, or fill out the form below, and we’ll get in touch.

Intelligent Tooling Driving Production

By Mike Lind

How intelligent tooling will operate in the smart factories of the future, starting today.

The Connected World and the Internet of Things

The world we live in is more connected than ever before. You may have heard the term ‘internet of things’, which generally means the internetworking of all things around us, from devices to buildings, to vehicles. We have refrigerators that can offer recipe tips based on the products within them. We can change the temperature in our homes with thermostats that can be adjusted remotely, and almost every late model vehicle has an on-board computer that provides on-demand system performance information. Smart devices are everywhere these days; even the meat smoker in your backyard can be monitored from your cell phone.

Industry 4.0: Linking the Panel Processing Industry

Today we are using cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, and cloud computing to develop the basis for the “Smart Factory”. The current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies will, sooner rather than later, become the norm in manufacturing.

In fact, there is already a huge amount of market presence in our wood products industries related to Industry 4.0. Trade shows and industry conferences are themed under the Industry 4.0 banner–most recently at Ligna in Hannover, Germany, our AWFS show in Las Vegas and the Holz-Handwerk Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. Each of these events had an inescapable Industry 4.0 presence. The smart factory is a highly focused topic for large companies who are the drivers and facilitators of the technology. And in our industry, the equipment manufacturers are putting a huge emphasis on Industry 4.0 through various platforms, touting the benefits it should provide.

We are seeing office furniture producers, kitchen cabinet giants and other market segment leaders as the early adopters of the technology. However, it is important to recognize that the smart factory, while rapidly evolving in the wood products industries, is still very much in the developmental phase. For everything to come together all the parts–including machines, software, and tools with embedded devices and readers–must work in concert together.

Managing the Data

The processes in woodworking are becoming more intricate and sophisticated. The increasing diversity of materials and surfaces (various species of wood and combinations of wood, aluminum, plastic, etc.) have very specific machining requirements. Batch size 1 production or new approaches for individualized mass production are ramping-up the need to understand what is happening in the machining environment at all times. Machines and the systems that run them are becoming more and more complex.

The probability of mistakes is more present than ever, and the impact and severity are heightened as process demands increase. Despite publishing information for proper cutting speed, feed rates and the like in catalogs, literature, and even in user guides provided with the tools, we still see evidence of improper tool use every day from customers around the world.

We are coming to the limit with the operator skill required and mind power available to manage the data in front of us and to manage it in a way that produces the desired products in an optimal and safe environment.

The Role of the Tooling Manufacturer in the Integrated System

Tool makers like Leitz are playing a role in enhancing the overall system. Through Embedded Chip Technology, RFID devices, and integrated QR codes, the tool becomes the gateway to a central database of information that improves process efficiency and reduces mistakes.

The basic results include:

  • Cataloged tool specifications and running parameters that remain with the tool always.
  • Real-time information captured during the operation of the tool and maintained as a quasi-database throughout the life of the tool.
  • Mistake-proofing of applications and programs through simulation and warning indications when a tool runs outside of design parameters.

The key concept with intelligent tooling is to make information available without the need to open the instruction manual. Every tool has a unique serial number; once you know the serial number, all the necessary information to run the tool is at hand for both man and machine.

leitz intelling tooling with QR codeRFID chips can contain a 3-D model with the exact geometry and dimension of the tool, so the machine software can simulate the machining process, ensuring safety during tool changes, and preventing crashes due to incorrect programming. Process-specific information can be kept as part of the tool data, facilitating set-up, increasing spindle up-time and decreasing the possibility of creating expensive scrap.

For this approach to be successful, an integrated system of tool, machine, measuring instruments, sharpening equipment, and data must work together. Starting with tools with chips or QR codes installed on machines, the machine then reads and utilizes the running parameters and programming information. Information is fed into computer systems or cloud computing networks. Alerts are sent to mobile devices when problems arise (e.g. machine parameters are exceeded). When the tools are removed from machines and sent for service, the event is logged into the database (location of tools can be determined). Relevant tool information (specifications, drawings, service instructions) can be accessed at the service center. When the tools have been serviced, any changes in specifications (diameter, reference points) are added to the tool database. The tool is reinstalled on the machine. Updated tool specifications are read by the software on the machine, and the cycle starts over. When the tool is serviced, key information can be synchronized with the company ERP system, including service tickets, on-hand inventory, and running status of tool life cycle with the ability to alert and send an order for new tools. And, we can monitor this entire process with an app like those that we use in our daily life.

 “Synchronizing Process Components” or something that communicates the orchestration that has to occur for the desired end result.

The tooling alone is not the driver. The process is only efficient and stable if all the parts – machine, tool, software, operator – are in accordance through proper communication. When expertly implemented, intelligent tooling offers several advantages:

  • Production quality improvements from optimized settings
  • Simplified tool set-up that is expedited due to information available on-demand
  • Process reliability because all the steps are verified and adjusted prior to running parts
  • Increased availability of resource = optimized utilization – not more, not less
  • Energy efficiency – dull tools are replaced at the right time, requiring less power consumption
  • Process know how
  • Expert system
  • “Learning-in” material and tool combinations
  • Every service and sharpening recorded as “tool history”
  • Sharpening procedure is documented and stays with the tool so that no mistakes are made in the service shop
  • Easy tracking and monitoring of tools, reducing the amount of capital employed
  • Automatic tool ordering, decreasing administration and paper

As our world rapidly changes around us, new business approaches and models are required. Owners, managers, and stakeholders need the freedom to concentrate on producing wood and wood-related products without process headaches. Intelligent tooling in the smart factory environment offers solutions that allow for a focus on the business at hand – producing doors, windows, furniture, cabinets and other products, in the most efficient way possible.