New advances in programmable bandsaw controls are so easy to use that even a novice operator can be confident the saw is performing at maximum efficiency.
The typical bandsaw in an average machine shop faces challenges that other machine tools do not. First of all, unlike a lathe, a mill or a machining center, this saw is responsible for defining the part.
Its operator begins with an almost endless variety of materials that come in all shapes, sizes, lengths and conditions that must be transformed into defined lengths that will then be processed through the shop.
A second challenge, faced by the saw equipment manufacturers, stems from the fact that the bandsaw operator is often an entry level position. It is not uncommon for a new person assigned to this role to have little or no experience in metal cutting.
Faced with such a wide range of materials and varying skill levels, the question for the equipment manufacturer becomes: “How do we increase productivity for every user?”
That question has been answered with PC3 programmable saw technology, a new control that uses a full color touch screen for graphical part programming through a user-friendly interface.
This system contains a memory for up to 500 jobs and parts, with additional storage available on removable media, and also suggests speed and feed settings for a wide range of materials and stores the settings for each job.
Earlier generations of automatic saws offered very little in the way of operator-friendly controls. If a vise wasn’t clamped or a guide arm was out of position the saw would either not operate or, worse, crash. Not anymore.
The PC3 control leads an operator step-by-step through a logical, intuitive process, whether they are programming or operating the saw. The large color touch screen clearly displays all of the information the operator needs. If something is out of place, a warning message pops up on the screen to alert the operator before moving on to the next step.
The graphical part programming screen offers a variety of shapes that the operator can choose. They then fill in the required information such as length, angles and material height. At this time the operator can also identify the material that will be used to create the part by either choosing from the materials library or by typing in the material type and grade.
When the control has enough information to complete the part, the image turns from black to blue and the part can be named and saved to memory.
With such a wide variety of materials to process, what is the best way to ensure that maximum productivity is maintained?
Even an experienced operator is going to encounter a grade or an alloy that they are unfamiliar with. For this reason, saws equipped with the PC3 control come with a pre-programmed materials library that will automatically set the blade speed, feed pressure and feed rate for each item. Users can also add new materials or adjust the factory presets to meet their own preferences.
The ability to automatically set both feeds and speeds required the implementation of new technology to do things such as monitoring blade speed and controlling the column feed.
The replacement of older hydraulic drive systems with a force sensing electronic feed not only enables the control to set the feed pressure and feed rate by material type, but has the added benefit of providing a more even, consistent feed force without the pressure fluctuations that sometimes result from hydraulic feed.
The force sensing feed system also provides the saw with automatic jammed blade protection. If any resistance is sensed as the column returns from making a cut, the column will stop and a warning will appear on the touch screen to prevent an expensive saw blade from being damaged and save the time the operator would have spent changing out that blade.
These new advances in bandsaw technology have resulted in a control that is easier to use, where even a novice operator can be confident that the saw is performing at maximum efficiency.
Some of the so-called “new” technology that has been introduced into the sawing sector over the past few years isn’t really new at all to most of the machine tool market. In reality, it has only recently been adapted to our segment of the industry.
The use of servo-driven indexing has improved accuracy while increasing speed to reduce total cycle times. Incorporating servo drives into automatic bar feed tables has also allowed a great increase in indexing length.
No longer limited by the length of a hydraulic cylinder, saw manufacturers are now able to offer bar feed tables in lengths up to 18 ft, giving users greater flexibility and increased production.
The advent of servo measurement, combined with modern PC and PLC controls, allows the addition of such features as the “bullet nose” ability to automatically cut multiple angles on the end of an incoming work piece.
Adding the “smart guide arm” on certain vertical tilt-frame saws not only prevents the guide arm from crashing due to improper positioning, but ensures that the blade guides are always as close to the work piece as possible resulting in more accurate cuts and longer blade life.
The controls and features on today’s saws will continue to evolve into the next generation of systems that meet the driving force of market demand for ease of use, reliability and – as always – greater productivity.
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