2022/11/21   |   Ruprechtshofen   |   Austria

Sawing independently in-house

The Robot saw SAWTEQ B-300 flexTec in use at the Alfred Baumgartner joinery.

"Today, the SAWTEQ works for four or five hours without anyone being there. We just pick up the finished stacks and quickly check if everything is OK. That's all."

Dominik Baumgartner, Managing Director

An article of the magazine Holzkurier. www.holzkurier.com

The Alfred Baumgartner joinery in Ruprechtshofen, Lower Austria, is a regional business straight out of a story book: it has 13 employees, offers universal services, often with single part production, and delivers the highest quality. The fact that the joinery can combine this with a high degree of delivery reliability is owed largely to a SAWTEQ B-300 flexTec from HOMAG.

The deadline pressure in woodworking shops is high and it continues to grow. Customers' demands are also increasing: extra requests often have to be implemented quickly, and regional joiners usually have to produce individual pieces anyway. With high quality requirements in mind, the customer is not satisfied with off-the-shelf offers. At the same time, their expectations in terms of costs and quality of advice can present an additional challenge. And woodworking shops are having to implement new trends in materials, right down to the surface, with increasing speed. Moreover, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that this is taking place against the background of an increasing shortage of skilled workers.

The wild thirteen

In order to meet such challenges, woodworking shops are having to think about new production strategies. The Alfred Baumgartner joinery did this and placed increased efficiency, flexibility and quality right at the start of its production. The time pressure that the business is increasingly exposed to was a significant trigger. "Another factor is that the work preparation is much more time-consuming than in the past. Time that is then taken away from production. There are only 13 of us, that's it. Even when big projects come in," stresses Dominik Baumgartner. In 2012, he took over the business from his father. Since then, he has been managing the joinery, which was founded in 1925, as the fourth generation of his family. Both sisters also work in the family business: one is responsible for accounting, the other for planning. "If required, we plan the interior fittings from A to Z when a house builder comes to us," the young businessman says. The scope of services therefore extends to construction. "Some customers want everything from a single source, and that is what we do as far as possible" — planning, design, manufacturing and construction. "Of course, we also use special shapes in the interior design," meaning that production is almost always of customer-specific individual parts. A lot of what the company produces is for private individuals. "In addition, we have the hotel industry, guest rooms and bars: around 70 percent of our orders are for reception areas, counters, cabinets, room furnishings, wall coverings or ceilings." Another segment is commercial construction, where the company manufactures mainly partition walls for office spaces. Last but not least, the business is always ready to help colleagues who cannot manage a job. Which once again illustrates the staffing needs... As well as the need for flexibility: from the structure and organization through to the employees — and also the machines.

What is true generally is also true for special cases

Especially since a wide variety of materials are processed. Chipboard and MDF, of course, but also multiplex or purenit. "In addition, the catering industry often requires water-resistant material, supplemented by single or multi-layer panels and coated materials, especially HPL." The range of parts is increased by the numerous part sizes and the requirement to process even delicate surfaces with a high level of quality. What applies in Ruprechtshofen in general—high flexibility, quality and delivery reliability in order processing—also applies in particular to the cutting. In order to meet these requirements, the company uses a saw-storage combination from HOMAG, which was installed a year ago. Since then, the SAWTEQ B-300 flexTec robot saw and a "TLF 211" (STORETEQ S-200) storage system have been in operation in a separate hall that was previously used as a picking warehouse. The investment volume, including the building, amounted to around one million euro, and shows that a strategic decision was taken — and at the right time, too. Today, the panels are first pre-sorted in the hall after delivery to be divided the following day. The components are then sent to the respective processing machine by forklift truck, whereby the joinery has realized the classic flow of edge banding machine, processing center, painting, sanding and assembly. Finally, the whole thing is delivered and constructed at the customer's site.

The special, embedded in the standard

"In large projects, when an employee had to constantly jump back and forth between cutting and edging, that was just difficult," says Baumgartner, explaining the reason behind the investment. This made the prospect of using the new saw concept all the more attractive, removing the employee from cutting and allowing them to carry out other work. The fact that Baumgartner could see this from the very beginning was down to the fact that he already knew the planned concept. "The idea of unmanned production was the starting point," says the owner. "And if that's what you want, then the robot is the only feasible concept. That is why we approached HOMAG with precise ideas." As is so often the case, these particular ideas were linked to the limited production space. "The saw would have fit well into our hall, but we would have lost a lot of space in the warehouse," he explains. "That's why we wanted a roller conveyor feed, which HOMAG didn't actually have then." Today, the panels run directly to the machine via the desired roller conveyor, which is fed by a cross rail from the TLF 211. HOMAG thereby implemented this special request, as well as one for the destacking stations. "We modified the size of one of the three standard-sized stations. This means that instead of 1.2 m, we can now destack up to a width of 1.35 m." This applies above all to panels used as partition walls. Just like here, the robot also destacks the other cut parts onto the scissor lift tables according to the processing. From there, they either go to the CNC or the edge; if no further processing is required, this is also taken into account when destacking. "This way, we save a lot of time on destacking," says the owner, detailing a first result.

Classic meets modern

The SAWTEQ B-300 flexTec itself is basically standard, as is the storage system. The key to effective batch size 1 production is the robot: in combination with a dividing saw, which in terms of design and equipment largely corresponds to a classic SAWTEQ B-300, it makes the wide range of processing operations possible. This diversity is further enhanced by the fact that the SAWTEQ can also be operated manually, for example, when cutting packages. "The machine covers up to 6 cm," reports Baumgartner. "We cut up to 5 cm and thereby use the package cut time and again." The second key component of the SAWTEQ—this time for unmanned production—is the intelligent destacking concept on the lifting tables. With sophisticated algorithms, the software responsible ensures that the appropriate stacks are always formed for subsequent processing. The SAWTEQ is equipped with a laser scanner that measures the height of the stack in real time and ensures that the lifting tables are always positioned at the exact height required. The recognition of parts in the stacks is ensured by the labeling of each part during cutting. In addition to the "CADmatic 5" control software and the destacking software, the future-oriented joinery also works with the "Cut Rite" optimization tool, which the company acquired with the previous saw. For the SAWTEQ, therefore, it was simply a matter of upgrading to the "Professional" version. "Because the interface to our CAD software RSO was already established, we were able to transfer all data from the design to the saw immediately."

A house without a housekeeper

After a year working with the robot saw, the young businessman is "completely satisfied. I would buy it again immediately." At the beginning, he was still a bit skeptical about unmanned production. "We kept going back to the machine time and time again to see if it was doing its job," he smiles. "Today, the SAWTEQ works for four or five hours without anyone being there. We just pick up the finished stacks and quickly check if everything is OK. That's all." If there are a lot of orders, the saw is used at the weekend as well. But not by the employee who used to be employed on the saw. They are now performing tasks in other areas. The owner appreciates that "it is a big difference whether it is a robot that is sawing or a human being who can always make a mistake, even if that's just because of our wide range of materials alone. Now we have little waste and the quality is right." After all, the saw checks every panel to see if it is at an angle. If the surface is damaged, that is also measured and the system stops. Baumgartner is therefore convinced: "The SAWTEQ guarantees us the quality and flexibility in unmanned production that we need to meet our deadlines."

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