Scalable Solutions For Automating Solid Wood Manufacturing

What machines come to mind when you think of “automation” in our industry? Most people would say CNCs or edge banders, but solid wood processing machines, such as rip saws, chop saws, and moulders, are also good candidates for automation. Automating these machines can increase capacity, productivity, efficiency, and yield.

What is Automation?

Automation is the application of technology to control the delivery or removal of products to and from machinery. Automation increases efficiency or capacity beyond what a human can accomplish when loading or unloading a machine. Additionally, automation involves optimizing materials to maximize production and minimize waste.

Why Automate?

Are you achieving your desired productivity now? For those who work with solid wood machinery, feeding a moulder quickly, efficiently, and consistently can be difficult for an employee. The role is a physically demanding and unfulfilling task, often leading to high turnover. Finding ways to not only replace people but also make the best use of the people that you have is a common challenge. Automation can help. While the benefits of automation in custom shops with low production runs might not be as crucial as high-speed or long production runs in bigger shops, improving your processes should always be a consideration.

How do we Automate Solid Wood Processing?

If you are using a moulder or a band resaw, automation could be as simple as a hopper feeder system where the operator can load multiple “blanks” into a hopper, and through gravity, the hopper feeds one blank after another to the machine. This simple solution can increase your capacity by 50% or more!

For rips saws, chop saws, and moulders, you can significantly improve your capacity by adding a lateral chain feeder table. This table allows the operator to load multiple boards onto the feeder, which will load them into the machine automatically, helping your operator stay ahead of the machine and giving them more time to choose the best side of the board before feeding it. Take it one step further by adding an automatic vacuum lift in front of the lateral chain feeder and eliminating the need for a person to load the feeder manually. For moulders, adding an outfeed chain table or a stacking system can increase capacity and reduce the number of people in the moulder operation.

Automation is the future of our industry. Solid wood automation methods like the ones listed above can increase capacity, boost productivity, improve efficiency and yield, and provide a quick return on investment no matter the size of the shop.

Author: David Ghisolfo, Solid Wood Product Specialist