Saw centre cuts the path to productivity with Vollmer
As a company that has roots that date back to 1889, The Saw Centre and its growth trajectory really took off when the company was bought by a father and son partnership in the late 60’s. The company has grown exponentially since then and it now employs more than 30 staff in a 20,000 sq/ft purpose-built facility. Now in its third generation of family ownership and jointly managed by David Stevenson and Tony Galbraith, the company has evolved with significant growth of its saw blade sharpening business bolstered with diversification into the sales and service of machinery for the wood, metal and UPVC sectors.
To expand the portfolio of services, the acquisition of a tooling service and manufacturing company in 2006 provided the staff with the skills and knowledge to service the needs of the precision engineering and panel processing industries. The purchase of a small tooling company enabled the Saw Centre to move work from traditional machines to a CNC grinding centre and subsequently become the only independent company in Scotland with this facility. However, the mainstay of the business remains as the name suggests, the Saw Centre – and it is here that grinding and sharpening machines from Vollmer have made a significant impact.
It was back in 2001 the company made its first major investment in Vollmer technology, purchasing a Vollmer CHD250R2 TCT saw blade sharpening machine and a Vollmer Loroch HSS saw sharpening machine that were both connected to a Vollmer ND automation centre. At the time, it was the first Vollmer automation station in the UK to simultaneously service both HSS and TCT saw blade sharpening machines. This investment provided The Saw Centre with the facility for 24/7 operation, ramping up productivity levels and capacity. Most impressive was that the automated cell eradicated the need for three HSS saw blade sharpening machines and an additional four TCT saw sharpening machines. The cell removed seven machines from the shop floor, reduced costs, as well as power and consumable consumption and enabled the company to allocate two staff to alternate tasks whilst adding significant sharpening capacity.
The latest investment
Despite working around the clock for 20 years, saw blade technology has evolved and this required a new solution. Joint managing director Tony Galbraith says: “The evolution of saw blades for our primary industries of wood, metal cutting, construction and UPVC has moved on quite drastically in the last 20 years. To service the needs of our customers and streamline our productivity, we needed to upgrade our machinery. This upgrade was the Vollmer CHD270 with an ND250 5-stack robot loading system that arrived in April 2021.
“As manufacturers strive to improve productivity and prolong saw blade life, the required geometries have become ever more complex. Unfortunately, the software, kinematics and machine movement of the old Vollmer CHD250R2 meant that we either had to undertake two or three setups to complete complex saw blades or we would subsequently subcontract the work out to another supplier. In some instances, we turned away the sharpening of certain blades. Now, we can regrind everything on the new CHD270 and when it comes to TCT saw blade sharpening, I wouldn’t go to anyone but Vollmer.”
The Vollmer CHD270 is a fully automated machine for the complete machining of Carbide Tipped (TCT) circular saw blades with eight CNC-controlled axes and measuring equipment. The machine design demonstrates excellent stability, takes up little space and is very easy to use. The entire grinding unit of the CHD270 is compactly and robustly mounted on a central monoblock main structure to take precision and smooth running to a new level. Furthermore, the patented twin grinding wheel concept provides complete machining without having to replace the grinding wheel. The ergonomic design makes the CHD270 very easy to operate and to access for maintenance work on the control cabinet, coolant pump, pneumatic system and fire extinguishing device. When combining this with the user-friendly ND250 automation system, you can have complete confidence in the ability to sharpen saw blades around the clock with impeccable quality and productivity levels.
The benefits of the CHD270
This confidence in Vollmer technology is justified by the impressive performance of the previous Vollmer CHD250R2 over two decades, but the new machine takes productivity, technology and automation to a new level. Discussing this, The Saw Centre’s factory manager Scott McQuillan, who has been with the company for 25 years, says: “In the last 20 years, saw blade geometries have evolved considerably in all industry sectors, as saw blade suppliers and their customers strive to improve performance and blade longevity. In the panel processing industries, the demand for hollow ground blades with concave tooth geometries has increased drastically. Used in wall saws and vertical panel saws, the blades require an excellent finish and as we are selling more of the machines and blades we had to find a more efficient way of grinding them, previously the blades would require two processes on two machines to get the quality we were looking for.”
The transfer of the blades between two machines resulted in a sharpening time of approximately 40 minutes, depending upon the blade size and type. Furthermore, these saw blades had to be manually loaded, increasing the workload for staff as the volume of blades continually increased. “With the new CHD270, we can now process the saw blades in a single automated setup in less than 20 minutes. Not only has this slashed our cycle times by 50 percent but it has also eliminated manual loading, as we can just put the blades into the ND250 robotic cell and forget about them.
“Going back 20 years, we did not have such a variety of machines using carbide-tipped blades and with all the new materials that are coming onto the market such as composites and processed board, we needed to have a system that could deal with all the geometries and with the new Vollmer CHD270 we can achieve endless saw blade geometries. This means that there is no saw blade we cannot sharpen and the need to inform a customer that we cannot service their blade has been completely eradicated, increasing our production and service capabilities.
“Blade manufacturers are continually increasing the geometry range of their saws and this is particularly prevalent in the UPVC and aluminium industry. We have some saws with a flat tooth geometry with side bevels that would previously be three operations and are now a single operation on the CHD270. Likewise, some saws would alternate teeth between flat and bevelled teeth. The CHD270 takes all this in its stride as it has all the tooth forms and geometries we could ever need, future-proofing our business from next-generation saw geometries that may come along in future.“
The move from the ageing Vollmer CHD250R2 to the next generation CHD270 has gone far beyond extending flexibility and capacity at The Saw Centre. Scott McQuillan continues: “The new machine has a host of new features that really do highlight how Vollmer has evolved its technology over the last 20 years. The CHD270 software is more user friendly than ever before and we now have apprentices becoming very competent at setting the machine with minimal training. Likewise, the software for the ND250 robot loader has been improved too. Previously, if there was an issue with a saw blade in the middle of a stack, we would have to remove half of the stack and reload the stack. Now, the software allows us to remove individual blades from the processing cycle without re-stacking. Additionally, with the variety of portable plunge saws on the market, we now can stack blades that are under 180 mm. We spent 2-3 hours of each day manually loading the portable saw blades and now with the facility of stacking up to 70 at a time, we are gaining more time each day. The processing time has gone from 9 minutes to 6 minutes which in our factory, any time gained is a bonus.
The software, flexibility, kinematics and performance are much improved from the previous machine, but there is much more. The machine is more robust and the build quality has improved too. The probing and measuring system is second to none and it makes it near impossible to make errors, even the hydraulic oil system has been enhanced with a new pneumatic system that is cleaner and safer for our staff. Investing in the new Vollmer CHD270 will speed up our processing times and raise the quality that our customers need. It is not only an investment for us but it is a machine and a service that our customers deserve. We are extremely happy with our new Vollmer CHD270.”
Vollmer recently hosted its four day VDays event at its world headquarters in Biberach, Germany. The Swabian sharpening expert was visited by over 400 customers from around the globe to witness the very latest technology from the world leading manufacturer of grinding and erosion machines for the processing of rotary cutting tools and circular saw blades.
What’s new at Vollmer
Dr Stefan Brand, the CEO of the Vollmer Group opened proceedings with an overview presentation of the Group, with pertinent points being the phenomenal growth journey the company is on. Vollmer recorded unprecedented sales and turnover growth in 2018 and with a bulging order book for 2019, this performance is expected to continue.
Dr Brand also emphasised the importance of the global market with its 490 Biberach staff and total worldwide headcount of 730 employees, ensuring that 85 percent of sales are outside the domestic market. With sales currently running at 20 percent in Asia, 16 percent in the Americas and 61 percent in Europe, Vollmer has a dominant position in Europe, but the opportunities in the rapidly growing Asian and American markets are a tantalising prospect.
To service the global demand and the respective growth potential, Dr Brand announced the company’s plans to vacate the current premises and move into a purpose built 48,000sq/m factory on the outskirts of Biberach by 2023. The new facility will give Vollmer an additional 12,000 sq m of factory space whilst streamlining the existing business model, which has been located on the existing site for almost 100 years. To prepare for the long-term future of the Vollmer Group, the new facility has an additional 50,000 sq m of space to expand beyond current plans, solidifying growth for future generations.
The seminar schedule for the event was split across two seminar theatres with delegates having the option of choosing their respective seminar subject. For Vollmer, the business development manager for the VGrind 360 and Vgrind 360E, Andreas Weidenauer discussed the extensive benefits of the VGrind machines. This included an overview of the build quality that touched on the polymer concrete machine base for vibration absorption and reduced thermal expansion as well as the impressive C-axis concept that provides the perfect absorption and elimination of deformation and vibration of grinding pressure through the top and bottom bearings in the twin grinding spindle configuration.
Reviewing the slideshow of the Vgrind 360 and 360E, it is apparent the unique twin spindle configuration exhibits dynamics, precision, deformation and vibration dampening characteristics that epitomise the quality that belies the Vollmer brand. The presentation also alluded to the spindle options available with both machines, as well as the option for linear glass scales on the X, Y and Z axis, which are fitted as standard to the C and A axes.
This detailed insight was duly followed by product manager Eric Scheffold who addressed the attendees regarding the very latest VGrind News. The latest VGrind news presentation focused upon the numerous modular automation solutions that include the HP160, HC4 and HPR250. These automation configurations are just one element of how Vollmer is committed to providing its customers with a ‘complete solution’.
The HP160 pallet magazine and HC4 chain magazine are compact and ergonomic solutions that provide external loading and unloading with a single or double gripper configuration for clamping tool shanks up to 25.4 mm diameter. The gripper system also incorporates fully automatic in-process compensation to improve precision, run-out and reduce sleeve wear. The HP160 system is available with a two or four pallet station that can accommodate up to 272 or 900 cutting tools respectively, so precision and automated reliability are crucial components of the Vgrind.
The packed schedule of events also included parallel presentations from technology partners such as Element 6, Gerling, ITQ, NUM, Haimer and Zoller with an additional keynote presentation on ‘how to improve carbide grinding’ by grinding “guru” Dr Jeffrey Badger. With such an esteemed list of presenters, visitors were not only offered the opportunity to embrace the ‘complete solution’ ethos and technology in the Vollmer Technical Centre, but also in the theme of the presentations that catered for every aspect of precision grinding.
As part of the DeBeers Group and a world leading designer, developer and manufacturer of synthetic diamond super-materials, Element 6 has worked with Vollmer for many years to trial the machineability and operability of new material developments. The company gave a ‘through the keyhole’ insight into the development and considerations of PCD materials, a presentation subsequently followed by Holger Gerling, managing director of Gerling, an industry leader in brazing technology for PCD cutting tools.
The afternoon presentations were delivered by Haimer and Zoller. The Haimer seminar on balancing and presetting of grinding wheels while the Zoller presentation on optimising grinding processes through digitisation certainly complemented the Vollmer theme of optimised production and digitisation.
IoT and the future of manufacturing
Dr Stefan Brand, Vollmer CEO detailed the IoT journey that Vollmer is planning and how the business will achieve its goals. Factoring in every consideration and department within the business is a process that ‘must’ involve all departments and all stakeholders, not only today, but every day. Dr Brand emphasised: “The IoT journey is one that will never end and it will continue for generations to come. It is about continually evolving and pushing the business forward whilst always learning.” Dr Brand stated that the company is currently undertaking almost 130 IoT projects and this number will only grow with time.