Bringing Bandsawing Into The Modern Age
Bandsaws have come a long way, from the convoluted contraptions they once were to versatile, intelligent powerhouses operating at swifter speeds. Ben Fuschino, President of Friggi North America gives his insights into the transformation of the bandsaw and all the good it has to offer.
Cutting metal with a bandsaw has been around for many decades and has changed very little; that is until recently. It used to be that the bandsaw was that lowly machine that stood by itself and usually appeared overburdened with bars or blocks of steel. Plodding along, it was the first process for downline machining.
That was then. Now, innovations and technology advancements are revolutionising the metal cut-off bandsaw. Today’s machines are true machine tools because manufacturers have elevated the saw. It now does much more than a straight cut. The new evolution has the saws performing at incredible cutting rates and accuracies with technological progressions that relay information and statistics as well as inventory tracking to a central computer.
New Generation Of Bandsaws
The new generation of machines are partnered with other operational machine tools to effectively reduce waste, decrease material handling and increase throughput. Machines today are capable of cutting horizontally, vertically, at angles, and even curves and radii. By doing more and effectively getting to a near net shape on the bandsaw, the more expensive machining, such as milling, can be greatly reduced. This means that not only is production moving out the door faster, but at the same time experiencing huge savings in chip management from milling machines.
Anyone that operates mills will know that cleaning and handling these chips is a chore and an expense that affects the bottom line. In keeping with this thought, having a bandsaw perform as close to near net shape as possible also benefits scrap recovery. Bandsaws also have the decided advantage of chip management as well.
Any time a mill has to hog out parts, it produces a vast amount of chips. A bandsaw offers the added value of producing some chips which are much more manageable and can be confined, but with drops that are solid pieces. Solid pieces can either be reconfigured or cut to square up and re-sell or bring a much better scrap value than chips alone.
Improving Cutting Rates
Dramatically improved bandsaw cutting rates are allowing them to steadily creep into the domain of large circular saws. Previously, anyone looking to cut blocks or bars quickly had to use large circular saws. These have a number of defects; replacement of large discs is expensive, and the selection of providers extremely limited. Large discs also have the disadvantage of large kerf loss- the amount of material taken out by the disc. On a large disc, the kerf loss could be 15 mm and more, compared to a bandsaw that has a kerf loss of approximately 3 mm.
A high-volume producer would gain tremendous benefits and a lot more production output over days, weeks, and months. The other much more visible advantages of a bandsaw over a large disc saw are space requirements and significantly less expensive purchase price for a bandsaw. Large disc saws also have more expensive maintenance and blade costs, when compared to a comparable capacity bandsaw.
Finally, for large forging operations or service centres that need to cut large blocks, there is a limit to the cutting capacity of a disc. Anything over a metre in diameter would be outside the purview of a disc machine. But of course, one naturally asks and points out the drastic speed difference between a disc and a bandsaw blade. Today’s bandsaws are extremely close to achieving the same cutting rates as the large disc saws. Recent advancements in bandsaw blade technologies utilising a variety of coatings and better carbide technologies have spirited bandsaw manufacturers to produce machines that rival large disc saw cutting performance with minimal kerf loss.
Today’s bandsaw machines are working hard to cut material such as high-nickel mold steels at over 540 sq cm per minute for quick production cutting, and stainless steels at rates over 450 sq cm per minute. Latter rates would tax the blade life more, but sustainable rates with above average blade life can be achieved at cutting speeds of between 400 —450 sq cm per minute. This is quite a leap from rates of 40—80 sq cm from traditional bandsaw machines.
Even if blade life is sacrificed in quick production scenarios, replacement comes at a relatively low cost for bandsaw blades, usually at below US$1500 per blade, meaning that there is an easy trade-off for quick production versus consumable costs. In contrast comparable capacity large discs are priced in the tens of thousands and much more in the case of large diameter blades of 1 m and more. Hopefully, one can now start to see the improvements in the bandsawing field.
Technological Add-Ons To Bandsaws
We have covered productivity and speed, and changes taking place within the bandsaw world but what we have not addressed is the increasing suite of technological add-ons available to end users. In today’s analytics-based world, control of process, material, inventory, consumables, and production is paramount.
Bandsaws can now be linked to the central office system through either direct Ethernet link or via wi-fi. It will report back productivity, blade usage and performance; scan for the type of material to give for inventory control, along with a host of other possible analytics.
Automation, decreased material handling, increased productivity, and efficiency—these are descriptors for modern bandsaws and what they can do in your production environment.