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Sam Baker Launches New Cut Stock Plant in Missouri: Plant Has Biggest, Most Automated Line from Samuel Kent Baker Inc.
Samuel Kent Baker Inc. - Sam Baker enters the wood business, forming affiliate to manufacture pallet cut stock; new plant is fully equipped with companys most automated cut-up line.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 5/1/2006
SUMMERSVILLE, Missouri — Sam Baker has extensive experience in the design and manufacture of machinery and equipment for the pallet and sawmill industry.
Since starting his machinery company 10 years ago, Samuel Kent Baker Inc. has become a leading manufacturer of single-head and multi-head band resaws, chop saws, trim saws, notchers, and other equipment, including material handling equipment, such as waste conveyors, self-dumping hoppers, round tables, all steel stack-n-racks and much more.
Now, Sam is in the wood business. He has established a pallet cut stock manufacturing plant, a business that is separate from his machinery company. The new plant, which recently began operating, is equipped with the largest and most automated line of equipment for remanufacturing cants ever to be produced by Samuel Kent Baker Inc.
"What we’ve done here is take our bandsaw equipment and completely automate it," said Sam. "The cant goes through the front, the product comes out the back. There are no returns, or double handling." He compared the process to the former use of gang ripsaws.
Multi-head bandsaw systems, such as two-head or three-head lines, frequently are equipped with return systems to send the cant back through the saws to cut more boards, he noted. Return systems may be fully automated or involve some manual labor.
The Samuel Kent Baker Inc. system in place at his new plant consists of 11 horizontal bandsaws, two vertical bandsaws for splitting material, a cant sizer with a vertical head and a horizontal head, a multi-trim saw, plus material handling equipment.
"There is so much equipment involved, the only way to effectively do it…was to make everything computerized and automated," said Sam. Otherwise the set-up or changeover time would take too long, he noted.
"To change the line without the degree of automation we installed would take a couple of hours, easily," said Sam. The automated control system allows the operator to enter changes into a computer screen. The saw heads and other equipment, powered by motors and gearboxes, move into the new settings automatically, with positioning controlled by encoders. The entire process takes about five minutes. The machinery movements and settings are accurate to within 0.003-inch," said Sam. "That’s thinner than a piece of paper."
"We took everything we’ve learned to this point and installed a line that is doing things differently in a lot of ways," said Sam.
The system is designed for high volume production of accurately sawn pallet components. "It is absolutely accurate," he said. In addition, it requires only a minimal amount of labor. One worker operates the entire system from a chair at a control station. Actually, the person at the controls only adjusts the cants just before they enter the multi-trim saw at the beginning of the line as needed. "After that, he’s done," said Sam.
Workers at the end of the line pull off the deck boards and stringers, grade them and stack them. Sam chose not to automate the stacking process because in his region and market, the lumber must be graded. "We have to grade heavily," he said, "and while it’s in your hands you might as well stack it."
The system has the capacity to produce over a tractor-trailer load of pallet lumber per hour, according to Sam. (A tractor-trailer load is the equivalent of about 9,000 board feet, he noted.) It can remanufacture cants at a speed of 100 linear feet per minute. The system had been running for several weeks when Sam was interviewed for this article. "We’re going pretty slow and careful right now," he said. With the limits of raw material supplies, the plant, cutting primarily mixed hardwoods, probably will produce about 20-30 loads of cut stock per week, he estimated.
Production capability is set by what you put in it, Sam noted. "It doesn’t matter what you’re cutting it into…It goes down the line at the same speed, the same production rate. It’s a one-pass system." Production footage only depends on the dimensions of the cants; the bigger they are, the more production out the back. The line can process anything up to a 7x9.
The line starts with an unscrambler to singulate cants. "It’s different from most because it is a double break-down unscrambler that goes over two humps," said Sam. The reason is to ensure the cants are absolutely singulated for presentation to the multi-trim saw. Automated controls turn the decks on or off. The operator can use the controls to change the position of the cant. "He can flip it, straighten it out, lay it down, move it left or right, and so on," Sam explained. "He also can eject the cant out of the system."
The multi-trim saw is equipped with four heads and can run three or four 30-inch circular saw blades. When the cant enters the multi-trim, it is already aligned in the correct position to proceed to the bandsaws. The cant is conveyed to the stops, and the electronic controls put it in front of the next set of ‘dogs’ automatically, "The operator just positions it and lets it go," said Sam. Up to three cants can be waiting, and every dog will take one away.
The sized cant material exits the back of the trim saw (trim ends are conveyed automatically to a scrap collection system) and takes off at a 90-degree angle.
The next machine, a cant sizer, sizes the block vertically and horizontally. It removes any excess material so that each block is now perfectly sized to be totally resawn into lumber. "You don’t have a shim at the end," noted Sam. "It’s gone. The width dimension is perfect to whatever you set it."
The next machine center is a vertical bandsaw splitter, which is used only as needed. "If we buy material like a 6x8,
The next stage is the 11-head Samuel Kent Baker Inc. horizontal band resaw line. "These are all Super Duty machines," said Sam, the largest and most heavy-duty of his machinery company’s bandsaws. They are equipped with 36-inch wheels and run 1-1/4 inch blades. If all the heads are not needed, they are elevated out of the way when not in use. The blocks are resawn to dimension pallet lumber, and each set of boards is kicked sideways onto a long grading chain.
The plant was temporarily equipped with two Samuel Kent Baker Inc. single-head notchers for notching stringers, but Sam plans to replace them with a double-head notching machine in the near future.
The operator can program the settings for each machine center. Once the settings are entered on the computer, the equipment adjusts at once automatically, including rails, side hold-overs and other components. "It takes more time for the operator to punch in the settings than for the equipment to move," said Sam. There are no manual controls, such as hand cranks.
It is the largest cut-up line designed and built by Samuel Kent Baker Inc. with the most automation. "We have been building some interesting lines in the past few years," Sam observed.
Samuel Kent Baker Inc. has designed and built some very highly automated custom machinery systems for customers. "Not a lot of people know that we do big, automated lines," he said.
The plant has been a year in development. It is located in Summersville, Missouri about 60 miles from Samuel Kent Baker Inc. headquarters. Sam purchased a building there and also constructed
"It’s always been in the back of my mind," he said. "It is an excellent place for testing and proving machinery, especially with these highly automated systems," he said. "It keeps me in touch with the other side – what the guy using the machinery is going through."
"It is a viable business for us to be in," he added.
The plant employs about nine people. In addition to the one worker controlling the cut-up line, there is a manager, forklift operators, workers pulling and stacking lumber, and a ‘floater’ who can alternate between various tasks.
The plant is located on about seven acres in a 40,000-square-foot building. The new garage, which is large enough for two tractor-trailer vans, is used to load trailers with trim ends and sawdust.
The building has enough room to store about 1 million board feet of raw material. "In the long run, it will benefit our productivity," said Sam. With inside storage capacity, the lumber will be less prone to dry out; neither will it be prone to mold and mildew problems associated with storing lumber in damp conditions, such as outside, exposed to rain.
Cants and cut stock are stored inside. "If you drove by, you would not see any outdoor activity," said Sam. The only things outside are a few cars in the parking lot. He added an inverted dock that allows the company to load and unload trailers inside.
The line operating at the new plant was the largest undertaking for Samuel Kent Baker Inc. both in terms of the size of the project and the level of automation. "To have 11 saws that will reset themselves that accurately is a pretty amazing accomplishment."
Sam compared the production rates with those of gang-rip saws. "We’ve truly brought the gang-rip volume to the bandsaw line and exceeded it with feed speeds up to 100 feet per minute," he said. "That has not really been done before.
"This is a highly innovative new line from front to back," he added.
For example, Sam developed a computer controlled ‘soft start’ system for the electric motors powering the saws. Soft start technology for one motor can be expensive, he noted, and the plant system has 17 motors ranging from 30-40 hp.
(Soft start starts the motor with half the electricity required, then completely powers up the motor once it is up and running; it reduces wear and tear on motors and also eliminates spikes in electrical demand.)
Sam put a soft start in each of the electrical panels instead of each motor. The motors start in series, one after another, a process that takes about 3-5 minutes. The approach was less costly than a soft start for each motor but will help achieve the same, long-term efficiencies.
"We did all kinds of things like that," he said.
He also developed an innovative sawdust removal system. The plant building is located in the middle of a small town, and it is important to control dust. The entire saw line has a 2-foot wide conveyor beneath it. Where it is created, sawdust is directed into the conveyor. It travels to the end of the line and is picked up be a small (20 hp) blower and blown into a waiting tractor-trailer van. "Hopefully this will help us keep down air dust outside the plant without expensive bag houses or filter systems."
"This is an amazing system with more innovation and automation than I have ever seen in any line for pallet cut stock," said Sam. "The ease of the automatic set-up and the degree of accurately produced pallet parts should prove to be the standard for us to strive for."