Smart Vacuum Optimisation

Smart vacuum optimisation for
CNC nesting machines

By Ralf Sundmaeker

Having worked in the woodworking industry since 1985 and lived in South East Asia for over 25 years, Ralf Sundmaeker is currently based in Bangkok and is responsible for the Machinery business unit at Steinert Co Ltd.

Every CNC nesting machine requires a vacuum system to hold the work pieces during the routing and cutting process. Various nesting machines provide different vacuum systems with one or more vacuum pumps depending on the table size and working areas. A main characteristic of a vacuum system is its strength to hold the parts firmly in position even if small parts are cut from a large sheet. Any slight movement causes tolerances and ultimately results in rejected work pieces.
 
Steinert Co Ltd introduces the Vacuboost patented vacuuming system designed and developed by the AES Group – a specialist for CNC operation and partner of Steinert for many years.
 
The Vacuboost system provides optimised vacuuming that is up to ten times stronger compared to a standard system found on most nesting table CNC machines. A stronger vacuum means processing at faster speeds with a higher precision cutting!
 
The patented Vacuboost System works with two 250 m3/h Becker dry-type vacuum pumps with the table divided into eight or more vacuum zones controlled by a smart optimisation algorithm.

 

The state-of-the-art vacuum pumps enable high precision CNC machining with maximum grip of the workpieces. Any of the eight zones can be controlled independently from the others and are controlled according to the spindle position. The worktable area and the vacuum power can easily be optimised during machining according to the workpiece, spindle position and board size.

During the CNC cutting operation, the first pump always secures the proper vacuum for the area at which the spindle motor is actively working. The second pump distributes the vacuum power to the remaining areas to keep the boards firmly fixed on the CNC table. The divided and flexible vacuum distribution produces the strongest holding power where it is needed most – exactly where the cutting and routing takes place.

According to the spindle position, the system opens or closes the vacuum zones and by doing so reaches a vacuum power that is ten times stronger than a standard system. Vacuum reservoirs mounted under the CNC table hold additional air to easily transfer that to the working table once needed.

Steinert includes the Vacuboost system for the following AES CNC nesting machines: Raptor Ultra, Extreme Ultra and Super Nova models. All mentioned types are laid out for fastest operational speeds, with the Vacuboost holding even the smallest workpiece for perfect cutting results.

LOADING AND CUTTING SYSTEM FOR SOFA MANUFACTURERS
Another add-on for nesting machines is the AES Loader X – a multi-plate loading and cutting system for sofa manufacturers.
 
For many producers, the nesting method has an inherited flaw, which is the cutting of just one board at a time. Even with a nesting line with integrated loading and unloading devices, the capacity is limited and insufficient especially for sofa manufacturers. The dimensions of such a nesting line and the investment will be an issue if additional lines must be purchased to double the capacity.
 
The AES Loader X with a special workpiece-holding device, in combination with the Vacuboost, enables the processing of different materials and the cutting of boards into various shapes without parts moving.
 
To reach sufficient capacity, sofa manufacturers need to perform multi-plate cutting to produce the upholstery frame structure on the nesting line. Standard vacuum systems are not strong enough to keep three plates securely fixed during the cutting operation. The AES Raptor Ultra models are designed for this operation.
 
The Loader X system consists of the following components:
• Alignment Unit
• Loading Unit
• Upper Pressure Roller System
One part of the Alignment Unit is the CNC control system operating simultaneously with the main CNC Router aligning the stack on the lift unit. Each panel is carefully aligned at the reference point which happens at a 50 m/min axis speed with special rollers for the material movement. Depending on the number of required parts, Loader X can align single, double, or even three panels at the same time. Human interference is unnecessary as the control unit of the CNC line controls the entire operation.
 
The loading system is the next part of the Loader X unit, with two clamps transferring the boards from the lift to the CNC machine table. The clamps are rubber coated to avoid causing any damage during the process.
 
The final component is the Upper Pressure Roller System. This device consists of two rubber-coated pressure rollers, one of which is in front and the other behind the CNC spindle. Both rollers apply pressure exactly onto the point where the CNC spindle is cutting and moving. The rollers move along the
X axis and hold all three boards in place during the cutting process of even the smallest work pieces.
 
Once the CNC cutting is completed, the unloading and cleaning unit automatically transfers the parts from
the machine table onto a belt-conveyor table from which the operator can collect the ready and precisely cut
workpieces. Automatic unloading by a robotic arm is also possible to save on labour cost. In that case, the entire line can be operated by just one worker with a push of a button.
 
The RAPTOR ULTRA LINE is not only suitable for upholstery frame processing but also for routing of
wood, plastic, aluminium and other similar materials. With its standard features, the machine can be used in routing and surface processing applications including vertical drilling. AES can adapt the line to any customer requirement with its high operating speeds, strong body structure and flexible options.
 
The Loader X system line concept provides high level productivity for upholstery frame cutting operations. The multi-plate cutting system has the potential to increase the daily production capacities up to threefold.