Some bandsaw operators with decades of experience claim that they can simply put a hand on the machine while it’s running and get a reading on what needs to be dialed in for
improved performance. Sawing veterans like these, however, are in short supply, which is why adopting a regular maintenance routine is critical. Even for those who have amassed years of experience on a saw, taking the time to make small tweaks at regular intervals can prevent hours of unscheduled downtime.
Raul Gonzalez, sawing solutions manager at Lenox, has spent countless hours working on bandsaws and he can spot the telltale signs of a machine that needs attention. It might be the presence of tramp oil in the cutting fluid sump and trays. Or, it could be the accumulation of metal chips and dirt that alert him to potential issues. If the saw blades are breaking sooner than expected, Gonzalez knows to check the vise plates and blade guide rollers, which can cause premature breakage if they are worn down.
“The most important part to check daily is the wire brush that removes chips from the blade teeth,” Gonzalez says. “If the wire brush isn’t properly adjusted or a wire brush is not installed, the chips lodged in the gullet will be brought into the cut again, causing more resistance, vibration, waviness, roughness and, inevitably, deviation in the cuts.”
Maintenance best practices also include regularly checking the cutting fluid concentration. When there isn’t enough lubricity, blade life is drastically reduced. Another fluid to check is the hydraulic oil, which helps the bandsaw feed system operate with accuracy.
“It’s recommended to implement a daily cleanup and to follow the machine manufacturer’s maintenance schedules,” Gonzalez says.
Some operators push their bandsaws to pump out as many parts as possible over their shift, paying little mind to cut quality or blade life. Others focus on reducing consumable expenditures and getting the finest cuts possible. But when it comes to maintenance, production goals shouldn’t dictate how to proceed. Gonzalez says a maintenance schedule should be implemented regardless of how production goals evolve. One commonality of all saw operators, regardless of their production goals, is to be prepared for anything.
“One important practice is to have the most common replacement parts on hand to reduce downtime in the event the bandsaw stops working,” he says. “Many facilities don’t have a maintenance person or an individual that can conduct the most common tasks, such as changing out simple parts.”
But taking the time and expense to properly train someone that can perform common maintenance offers a return on investment. “It’s one of the greatest investments a facility can make,” Gonzalez says. “It will reduce machine downtimes and increase the production and accuracy of finished parts.”
The implementation of an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) plan, Gonzalez says, is also important because it will reveal the current efficiency of a bandsaw.
“Furthermore,” he says, “data collection is a great tool because it can put a spotlight on many aspects of the machine, such as operation, behavior and production trends, allowing the operator to make sound decisions.”
Bandsaw manufacturers’ equipment today is often highly automated, which gives operators the opportunity to become more in tune with the machines with which they work.
They gain more transparency into how the machine is running, which helps them stay on track with production goals. Because of this, Gonzalez says there is now an emphasis from bandsaw and blade manufacturers to train operators on not only how to operate the machine, but also on how to recognize the consequences of breakdowns.
“Constant training,” he says, “both in person and through technology such as e-learning and webinars has made it much easier for operators to know how to properly maintain their saws.”
Along with that crucial training and education component, Gonzalez says bandsaw manufacturers continue to develop equipment with improved technology that assists and removes the guesswork from the operator.
“These machines can determine the optimum cutting parameters for a material,” he says. “They can adjust parameters on their own to produce an optimally finished part. A machine can adjust feeds and speeds as soon as the deviation sensor reaches the allowed deviation tolerance and at the same time display a warning alarm, alerting the operator to investigate the issue. Many machines today can also collect cutting data and offer the operator a window into cutting trends and blade life.”
Automation, as Gonzalez points out, has given operators the option to conduct other tasks while the machine makes the cuts. Before automated technology’s arrival, bandsaws required near constant human interaction and attention.
“This by no means implies that the most technologically advanced machines do not require operator intervention,” Gonzalez clarifies. “The difference is that the new technology allows increased production while the operator conducts other tasks, reducing overall labor costs. At the same time, automated bandsaws require more attention, as these machines have more components that require specific maintenance intervals. Automated bandsaws require consistent and more frequent maintenance schedules as they cut much faster and continuously for longer periods of time.”
Lenox developed a 13-point inspection program that can catch issues before they lead to failure and unplanned downtime. Saws are disassembled and a Lenox saw professional inspects many areas to determine the existing conditions and identify parts that need to be replaced.
“When Lenox conducts a 13-point inspection,” Gonzalez explains, “we not only inspect the components, but we also make sure that when we finish, the machine has been tuned with various adjustments recommended by the manufacturer. Our application specialists have gone through an extensive amount of training to ensure that when they are done with the inspection, the machine operates at optimum performance.”