A well-known cabinet manufacturer on the West Coast wanted to streamline abrasives suppliers after an acquisition. While the cabinet firm did not initially perceive serious issues with their wide belt sanding process, they approached Uneeda to find cost-saving solutions and improve their sanding process.
Objective: Show a 30+ percent cost savings vs. the current competitors’ unit cost.
Uneeda, an IWF 2022 exhibitor, sent its technical team to the company’s main factory and spent a full month conducting tests. During this time, Uneeda wide belt technicians made machine adjustments to improve the condition of the machinery. Data for the full month was collected, analyzed and used to determine the following steps.
Step One: Choosing the Right Material
For whitewood sanding, Uneeda uses mostly an aluminum oxide grain that is “friable.” This means that our aluminum oxide grains re-sharpen when they fracture. Once the grain fractures, new sharp grains are exposed. Many belts are manufactured using standard aluminum oxide grains that dull after the initial, sharp tip is broken.
These grains then continue to dull as they fracture and wear. This dulling of the grain requires the end user to put much more pressure on the sandpaper to accomplish the same cut they achieve with belts made using friable grains under light pressure. This can cause many problems, including:
• Crushing of the grain rather than the shaving of the grain, which is a very common cause of blotchy finish.
• Increased heat buildup, which will cause the product to wear out quicker than Uneeda’s Ekamant brand products.
• Deeper scratches from excessive pressure required to achieve a good rate of cut. This result makes it more difficult to remove cross-grain scratches. The deeper scratch also causes the use of more finishing materials such as stain and lacquer.
Step Two: Process Changes
Uneeda determined that a process change in the type of belt material that was being used on the first head of both wide belt machines was required. The cabinet company had traditionally run # 80 grit cloth belts. Experimentation the first day of testing found that # 80 grit paper was the more appropriate choice to run on the first head as the paper belt was found during trials to be running much cooler than the # 80 grit cloth.
A second process change implemented by the company that should also be noted was the addition of a roller to the front of the first machine to ensure only the correct sized parts are fed into it. This helps reduce the possibility of burning due to excessive part thickness and also helps ensure the machine components remain level for longer periods of time.
Step Three: Implementing Uneeda’s Tech Program
To get the best possible belt life and quality finish, it is imperative that each component of the machine is set to the correct heights and leveled, and for the sanding drums and platens to be level, and removing the correct amount of material per grit used. Preliminary testing found many of the components of the wide belt machines to be out of level.
Our factory technicians made several adjustments to the machine. In addition to the adjustments we made, a representative from the wide belt sander manufacturer worked in tandem with us on the machine. We then provided the company with a custom technical maintenance program to ensure the machine stays in top operational condition. The maintenance department is now charged with the task of checking the machine heads on a regularly scheduled basis.
Uneeda’s wide belt technicians made all the necessary adjustments that improved the efficacy of the machinery. A new material change resulted in much longer life of the sanding belts, leading to a cost reduction of over 57 percent.
In conclusion, the long testing period led to many improvements being made to the sanding process, including a new scheduled, weekly maintenance program that facilitates consistent sanding results, with correct, predictable stock removal rates. This focus on maintaining the machines greatly reduced belt breakage and burning, and belt life was greatly extended.
Uneeda was also able to determine a few bonus cost savings that were easy for the company to implement:
• Used belts from a Heesemann sander should be run on the door back sander on the main sanding line. The company at the time was using # 150 and # 220 grits on that machine. Both grits would be acceptable to run on the backs. These were extra cost savings that were not being captured.
• Test running a wider belt on the double end tenonors was proposed, while changing the type of joint at the same time. After making these two changes, the cabinet company was able to flip the belts over to ensure they are using the entire belt. This should further reduce the belt usage in this area by almost half.
International Woodworking Fair
Tuesday - Friday
August 20 - 23, 2024
Tuesday - Thursday
8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
8:30 AM - 2:00 PM
Georgia World Congress Center
285 Andrew Young International Blvd
Atlanta, GA 30313