Making woodworking more efficient - ToolDrives

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  • ToolDrives GmbH & Co. KG

Making woodworking more efficient

Drive technology for high-speed drilling

Woodworking machines for manufacturing kitchens, windows, furniture and acoustic panels all have two things in common: They require a high number of precisely drilled holes, and the drilling speed of these holes is the key determinant in their lead times. Most woodworking processes have plenty room for improvement in this regard. With new, high-speed drilling units, manufacturers can finally tap into this potential. Powerful drive technology for high-power CNC applications has been important in this development.

At the start of summer 2019, drive specialist ToolDrives traveled to the LIGNA trade fair in Hanover, Germany, to demonstrate what modern high-speed drilling units can do. It takes just 17 seconds for the high-speed drilling unit to drill one hundred holes 6 mm in diameter and depth in a coated composite wood panel – the type typically used for kitchen furniture – with the greatest precision. During the operation, the drill reaches speeds of up to 18,000 revolutions per minute. It needs to adapt its power to the different layers of the panel in order to keep the cut edges and inside surfaces of the holes smooth and clean. While impressive, speed isn’t everything – it’s the quality of the drilled holes that really counts.

“That’s why we examined the drilling process really closely, developed a special feed screw and used motors and motion controllers with enough power to apply great forces while still allowing a high degree of fine control,” says Volker Meier, Managing Director of ToolDrives. As such, choosing the right drive components was essential to achieving the desired result. The inverter drive for the high-power drill drive needed to be able to supply an output frequency of 1,000 Hz – but at the same time, fine control of the PM motor used for the drill unit’s drive is a must. “After all, you need to be able to keep the little power pack under your control,” Meier adds with a grin.

In order to find the perfect inverter drive for their project, the designers of the high-speed drilling unit turned to the product range of Yaskawa – and were suitably impressed. The A1000, which was used on the drilling unit showcased at the trade fair, supplies the required output frequency of 1,000 Hz, provides 1.5 kW of power with open-loop vector control, and can deliver up to 150% of its rated output for short bursts. January 2020 will also see the launch of the new GA500/1.000 Hz, which will be an option for this type of application. But the company’s choice wasn’t just down to the technical specifications, as Meier explains: “In Yaskawa, we have acquired the services of an automation specialist with a great international presence who can guarantee worldwide support, and has plenty of experience in the woodworking industry to boot. Thanks to their extensive product range, we were also able to use them as a one-stop shop for many of the components we needed for our drilling unit. The drive components are perfectly attuned to one another, and Yaskawa gave us all the expert advice we needed. Getting our control system right was a tricky task, but they helped us implement our needs precisely.”

A one-stop shop for powerful drive components

But Yaskawa didn’t just provide the inverter for the showcase model – the basic axes were also the work of the automation specialist. The MP series’ all-in-one machine controller is a single platform that combines all the functions required for the machine’s processes, including motion and PLC functionality, inputs and outputs, and sequential logic and process algorithms. The controller integration saves on system costs, reduces the amount of space the unit takes up in the control cabinet, and standardizes the programming.
The scalable hardware for motion applications is suitable for use in complex applications with up to 64 axes. In the application at hand, the drilled hole specifications were achieved using the tried-and-tested G-code. The MotionWorks IEC software and the Yaskawa toolbox make programming the machine controller easier, combining the five programming options ladder diagram (LD), function block diagram (FBD), structured text, instruction list (IL) and sequential function chart in one developer package and providing an ever-expanding library of function blocks for motion control. In addition to this, the controllers also have a built-in web server and are compatible with international network protocols such as Profibus and Ethernet.

The high-speed drilling unit as a compact solution

The partnership between the fast drilling experts and the automation specialists is still thriving, giving users in the woodworking sector plenty to look forward to. ToolDrives now offers this rapid technology in the form of a compact high-speed drilling unit that is just as well suited to retrofitting in existing systems as it is to installation in new machine tools. This high-speed drilling unit’s drive can move along the X, Y and Z axes. Depending on the design, this is achieved using either Sigma 7 servo motors or linear motors with suitable amplifiers. The servo drives are suited to demanding positioning tasks, and can automatically suppress vibrations during operation. They are also designed for a long service life and operate at ambient temperatures of between 0 and 55° C without additional cooling. The feed and rotational speeds of the drill drive are also regulated using the same series of amplifiers. “We use the dual-axis Sigma 7 module for this task,” Meier adds. Using just one amplifier to control two motors saves on both energy and space.

Meier envisages the high-speed drilling unit being used in a wide range of applications that covers almost every conceivable automation environment: “It can prove just as useful to woodworkers and window builders as it is in the furniture industry. If necessary, the high-power drives can also be used for tasks such as milling, which opens the door to a whole new range of applications.” After all, shorter production cycles, high throughput and a high level of precision are appealing to many sectors of the woodworking industry. The drill units’ perfectly attuned drive components are a key factor in providing those benefits.