Oregon Mill Benefits from File Room Technology

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Tillamook Mill: Oregon Mill Benefits from Jacobsen Mfg. Filing Room Technology

ILLAMOOK, Oregon — In the past few decades, the emphasis in modern sawmills was on increasing the recovery of usable lumber from a resource that was declining in both quality and quantity.

Recent analysis of the production increases from a set amount of wood that were achieved in the last half of the century revealed that a large portion of the gains resulted from improved sawing accuracy. Because sawing accuracy has been shown to be so vital to the bottom line in the modern mill, improvements in the filing room have been the focus of attention for mill managers looking to fine-tune operations for increased production and profitability.

One of those improvements, plasma arc tipping technology for saw blades, has considerably enhanced the ability of file room managers like Mike Waddell to maximize the contribution of the filing room to a sawmill’s profitability. Mike is the file room manager of the Tillamook division of Hampton and Affiliates in Tillamook, Oregon. His company benefits from plasma arc technology because it is cost effective, can be run after minimal training, and results in significant improvements in the finished product he sends out into the mill, said Mike.

The role of the filing room in a modern mill’s performance has been well documented by Dean Huber, a U.S. Forest Service specialist. Dean’s work has examined the history of the sawmill industry and the improvements in production efficiencies the industry has accomplished over the past half-century.

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Earlier this year, in a presentation at the Wood Technology Clinic and Show in Portland, Ore., he discussed technological advancements in sawmills, including sawing accuracy and filing rooms, in the past 50 years. According to Dean, yield from a modern sawmill, as measured against a set amount of logs delivered and measured by the Scribner log scale, has in some cases doubled since the 1950s (1950s – 5% to 10% over-run; 1990s – 90% to 125% over-run).

Dean pointed to the saws in a mill as an important factor in that increase. “When discussing sawing accuracy,” he said, “lumber should be thought of as a three-dimensional solid object that can be measured to determine the accuracy by which it was produced. In sawmills, the most common interest is in thickness, followed by width, and then length. The greater the accuracy, the less additional fiber is required to account for sawing variation. Thus, as sawing accuracy increases, a lesser target thickness is required in order to meet final product standards.”

Sawing accuracy is measured in standard deviations, Dean noted. In the 1950s, one standard deviation was .090 inches. At the turn of the century, a standard deviation for most mills was .030 inches or less — with some mills sawing to .010 inches. The difference “…equates to approximately a 22% increase in fiber recovery, which results from improved sawing accuracy and reduced saw kerf.”

Achieving and maintaining such improvements in fiber recovery have meant significant challenges to filing room personnel and the manufacturers that supply filing room equipment.

Along with the challenges of reducing kerf and sawing to much closer targets, modern mills contend with speeding up production and raw material of declining quality — wood that is knottier and more stressed. Filers today must provide blades that are capable of standing up under brutal conditions in the high speed mill environment over long periods of time yet still meet stringent sawing targets.

One way that manufacturers help meet these challenges is to tip blades used in the mills with special alloys that help them to stay sharp longer, adhering to sawing target parameters for extended periods of time. However, even tipped saw blades become damaged or dull, so a major piece of equipment in many filing rooms is a tipping machine.

The Tillamook mill, where Mike is head filer, is the largest dimension hemlock sawmill in the U.S. The mill runs about 150 round saws and between 10 and 24 band saws at any one time as lumber is being manufactured. To keep the mill supplied with blades, the file room staff must tip an average of four to six band saw blades per day and 50 round saw blades.

The Tillamook filing rooms feature an array of technology. When it comes to tipping blades, however, the mill relies heavily on a Jacobsen JM-2000 plasmatic alloy tipper and induction annealer.

The Jacobsen equipment is both versatile and easy to operate, so new employees without a lot of experience can come in and use it with only a few minutes of instruction, according to Mike. The machine can tip with a wide variety of materials, depending on the cutting conditions for which the blade is being prepared. It also can tip nearly any size blade, from large head-rig saw blades down to the smallest band and 24-inch round saw blades.

The Jacobsen JM-2000 produces a blade that can stand up to the extreme conditions faced in a sawmill yet still remain sharp and on target for extended periods of time, said Mike. The tipped blades enable the mill to produce lumber with the minimum amount of waste possible and without down-time due to saw failure.

The Jacobsen JM-2000 makes use of a technology that creates a new tooth tip on the saw blade rather than welding on a tooth, as is the case with many other technologies. The Jacobsen JM-2000 offers several advantages, including an expanded range of possible alloys that can be used for tipping, less preparation time required before the operation is begun, a smaller heat-affected zone on the saw blade (so the original blade is less likely to be harmed), reduced costs (material remaining from the old tooth is not wasted), closer tolerances in the final tooth so target sizes for sawing can be met more easily, and simplified finishing of the blade after the process is complete.

The Jacobsen JM-2000 uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode with a torch nozzle surrounding it. When a saw blade is mounted on the machine, an arc can be formed between the torch and the saw plate when energy is applied. The arc ionizes argon gas fed into the torch to form a plasma. Passing the ionized gas through the narrow torch orifice can result in tip temperatures of up to 50,000 degrees.

When the blade is loaded onto the machine, the saw tooth is automatically indexed into the proper position, then surrounded by ‘chill molds’ that are mounted on clamping jaws. The mold halves are then brought together to form a cavity around the tooth to be tipped. The cavity is shaped to the size and specifications chosen by filing room personnel.

The plasma arc is then activated. The original tooth — or if the saw is being retipped, the old tip — is melted almost instantly. The melted material flows to the bottom of the chill mold cavity and will become part of the newly tipped tooth. While the arc is activated, welding wire or rod of a selected alloy is fed into the arc above the mold cavity. The amount of wire used and the speed with which it is fed into the system is pre-set by the operator. The wire is made molten, and the liquid metal flows into the mold cavity, forming a homogeneous deposit that is shaped by the mold. The new metal mixes with the saw steel at the base of the cavity so that the newly introduced tip becomes an integral part of the saw plate. The new tip is not attached; it is integrated into the saw plate. Once the cavity is filled, the arc shuts down and the semi-molten tip solidifies within the chill mold, which is cooled with circulating water. The molds then open, and another cycle begins on another tooth.

According to Jacobsen, the plasma arc method of retipping offers rapid processing times and flexibility. No prep work is required. Existing tips are re-melted in the mold and become part of the new tooth; no slag is produced in the tipping operation, which saves expensive alloy material.

The Jacobsen JM-2000 also includes a stand-alone annealer. Annealing, a tempering process of relieving or ‘normalizing’ the internal stresses in a saw tooth at the zone where the old and new material meet, is important to reducing blade failure. The annealing capabilities of the JM-2000 can be utilized both independently and in conjunction with the tipper.

Because of its range of capacities, the JM-2000 has become a primary tool in the Hampton and Affiliates filing shop in Tillamook. “We’ve had a great deal of success with this machine,” Mike said. “We work the thing to death. We’ve tipped thousands of saws dependably. We just set the machine up and walk away. When we come back the saw is done.”

Mike appreciates that the Jacobsen JM-2000 tipper and annealer is made in the U.S. because it is easy to obtain parts and trouble-shooting service. Jacobsen parts are available immediately as is the supplier’s technical assistance, Mike noted. Jacobsen service personnel provide timely, effective assistance via telephone, he said.

The Jacobsen JM-2000 also reduces labor costs. “The labor savings on a plasma tipper is an incredible savings,” said George Jacobsen, who founded Jacobsen Manufacturing and has developed much of the company’s equipment. The device saves labor, he explained, because the plasma process is much simpler than other techniques; no extensive preparation of the blade is required, nor does the equipment require much attention during the actual tipping process. Mike also noted that the Jacobsen JM-2000 can be operated by employees with little training time, freeing up the valuable time of highly skilled filing room technicians.

In the modern forest products industry, incremental improvements in technology can have significant impacts on productivity and profitability. With technology that increases productivity in the filing room and enables filers to turn out blades that last longer and cut closer to target parameters, equipment manufacturers like Jacobsen make a substantial contribution to the overall success of the industry.

As Mike noted, in a modern mill every phase of the production process must be carried out at peak levels. If a saw blade does not function properly and fails to meet target parameters, its performance impacts the entire mill.

Equipment like the Jacobsen JM-2000 plasmatic alloy tipper and
induction annealer helps Mike and the Tillamook file room staff to make a professional contribution to the mill’s overall operations.

Jacobsen Manufacturing Focuses on File Room Technology, Service

Jacobsen Manufacturing Co. in Portland, Ore., a subsidiary of Pacific Hoe, Saw & Knife Co., was founded to supply state-of-the-art technology to sawmill file rooms along with strong service and technical support.

Pacific Hoe distributed filing room equipment from companies based in Europe, but their European operations made it a challenge to provide service and technical support to North American sawmills.

Pacific Hoe president George Jacobsen recognized that sawmill customers needed not only quality filing room equipment but also access to service and support staff that could provide prompt assistance.

That gave George the impetus to form Jacobsen Manufacturing Co., a subsidiary of Pacific Hoe that is dedicated to making state-of-the-art technology available to American mills and providing superior support and service. Because Jacobsen equipment is designed and built in the U.S., the company can price its products competitively and also provide timely, responsive service.

Jacobsen Manufacturing recently expanded its plant to include a new 20,000-square-foot building. The expansion will allow the company to meet the increasing demand for its filing room equipment, said Jacobsen vice president Dave Macey.

“Jacobsen Manufacturing is totally committed to quality, which will mean continuous product improvement,” said Dave. “Our goal is to design and build heavy-duty equipment that will perform reliably year after year.”

The expansion will enhance Jacobsen’s ability to develop and market equipment that mills of the future will need to be competitive, according to George. “Our enthusiasm for innovation and technology makes this a very exhilarating move for us,” he said.

Jacobsen Manufacturing’s line of equipment includes the JM-2000 plasmatic alloy tipper and stand-alone annealer, the JM-6000 automatic circle saw leveler, the JM-1000 top and face grinder, the JM-3000 dual side grinder, the JM-4000 multi-pass dual side grinder, lubrication equipment and guide milling machines.

Jacobsen Manufacturing sells to mills throughout North America through its master distributor, Pacific Hoe, as well as other distributors and outlets.