American Pine Runs New Fingerjointer Line

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Conception RP, specializing in state-of-the-art high production lines, installs new CRP 2000 system.

PRINEVILLE, Oregon — American Pine Products is one of the largest wood remanufacturing plants in the U.S., employing around 350 people and specializing in pine products for the home building industry.

Production is in the order of 150,000 board feet per day, an impressive volume considering that it consists entirely of small section moldings. Most employees work four nine-hour days plus one four-hour day although in some departments employees are scheduled to work four 10-hour days.

American Pine Products recently decided to upgrade a fingerjointing line with a new machine center and invested in a system supplied by Conception RP Inc.

Prineville is situated near the city of Bend in the mountains of eastern Oregon, nearly 4,000 feet above sea level. Although the region normally is covered with snow in the winter, annual precipitation is low. The predominant local tree species is ponderosa pine, which forms a large part of the plant’s timber supply. In recent years the company also has turned to radiata pine from Chile and New Zealand, partly for economic reasons and also to meet requirements for increased production.

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Radiata pine is similar to Monterey pine, but it grows much faster. It is grown on plantations in several countries in the southern hemisphere to provide a source of softwood lumber and wood pulp. Normal rotation or growing time is between 16 and 30 years.

Radiata pine was first planted in New Zealand in the late1940s, and it is not uncommon to see growth rings on the trees as much as 1 inch apart. As a result, it is not the same as native North American species and not suitable for all structural applications, but it is a very good softwood for doors, window frames, moldings, and other products.

Operations at the Prineville plant first began in 1959 when the business was known as Coin Millwork. The ownership changed in 1977, and the company became American Forest Products Corporation; 10 years later, the name was changed to the American Moldings & Millwork Co. Huttig Building Products purchased the company in 1994 and renamed it American Pine Products. Today it remains a division of Huttig.

Huttig Building Products has it own interesting history. Brothers Charles and William Huttig, German immigrants, started a sawmill in Iowa in 1866. The sawmill prospered and soon diversified to include manufacturing of window sashes and doors. During World War I and World War II, the company built wood products for the military but eventually returned to the business of making wood products for home builders. Today Huttig Building Products is headquartered in St. Louis and has 70 divisions throughout the U.S., including retail stores and manufacturing plants like American Pine Products.

The American Pine Products plant has 10 fingerjointing lines plus 20 molding machines. Mill management decided in the fall of 2001 to replace a fingerjointer. Choosing the right replacement machine was important because the line was probably the busiest in the plant, so the company formed a team of employees to study the machinery options and recommend a replacement.

The team was headed up by general manager Steve Forrester and operations manager Bob Smith. The other members included engineering and maintenance staff, shop floor supervisors, and machinery operators. The team solicited information and presentations from leading manufacturers of fingerjointing machinery and later visited their plants and the plants of some of their customers to see machines operating under actual conditions. “Price was not our primary consideration,” said Rich Evans, Huttig’s area manager. “Quality, design and performance were the main things we were looking for.”

After collecting the information, making numerous visits and holding discussions, the team reviewed its findings and compared key features from each manufacturer. It recommended investing in a machine supplied by Conception RP, a Canadian manufacturer based in Quebec. Team members believed the Conception RP machinery was the best technology available, according to Bob. American Pine Products ordered a Conception RP 2000 fingerjointing line. The new line was delivered and installed in September 2002. Training of operating and maintenance personnel was carried out on-site during the installation.

At American Pine Products, shop grade lumber arrives at the mill yard in two standard thicknesses, 5/4 or 6/4, and ranging from 4 ½ to 20 inches long.

The lumber is ripped, and after ripping the pieces are cross-cut under manual control in order to maximize the longest clears and then sorted by grade and width. Then the blocks are fed to one of the fingerjointing lines. Most of the machines are older models supplied by Industrial; the new Conception CRP 2000 line is the first one of its type in the mill. The fingerjointed material then goes to the molding shop to be finished on different machines according to the required product profile.

“We started to upgrade the molder lines about five years ago to the latest technology,” said Bob, “and today most of the molders we use are from Weinig.”

Most finished moldings are coated with primer as usually required by the company’s customers. the end user. They are shipped to other companies to be used in making doors and windows. Much of the production also goes to the parent company and other customers for eventual retail sale.

Conception RP was founded in 1990 and is one of a group of three companies operating out of the same plant in Quebec City. The companies develop and manufacture new machine systems with automatic controls to produce value-added wood products for remanufacturing plants.

Conception RP, a privately-owned company with about 100 employees, specializes in state-of-the-art, high production fingerjointing lines. It has installed systems for customers in Canada, the U.S., Scandinavia, South America, Australia and New Zealand.

“The CRP 2000 is a high speed line, and we have found that the payback for many customers can be less than a year,” said Troy Gaboury, the Conception RP sales representative who worked with American Pine Products. Conception RP also is under contract by American Pine Products to make periodic routine service calls during the machine’s first year of operation. Parts and service are provided direct from the factory in Quebec City.

The CRP 2000 fingerjointing line is designed to handle either softwood or hardwood blocks from 4 ½ to 36 inches long and from 1 ½ to 8 inches wide. The machine installed at American Pine Products has several modules, and the entire fingerjointing line is controlled by a programmable logic controller system.

The automatic lug feeder module uses a belt transfer and indexing mechanism to automatically feed incoming blocks, pre-sorted by width, into the shaper. It has adjustable speed and is driven by a variable frequency electric drive. A laser line quickly detects any blocks under the minimum length.

The double shaper module basically profiles the notches that form the fingerjoints. It has adjustable feed speed using a variable frequency drive and dynamic braking on the shaper chain. The machine has two high precision cutter head spindles; they are driven by a 20 hp electric motor with adjustable speeds up to 4800 rpm. Each of the two profiling sections has a trim saw with a 10-inch blade and two scoring saws with 8-inch blades; they are mounted on individual high precision spindles. A 10 hp electric motor drives the saws via a flat belt, and the speed is fixed at 6000 rpm. Digital readouts are provided for saw and spindle adjustments.

The glue system ensures a precise deposit of cold set adhesive. It can glue up to 200 pieces per minute and is controlled by programmable logic controller.

The automatic corner transfer module changes the material flow direction through 90 degrees to transfer the cut blocks into the assembly machine. Maximum capacity is 160 pieces per minute.

The assembly module is driven by three electric motors with a variable frequency electric drive to match the adjustable speeds of the other modules. Three chains are used to assemble the blocks: a rectilinear side chain for reference, one mobile side chain with adjustable pressure feet to eliminate offsets, and one flat bottom conveyor chain. Top press wheels are also mounted. This module can accumulate and assemble blocks up to 21 feet long. It also detects broken wood so the line can be stopped if necessary; the machine allows easy access to remove broken or jammed blocks.

The press module features four feed rolls to pre-press the blocks. The machine holds all four faces of the block firmly while pressing them together. Press force is adjustable up to 12,000 pounds. The press module can operate up to 10 cycles per minute. A high resolution encoder is used to accurately measure board length, and up to five lengths can be accommodated per pressing cycle with automatic press length adjustment. A fast-acting chop saw is mounted to accurately cut the boards to length.

The entire fingerjointing line is controlled by a programmable logic controller system.

“The CRP 2000 installation and start-up crew were on site for two weeks,” said Bob, “and the line went into production right after that. It has taken on our busiest production line needs, and we have had no problems at all. The line is currently running at a cruising speed of 125 lugs per minute, which is much more productive than the old line.” The system has a maximum speed capacity of up to 160 pieces per minute, according to Conception RP.

The process of gradual modernization and technology improvements will continue in coming years at American Pine Products, said Bob.