The Homag Group in Germany has announced that in response to market demands it has formed a new business division, Homag Automation. This new division brings together the Ligmatech and Bargstedt Group companies to form a company which is focused solely on providing innovative automated solutions primarily for the woodworking industry.

"This is an exciting move by our parent company,” claims Simon Brooks, sales and marketing director for Homag UK. He continues, “Each week we get more and more enquiries from customers about automation, so to have a specialist division in the business looking after this area gives us a strong competitive edge.”

The advantages of automation
“The last couple of years have seen prices of automated solutions fall considerably and, as a consequence, the advantages they bring are now within reach of even small manufacturers.

“In general, automated systems can have a significant impact on production efficiency, increasing output and flexibility whilst reducing damages caused by manual handling. In addition, of course, it means less manpower is required allowing companies to move labour to other areas that require more people.”

The advantages of Homag automation
“Between them, Ligmatech and Bargstedt have a wide range of products capable of automating various production processes. Coupled with Homag’s integrated software systems, these automated solutions add flexibility and increase productivity.”

Automated stock control from Bargstedt
The increasing demand for bespoke products puts added strain at every level in the supply chain. Whether a timber merchant, board distributor, panel processor or joinery company your business is likely having to hold stocks of an ever-wider variety of materials.

Efficient storage, retrieval and control of such rising stock levels is a real challenge. The TLF 210 from Bargstedt’s range of automated board stock control systems provides a cost effective solution to this issue.

The main drivers behind the TLF 210 are the maximising of productivity and minimising of downtime. The system has proved a real money saver for small and large companies using a variety of board types, colours and sizes that specialise in low batch, make-to-order production.

Simon Brooks, again: “Not only does the TLF 210 reduce the floor area required for stock, but it also improves the yield from the saw or CNC that it feeds. The yields are improved because it is the system’s software that controls the output from the machines and not the machine operatives.

“Traditionally, you have had to rely on the operators to keep feeding the machines at the ideal rate; the TLF 210, however, automatically feeds the machines at the optimum rate without fail, day in, day out. 

The heart of the system is Bargstedt’s IntelliStore software. This unique but easy to use software controls the whole system and is used to manage stock control and to replenish and optimise the stock levels.  The IntelliStore control registers the complete material stock and calculates the optimal material flow according to daily production requirements.

Paul Watson, managing director of S W Watson, a Preston-based shopfitting and office furniture manufacturer, is a convert. “A few years ago it was unthinkable that a company our size would be able to invest in such an automated system. Now, it’s within reach of most manufacturers and there’s no doubt in my mind that in the next five to 10 years, unless you have automated systems like this, you will not be able to survive.”

Feeding, stacking and buffering
Bargstedt products are optimising products. Their use delivers effective logistics with more transparency and flexibility throughout the entire manufacturing process.

Due to their modular construction the feeding and stacking systems can be used with all machines in the through feed area. They are the perfect solution for efficient material handling due to their attractive price and longevity.

The TLR 210 is a vertical buffer that stores workpieces arranged into groups.

A lifting device takes the group coming from a transport unit and deposits it in a defined shelf in the buffer. When this group is needed for the further production process it is taken out of the buffer and allocated. Hence, the material flow in connected machines with different operating times is equalised, resulting in optimum efficiency for the whole production process.

Automated systems from Ligmatech
Ligmatech specialises in the design and development of conveying and handling equipment that improves production efficiency, reduces labour costs and minimises handling damage.

The successful Boomerang concept from Ligmatech encompasses a range of automatic panel return systems designed to link to almost any throughfeed machinery. This includes edgebanders, wide-belt sanders, finishing lines, double-ended tenoners, profile wrapping machines and laminating lines. These Ligmatech return systems deliver a significant uplift in productivity and profit.

Throughfeed machines normally have an operator on the front feeding the machine and one at the back taking workpieces off, stacking them and then returning them to the front end of the machine for subsequent passes.

The return system eliminates the need for a second operator at the back of the machine as it automatically returns the workpieces to the front of the machine. Payback on these machines is normally easy to justify due to the labour saving of the second operator.

It’s not just about the labour savings offered by these systems: advantages include minimised handling damage (machines don’t tend to drop or damage workpieces in the way that humans can), improved quality and higher efficiencies.  Efficiency is improved because it is the Ligmatech Boomerang system that sets the pace of the line, not the operator.

Ligmatech offers a variety of cost-effective models ranging from the entry level ZHR 01 and the high speed ZHR 05 designed for use with fast feed rate machines, up to fully automated systems with robot feeding and de-stacking to provide a ‘lights out’ manufacturing ability.

For large-sized panels, the ZHR 30 is a real all-rounder as far as its capacity to handle a diversity of parts is concerned.  The system can work with lengths from 190 to 3000mm, whilst thicknesses from 8 to 60mm are easily handled.

Robotic automation
Some models of the Ligmatech ZHR range can be combined economically with a robot as can many other types of machinery such as CNC machining centres, beam saws, edgebanders and assembly lines to name but a few. The use of robots in manufacturing processes has become mainstream these days. Across Europe, even the smaller workshops have gained competitive advantages by employing this technology.

Robots are ideal for handling large, heavy parts or already-edged components, as well as being suitable for handling bespoke panels, where they take all the ‘thinking’ out of the job. When the ZHR models are combined with a robot they can perform the following tasks at up to 10 cycles per minute:
• Transferring parts from the outfeed table to the return feed belt
• Stacking parts off the outfeed table to the finished part stack
• Feeding from the stack onto the return feed belt.

Assembly and packaging
In final assembly areas, Ligmatech has everything from simple carcass clamps to complete assembly and packaging lines tailored to meet specific requirements. The range includes infeed systems, drilling and hardware insertion stations, gluing machines, clamps, conveyors, turning stations, gluing machines, stacking, wrapping and palletising equipment – to name but a few.

The market for flat-pack furniture for self-assembly continues to boom and with this comes the need for timesaving and cost-reducing packaging in environmentally-friendly cardboard boxes.

For this market Ligmatech has developed a range of packaging machinery from single-sheet feeders to cardboard-box cutting machines, folding stations and robotic inserting and closing stations.

The advantages of partnering with Homag
Simon Brooks concludes: “The possibilities for automation are endless. For the manufacturer, however, it can be hard to know where to begin. The best way of approaching the challenge of working out what solution is best for your business is to talk to the experts.

“Within the Homag Automation division we have a range of specialists who can advise you on maximising the productivity of your facility with the use of automation. It is a real benefit of working with the global market leader; not only can you can rest assured you are getting the best advice available, but also you know you will get a cost-efficient solution that will help propel your business to the next level.”
If you would like more information or you wish to arrange a demonstration of Homag Automation products, please contact Adele Dixon at Homag UK.

T 01332 856500