• Manufacturers highlight the affordability and compactness of latest thicknessers.
• New spindle moulders are quicker to set up and easier to use.
• Compact and modular new models bring advanced planer moulding within reach for smaller companies.

Famously, the onboard computer that guided Apollo 11 to the moon had less power than today’s basic PC World laptop. Advances in wood planing, moulding and other shaping technology may not have been quite as dramatic, but the trend has been the same; packing greater capability into cheaper, more user-friendly packages. The result, say machine suppliers, has been to tempt more timber and builders merchants to develop existing processing capacity, or move into new areas of value-added machining.

Planer thicknessers are not a new piece of kit for merchants, but latest advances do give them a new hook into the market; more functionality and productivity in a machine that has a smaller footprint and costs less.

For instance, recently added to supplier Dalton’s range is the Houfek Aligator thicknesser, available in widths from 430-800mm, with a thicknessing height up to 300mm, feed speed of 4-19m/min and a price around £7,000. “Like all Houfek machines, this is beautifully engineered and reliable,” said Dalton’s Francis Dalton.

Also highlighting how much thicknesser you now get to the pound is Felder, with its new £11,000 Format 4 63. This includes a self-aligning system, enabling the knives to be changed and reset in two minutes, and a ‘Digi Drive’ control for height setting.

Meanwhile, key features highlighted by Holytek for its CM thicknessers and surface planers are robustness and durability, but also, in line with industry’s increasing health and safety consciousness, quiet running.

Spindle moulding

Moving down the line into spindle moulding, a machine which SCM recommends to merchants is its new TI 155 EP Class. This offers electro-spindle power of 7.5kW or 10kW, tilts from minus to plus 45.5O and has an electronic tool speed of 900-12,000rpm. Using the electro spindle, says SCM, means no drive belt and a consequent reduction in maintenance time and cost.

For companies looking to take the next processing step, Holytek puts forward its 180mm-wide Junior single head moulder. “With its fast feed speed, moulder-style drive and cabinet enclosure, it’s a safe, and at £8,750, cost-effective alternative to a standard spindle moulder,” said the company.

According to manufacturers, by bringing down purchase and running costs and de-skilling machine operation, latest machine designs also put full-scale planer moulders within reach of even smaller businesses. And Holytek describes its new Eagle ME-series four-sided moulder as “the ideal starting point for the expanding merchant”. It is available with six heads, but the starter model is a simple, four-head, 230mm machine.

Also targeting the market is Leadermac with its six-head Compact. Using two bottom, top and vertical spindles, it is designed to “cater for 99% of standard mouldings and profiles” with variable feed speed of 6-24m/min. Suited to hardwood and softwood, the Compact also has hard chrome beds so it can machine MDF.

“We can also equip it with motorised electronic setting for very quick set up,” said Leadermac UK managing director Kevin Wright. “The price for this, with tooling, delivery and commissioning, is £33,000 and £10,750 more buys a profile grinder so merchants can mould one-offs.”

Smaller workshops

Among latest developments from SCM is its new Compact NTE. The throughfeed planer moulder uses an electronic control for automatic management of the left vertical unit and machining height and can store 300 machining programs. Standard feed speed is 6-12m/min and optional inverter regulation takes this to 4-20m/min. “The Compact NTE allows us to offer smaller workshops a user-friendly hi-tech product with reduced set-up and machining times,” said the company.

Weinig’s offer for this market includes the modular Variomat. In its basic format, said the company’s Paul Heffernan, this is a 10m/min four-sided planer moulder “for the jobbing processor doing short runs of mouldings and PAR”. But, he added, the Variomat develops with the needs of the user. Options include inverter-controlled variable speed, “PowerLock” quick tool changing and a second bottom spindle. Most innovatively, a multi-function table enables the machine to handle end profiling.

For some it might look like too powerful a package, but Weinig also says its bigger Powermat range suits some merchants. It highlights the experience of hardwood importer merchant Blumsom which replaced several moulders with a couple of Powermats, cutting its energy costs and helping it win a Carbon Trust grant for its overall mill upgrade.