The bandsaw is an essential power tool available to deliver clean and accurate cuts in sheet metal manufacturing. These heavy-duty machines are known to be economical, reliable, and user-friendly. However, despite its well-established reputation, if there is one machine on your manufacturing floor that isn’t getting the attention it deserves, it is most likely your bandsaw. In this article, we’ll discuss five ways you can prolong your bandsaw life and improve its efficiency.
1. Pick the best blade for the job
Just like picking the right knife to cut through meat, choosing the appropriate type of bandsaw blade for a job is crucial for clean and efficient cutting. The best approach to picking the right blade is by ensuring you have a good understanding of the machine you are using and the material you intend to work on. Bandsaw machines also usually come with recommended blade size requirements which can help narrow down your search.
Once these factors are identified, you will then need to consider your blade rigidity. Thicker and harder blades generally produce straighter cuts while softer blades work better for wavy outcomes. Other factors such as the proper teeth per inch are also important as the number of teeth can impact how fine or rough your final cut will be. Using an incorrect blade, whether the wrong thickness or tooth pattern for your cut, can dramatically reduce the life of your blade and the quality of your work.
2. Setting the right speed and feed
Once the most suitable blade has been identified, your next step is to set your bandsaw to the right speed and feed rate. Speed refers to the rate at which the blade cuts across the material’s surface while feed determines the pressure applied for each tooth penetration.
Although higher speeds achieve cleaner and quicker cuts, speed rates can be restricted by the type of material you’re working with, and the amount of heat produced during the process. Higher speeds and harder metals usually result in jagged cuts and a reduced blade and machine life due to excessive heat. Finding the right balance for your feed rate is also crucial as it can impact your chip load (the thickness of material removed by each tooth). Higher feed rates and chip loads will result in more wear and tear which reduces the overall machine life.
3. Breaking in the blade
Most blades need to be broken in before they can operate at peak efficiency. Manufacturers often recommend running the machine at half the optimal speed and feed rate when starting your cut with a new bandsaw. Although slowing down seems counterintuitive, honing your bandsaw can prolong its life and prevent premature tooth breakage and blunted blades.
Having a proper break-in procedure in your facility is also key to ensuring that information or advice is not merely communicated by word of mouth or handed down from one employee to the next. The details of how to properly break in your bandsaw blade should be documented to prevent information from getting lost in translation.
4. Reading the chips
Your chips are often a good indicator of whether your blade has been broken-in properly and whether you have selected the right blade type as well as speed and feed rate. By reading your chips and monitoring your chip load, you will be able to adjust and achieve the perfect balance between productivity and machine life.
Things you can look out for when reading your chips are:
- Shape — Chips from a properly set up bandsaw should look curled — ideally reflecting a 6 or 9.
- Colour — The colour of your chips should be very similar to the material that is being cut. A drastic colour change can indicate your speed or feed rates are too high, resulting in excessive heat.
- Thickness — The ideal chip load should produce medium, loosely rolled chips.
5. Regular maintenance
Much like other machines, regularly scheduled maintenance will always be necessary to prolong the lifespan of your bandsaw. Besides basic manufacturer’s maintenance instructions and avoiding common bandsaw mistakes, practising the following will help ensure long life and increased efficiency:
- Hydraulic fluids should be checked often to ensure sufficient lubrication.
- Chips should be regularly removed from the wheels to allow wheels to run freely.
- The guide should be checked at the end of each day to identify chips or cracks and to ensure proper alignment for the blades.
- A chip brush should be used to remove chips from the teeth of the blade to prevent re-entering into the cut.
Sheet metal machinery experts
Whether you’re looking for a new bandsaw or just advice on how to maintain your current one, our experienced staff at ACRA Machinery can offer professional advice tailored to your specific needs.
Feel free to give us a call on 03 9794 6675 or fill out our contact form on our website.