Mill Automates Material Handling with New Stacker
G. Wine Sales develops new high-speed stacker for Hopkins Lumber, which was looking to increase efficiency.
By Alan Froome
Date Posted: 6/1/2003
CRITZ, Virginia—It took Hopkins Lumber Contractors three years to find the right stacker they needed. When they found it, the machine was right in their own back yard, in a manner of speaking.
Hopkins Lumber operates two hardwood sawmills that produce pallet stock, crating material, dunnage and precision cut lumber for other industrial markets. "Our specialty is precision cut lumber that is delivered promptly," said John Hopkins Jr., manager of the family-owned company. Hopkins Lumber has customers in the Carolinas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and as far away as New York and Florida.
The company began looking three years ago at machinery options to automate material handling and stacking of finished pallet deck boards. "We wanted one that had the speed and accuracy we needed and could fit into a small space," John Jr. recalled.
One by one, though, Hopkins Lumber had to rule out stackers. The company’s mill in Critz had space limitations, and the Hopkins family found that most machines on the market were not suitable due to their size.
However, Hopkins Lumber found a machine that would fit the space limitations and meet its performance requirements as well. The company chose a new high-speed version of the M2L Board Stacker, which is supplied by G. Wine Sales Inc.
John and his father, John Hopkins Sr., began discussions about the design of a high-speed stacker with Jim Reynolds, a sales representative of G. Wine Sales. Jim lives near Critz. "We knew Jim personally," said John Jr., "and this gave us the confidence and trust necessary to buy a new, faster version of the M2L Stacker. Being the first stacker of its kind, there were naturally a few problems, but now we are extremely happy with the machine." The machine was installed in December 2002.
Critz is a small community in southwest Virginia near Martinsville. It is close to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the North Carolina border. John Jr.’s grandfather, Wesley Hopkins, first started cutting wood with a portable sawmill in the region in the late 1940s. Wesley got out of the industry for a few years but returned to the sawmill business in 1970 near Woolwine with the help of his son. Wesley, 85, continues to participate in running the business.
Besides the mill in Critz, the company has another mill about 24 miles away in Woolwine. John Jr. manages the mill in Critz and also is responsible for sales and some log buying. John Sr., president of Hopkins Lumber, buys logs, timber and timberland. The Woolwine mill is managed by Jerry Hopkins, vice president of the company. The box plant at Woolwine is managed by Erman Bryant.
Both mills process mixed hardwoods, including red oak, white oak, hickory, birch, beech, poplar and sycamore. (Pine may be added to the mix in future years as plantation trees mature, according to John Sr.) The Critz mill runs on a mix of logs and cants while the Woolwine mill processes strictly cants.
Timber is harvested by logging contractors. Company lands are replanted with loblolly pine although Hopkins Lumber intends to replant some hardwoods, too.
What is particularly notable about Hopkins Lumber is the company’s heavy duty, high quality machinery and equipment. As John Sr. pointed out, "We like to run hickory logs through the saws at the same speed as poplar, so we need the extra strength and horsepower our machines provide."
The Critz mill, with 23 employees, produces an average of 85-90,000 board feet of lumber per day. The company buys logs from 5 inches to 20 inches in diameter and from 8 to 12 feet long. The mill has a 120,000-pound capacity Weightronics scale to weigh incoming log trucks. In the yard, three Peerless knuckleboom loaders and a Caterpillar front-end loader are used to sort and move logs.
In the mill, a Beloit 32-inch ring debarker strips off bark, and the logs go through a home-built 60-inch Slasher saw to be cut to length. Three log decks follow to store and feed the logs into two in-line Ligna scragg saws. The first scragg, which runs two 54-inch diameter, 1/4-inch kerf blades, is fed by a sharp chain and cuts two sides from the log. The logs then are turned 90 degrees and fed to the next scragg on a lugged flat bed conveyor. The second scragg, equipped with two 48-inch, 1/4-inch kerf blades, removes two more slabs to square the log into a cant. Slabs are routed to a Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle four-saw edger, and the boards that are recovered are transferred to a Ligna three-saw trimmer for precision end trimming.
Cants exiting the second in-line scragg are sent to a Ligna vertical circular resaw with inserted teeth and a movable fence. Pieces exiting the resaw are fed to a Ligna five-saw trimmer. Large material can be run through a Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle double bay gang edger, which can handle cants up to 12 inches. One side of the Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle machine feeds the new G. Wine Sales M2L-XP stacker; lumber exiting the other side is stacked manually. (Lumber from both sides can be sent to the stacker if required.)
The M2L-XP stacker unscrambles the pieces, then accumulates them before stacking. It can stack as many as 40 pieces in one layer and place four sticker strips on a layer. "It has to be accurate," said John Jr., "as our tolerances are within 0.031-inch on width and length and our thickness is almost exact."
When the new stacker was installed, Hopkins Lumber also put in a new Jocar MDHB slab gang multi-rip saw, replacing a band resaw, and also installed a new dust collection system. The Jocar machine, built in Portugal, processes pieces up to 8 inches thick and between 1 ˝ inches to 6 ˝ inches wide. "We saw a similar machine at the Richmond Show and liked it, and the Jocar people adapted it to our needs," said John Sr. "It’s a heavy built machine, and our customers like the accuracy and finish it produces. They weren’t too happy with the bandsawed material. The Jocar can also run two different widths at the same time."
Saw blades are changed daily at the Critz mill. Blades with inserted carbide teeth are maintained by the mill’s file room personnel while other blades are sent out for re-tipping and re-sharpening to Union Grove Saw & Knife.
For moving lumber and loading trucks, the company has three Hyster forklifts. The Hopkins company runs a fleet of Kenworth tractor-trailer trucks. "Having our own trucks guarantees prompt, reliable deliveries to all our customers," said John Jr. Long distance deliveries are made by trucking contractors.
New Stacker Features
The new stacker from G. Wine Sales is an improved version of the M2L (or Minus 2 Laborers) machine. The name is not only a nice marketing idea; M2L identifies one of the main benefits of the stacker: it typically replaces the labor of two people.
The machine is designed mainly to serve the pallet industry but has other uses as well. It can be installed behind notching machines, chamfer machines, band or gang resaws, and so on. It can automatically stack deck boards, stringers or other material as large as a cant. The machine has a considerably small footprint and is moveable. The M2L will increase production compared to manual labor and reduce insurance claims by mechanizing what is often a very labor intensive and injury prone part of a sawmill, according to G. Wine Sales.
Twenty-six M2L stackers have been sold in the past two and one-half years, according to Greg Wine, president of G. Wine Sales.
"The machine supplied to Hopkins Lumber is actually a model M2L-XP, which is the first one we have built with increased production over the standard model," said Greg. "The XP suffix stands for extra production."
"We believe the M2L-XP is the fastest stacker on the market today," Greg added, "and with its increased production rate, it could replace as many as three people. Maybe we should be calling it the M3L."
The M2L-XP Stacker has the following general specifications:
• 15-foot-long overall footprint
• Handles lumber from 32 inches to 72 inches long and ˝-inch to 4 ˝ inches thick
• Stacks up to 15,000 4-inch boards per hour
• Six programmable tie strip positions
• Automatic stick placer with two magazines, each placing two strips
• Programmable Logic Controller (Allen Bradley unit supplied on Hopkins machine)
• Touch screen monitor for easy operator control
The M2L Stackers are built for G. Wine Sales by Automated Industrial Technologies (AIT) in Lynchburg, Va. "We designed and built the first prototype M2L Stacker ourselves," said Greg, "but we are not really set up for machine production, so we have AIT build them for us. This is under the direction of Gary Sill, the owner of AIT." Gary re-engineered the M2L and also engineered the latest X-P high-speed version for Hopkins Lumber.
The main office of G. Wine Sales Inc. is in King George, Va., about 20 miles east of Fredericksburg on Virginia’s Northern Neck. Greg founded the company in 1995, and it deals in quality machinery for the sawmill and pallet industries. In addition to selling stackers with the G. Wine Sales name plate, the company represents West Plains Resaw Systems, which manufactures bandmill equipment, and Storti, an Italian-based manufacturer of automated pallet assembly equipment and sawmill machinery.
G. Wine Sales also offers an extensive selection of used equipment for sale. The company’s Web site, www.palletmachinery.com, is updated weekly with used machines for sale. Its selection of used equipment includes pallet nailing systems, dismantlers, chop saws, resaws, grinders, notchers, scragg mills, debarkers, file room equipment, and more.
For more information about the M2L-XP stacker or other new or used machinery supplied by G. Wine Sales, call the company at (540) 644-9220.
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