Can Aluminum Pneumatic Cylinders Handle Sawmill Applications?

Pneumatics play an important role in many industries, including the lumber industry. Keeping up with production demands has proven to be a challenge for sawmill managers. Output is measured in lugs per minute, so speed is of great importance. However, maintaining equipment in a dusty environment, where the temperature greatly fluctuates, can be difficult. Aside from the punishing vibrations and stress sawmill machinery is normally under, these conditions wear down equipment and shorten its expected lifetime. To stay competitive, sawmill managers demand equipment that is efficient with lower operational and repair costs.

In the past, heavy-duty stainless-steel pneumatic cylinders were the only cylinders used in the lumber industry. In recent years, pneumatic cylinders engineered out of aluminum became popular. Aluminum pneumatic cylinders are a less expensive option that work just as efficiently as steel cylinders. However, lumber mill operators have found that aluminum pneumatic cylinders have some issues.

The early aluminum cylinders had a shorter life expectancy because trim saw applications involve high speeds and heavy shock loads that stress the aluminum units. Mill managers were finding that they had to replace the aluminum cylinders frequently. Although aluminum cylinders are less expensive than their stainless-steel counterparts, having to replace them frequently resulted in higher maintenance costs and lost revenue due to downtime.

“Downtime in a mill is about $1,000 an hour,” says lumber industry consultant Bill Bowlin in Machine Design Magazine. “So, if a trimmer stops for some reason, the whole mill stops because all the boards have to pass through the trimmer to get out of the mill.” So, operations managers set out to find aluminum cylinders that offered the sustainability of steel cylinders. SMC, Sheffer, and Bimba have engineered cylinders that do just that. These cylinders use lighter aluminum but have extra cushioning. By adding cushioning to their cylinders, SMC, Sheffer, and Bimba are able to slow down pneumatic pistons as they reach the end of their stroke inside the cylinder. This helps to almost eliminate end of stroke bounce and end cap slamming, both of which contribute to cylinder wear and tear. With less wear on cylinders, maintenance and replacement costs are drastically reduced even with demanding production quotas.

Pneumatic and Hydraulic Company is ready to help you implement aluminum pneumatic cylinders at your facility to help you reduce your production costs drastically. Our pneumatic specialists can help you find the best cylinder to fit your application in the shortest amount of time possible. Give us a call or shoot us a message to see how we can help you substantially increase your production, and lower your costs.