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Author Topic: simple automation to remove labor  (Read 2371 times)

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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2019, 11:32:36 AM »
I don't know what your setup is, but we ran an automated circle mill with 5 guys and would produce anywhere from 15-20 Mbf per day.  We used belts, vibrating table, live rolls with dumps, spiral rolls and green chains.  The green chain was run with electric, and all the rolls and belts, rolls and dumps were with hydraulics.  I saw a 2 man operation that used lots of belts, green chains and dumps.  They were probably doing about 5 Mbf/day with no sweat.  

Our labor breakdown was a sawyer, a lbr grader, 2 stackers, and 1 to load logs, debark, move lbr and trucks.  Our logs came in on the left side of the mill.  Cut material exited on the right onto a belt. Sawdust went down under the mill into a vibrating table.  After the belt, material went to the rolls.  We had a flipper that I controlled a set of arms that would kick slabs to the vibrating table.  On the vibrating table, the sawdust fell through a grate and went to a blower and onto a dump trailer.  The slabs went into a chipper and onto another trailer.

The boards would continue on the rolls to a set of spirals that had an end stop.  I could control the on and off of the rolls.  The lumber then went down to a table for the grader.  The grader would help pull things off the rolls if there was any jam up.  He would mark lumber for end cuts, edge boards, and tend the chipper when needed.  Everything went onto a green chain.  The stackers would end trim, stick, sort and stack.  Off the end of the chains we would stack our heavy timbers.  We would saw 7x9x23' about once a month.  We also sawed bridge timbers, post and beam timbers, and other heavy stuff.

It seems to me that a set of green chains for your lumber would solve a lot of labor problems.  I'm assuming you're running a band mill.  If you have a drag back feature on your mill, drag everything onto the green chain.  There you can sort and allow the other workers to work at their own speed without dragging the sawyer down.  We used our green chains as a surge deck. If you don't have a drag back, then I would take everything off the back of the mill onto a green chain.  For the sawdust, you can have a trough on the far side of your mill to accumulate the dust.  Use either a belt or a dust drag to remove it.  Either go to a pile or a blower.  Put the edger at the end of the chains.

The biggest problem with chains are that the original mill design is usually in a straight line.  Then the mill building usually looks like a long building with some bays to stack lumber.  The chains allow you to pull the lumber off, which is much easier on the men. A typical workflow would look something like this:

_ _ _ _     |    |
_ _ _ _     |    |        Log come into the mill on the left, dust trough to the right, cut stuff to the chains
_ _ _ _     |__|
                  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
                  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
                  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Using this layout, there is no need for dumps or rolls.  You could actually use both ends of the chain if you wanted.  Edger can be placed about anywhere.  I've seen where guys had their tables dump to a belt that brought it back to the chains.  Depends on how much edging you do.  We had a vertical edger, so edging was kept to a minimum.
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Offline nativewolf

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #21 on: July 14, 2019, 07:57:37 AM »
Thanks Ron, very good explanation and after making decisions and getting trials done we'll make a home for it.  Getting a proper home for the mill is going to take some doing, I'm going to see about leasing 2 acres that is just sitting.  If they would give it to me for 10 years that would be awesome.  
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Offline YellowHammer

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #22 on: July 14, 2019, 08:27:39 AM »
LPS is a big sawmill equipment aggregator, they have a lot of stuff.  Ive talked to them before, but their stuff that functions is expensive, at least for me, and I dont really want to fix up rusted out junk because Im not sure what will really benefit me most, and I dont want to buy something and then stack it out in the field, because its not as big a help as I hoped it was.  A very used, but repainted conveyor with spiral feeder, with no stops, was about $6K.  

I keep going through old posts, and all the new ones, trying to figure it out, but still keep coming up with a lot of what iffs.  One problem is that I mill alone, and right now, everything is in a pretty compact area, and I dont have to move much to get things done, where as soon as I start adding conveyors and such, to save my back, it stretches everything out and unless there is some sort of auto stacker at the end, then I will have to spend a lot more time walking to the end of the conveyors or green chains to stack the boards onto pallets as either edged lumber or lumber to be run through the edger.  So somehow Id need a way to sort and stack at least those two piles onto pallets automatically.  I also need a way to eject slabs onto the loader arms to carry to the burn pit.  So its like I need an outfeed conveyor with a three way transfer table, but still need a way to stack the edged lumber off the mill orderly onto pallets.  

I could hire a full time guy, which I dont really want to do, but then HE would be the automation, and I wouldnt need the machinery.  However, I also really dont want to spend a lot of money on machinery and then configure myself into a linear or horizontally spread out footprint situation where I am forced to hire someone and cant work alone.

So Im trying to figure out what kind of equipment I need to automate a one man shop and keep it one man without blowing the bank.  

I do have part time help, but basically they just sticker and unsticker wood that I have sawn during the week, or has come out of the kilns.  That saves me considerable time, about a day a week, but I still mostly saw alone.  
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Offline nativewolf

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #23 on: July 14, 2019, 08:55:06 AM »
Ha you could buy a fully functioning mid sized circle sawmill in FL right now for 40-50k with chains conveyors saw etc.  Wow.$6k for old section of conveyor?  My goodness.

I think Percy's setup is neat, just linear  but kicks out 3 sorts and has slabs outfeed to waste pile and at lower cost than a full bore rollcase.  You could have the boards to be edged returned right back to you and put the edger up right beside the mill just like Ron describes?


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Offline longtime lurker

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #24 on: July 14, 2019, 09:05:48 AM »
Thanks Ron, very good explanation and after making decisions and getting trials done we'll make a home for it.  Getting a proper home for the mill is going to take some doing, I'm going to see about leasing 2 acres that is just sitting.  If they would give it to me for 10 years that would be awesome.  
My eyes are bleeding reading that. I tell ya a story:
I leased this place for 7 years, then got the boot in 2016 because the owner had (unrelated) financial difficulties and the bank wanted it vacant for sale because it was security for the other stuff.
At that point I had a good collection of toys (pretty much owned the lot outright thankfully) and was really starting to get some momentum up. Finding another place to set up was tough, and I end up in a cow paddock with the Lucas Mill again, only trying to punch tonnage like I had a lot more mill. And I've got  stock and equipment mothballed in sheds for 50 mile around, just holding it in the hope of finding something suitable at the right price. I can find plenty of storage but places I can operate from are not so easy, even to rent.
After 18 months the bank realises it's not going to be so easy to sell due to local economic conditions, so I wind up back here on a month by month arrangement. At least I've got a roof over my head and room to do what i need Start getting my feet under me again and just about get back on my feet and my largest customer files for bankruptcy. I'm not out much at all because he made sure I wasn't... but it punches a mammoth hole in my cashflow and down I go to the bottom again. I hold the lease but Im off playing loggers again to cover it.
I'm just getting over that now and starting to win again, and looks like I have to buy the joint or someone else will. And I'm not ready after the last couple of years but somehow I'll manage it, or buy part which will get the bank shut up and I can lease the other part until I get the mortgage under control on the one piece, then buy the other part.
In ten years here I've pumped a fair bit of $ in. I've basically covered interest and taxes on the joint as though I owned it. And I did a lot of work.... fixed storm damaged roofs, laid a lot of gravel to expand the hardstand into an all weather log yard, electrical upgrades, drainage etcetera etcetera etcetera. No big $ in the improvements individually but it adds up. And now, after paying for those things once, I'm going to have to buy them again.
I know its hard, but you need to find a way to own your ground sooner rather than later. Or at least have an option to purchase at a set price in your contract.  We're all at the mercy of markets, customers, weather and a whole heap of things we cant really control in business; try not to add landlord to the list of risks you face. Bank or Owner, they both want to be paid and at least one way you can borrow against it. My business "assets" comprise logs, lumber, and equipment to turn logs into lumber, it'd look a whole lot nicer with the premises I need to park all that stuff on the balance sheet.
I've worked an 80 hour week for the last three years to keep my head above water with not a lot to show for it, my disposable income looks like a case of beer and a tin of tobacco a week. Had I owned the place I would have worked just as hard with not much different result, except that I'd not be having to find a deposit now at a time not of my choosing.
I wouldnt wish the last few years of my life on anyone.
The quickest way to make a million dollars with a sawmill is to start with two million.

Offline nativewolf

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #25 on: July 14, 2019, 09:49:41 AM »
Thanks Ron, very good explanation and after making decisions and getting trials done we'll make a home for it.  Getting a proper home for the mill is going to take some doing, I'm going to see about leasing 2 acres that is just sitting.  If they would give it to me for 10 years that would be awesome.  
My eyes are bleeding reading that. I tell ya a story:
I leased this place for 7 years, then got the boot in 2016 because the owner had (unrelated) financial difficulties and the bank wanted it vacant for sale because it was security for the other stuff.
At that point I had a good collection of toys (pretty much owned the lot outright thankfully) and was really starting to get some momentum up. Finding another place to set up was tough, and I end up in a cow paddock with the Lucas Mill again, only trying to punch tonnage like I had a lot more mill. And I've got  stock and equipment mothballed in sheds for 50 mile around, just holding it in the hope of finding something suitable at the right price. I can find plenty of storage but places I can operate from are not so easy, even to rent.
After 18 months the bank realises it's not going to be so easy to sell due to local economic conditions, so I wind up back here on a month by month arrangement. At least I've got a roof over my head and room to do what i need Start getting my feet under me again and just about get back on my feet and my largest customer files for bankruptcy. I'm not out much at all because he made sure I wasn't... but it punches a mammoth hole in my cashflow and down I go to the bottom again. I hold the lease but Im off playing loggers again to cover it.
I'm just getting over that now and starting to win again, and looks like I have to buy the joint or someone else will. And I'm not ready after the last couple of years but somehow I'll manage it, or buy part which will get the bank shut up and I can lease the other part until I get the mortgage under control on the one piece, then buy the other part.
In ten years here I've pumped a fair bit of $ in. I've basically covered interest and taxes on the joint as though I owned it. And I did a lot of work.... fixed storm damaged roofs, laid a lot of gravel to expand the hardstand into an all weather log yard, electrical upgrades, drainage etcetera etcetera etcetera. No big $ in the improvements individually but it adds up. And now, after paying for those things once, I'm going to have to buy them again.
I know its hard, but you need to find a way to own your ground sooner rather than later. Or at least have an option to purchase at a set price in your contract.  We're all at the mercy of markets, customers, weather and a whole heap of things we cant really control in business; try not to add landlord to the list of risks you face. Bank or Owner, they both want to be paid and at least one way you can borrow against it. My business "assets" comprise logs, lumber, and equipment to turn logs into lumber, it'd look a whole lot nicer with the premises I need to park all that stuff on the balance sheet.
I've worked an 80 hour week for the last three years to keep my head above water with not a lot to show for it, my disposable income looks like a case of beer and a tin of tobacco a week. Had I owned the place I would have worked just as hard with not much different result, except that I'd not be having to find a deposit now at a time not of my choosing.
I wouldnt wish the last few years of my life on anyone.
We all enjoy the post from Down Under and wish you the best of success figuring out the mill side of it.  I've started 4 businesses, 2 went under in market crashes 1 sold in great success, one wrapped up with no profit but paid nice salary every month.  If a bank is in a tough spot...push hard.  Make them finance you, etc.  
Liking Walnut

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #26 on: July 14, 2019, 10:22:28 AM »
L.L. Too bad we have an immigration problem here.   From your description of yourself you have struggled and continue to work hard.  In my eyes this is the recipe to become a wise man. We need you here in the USA.

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #27 on: July 14, 2019, 10:50:50 AM »
Y. Hammer, You are going to force me to learn to post photos. For years, after work, I worked on my [2nd] sawmill set up until I dropped. Therefore I never took the time to learn gadgets like cell phones and digital cameras etc.  Anyhow straight line conveyers have to load green chains remote control or automatic. You don't walk down there until you have to. There are many ways this can be done. A lot depends on the lumber having to l/h, r/h or both ways. With me the sawn boards go left off the kicker table down into mounted loader arms that when full lift and dump onto the green chain but the same kicker table can kick right on to the slab drag [another green chain]. The boards needing to be edged have been spiral rolled onto the floor that is a trap door scissors lift under the floor. The edger has a sweep bar to small green chain. I have no experience with W.M. style band sawmills other than watching people change bands constantly so I can't see how you drop the board/slab on the first conveyer but there must be a way.

Offline Percy

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #28 on: July 14, 2019, 12:08:58 PM »


 

 
Thanks Ron, very good explanation and after making decisions and getting trials done we'll make a home for it.  Getting a proper home for the mill is going to take some doing, I'm going to see about leasing 2 acres that is just sitting.  If they would give it to me for 10 years that would be awesome.  
My eyes are bleeding reading that. I tell ya a story:
I leased this place for 7 years, then got the boot in 2016 because the owner had (unrelated) financial difficulties and the bank wanted it vacant for sale because it was security for the other stuff.
At that point I had a good collection of toys (pretty much owned the lot outright thankfully) and was really starting to get some momentum up. Finding another place to set up was tough, and I end up in a cow paddock with the Lucas Mill again, only trying to punch tonnage like I had a lot more mill. And I've got  stock and equipment mothballed in sheds for 50 mile around, just holding it in the hope of finding something suitable at the right price. I can find plenty of storage but places I can operate from are not so easy, even to rent.
After 18 months the bank realises it's not going to be so easy to sell due to local economic conditions, so I wind up back here on a month by month arrangement. At least I've got a roof over my head and room to do what i need Start getting my feet under me again and just about get back on my feet and my largest customer files for bankruptcy. I'm not out much at all because he made sure I wasn't... but it punches a mammoth hole in my cashflow and down I go to the bottom again. I hold the lease but Im off playing loggers again to cover it.
I'm just getting over that now and starting to win again, and looks like I have to buy the joint or someone else will. And I'm not ready after the last couple of years but somehow I'll manage it, or buy part which will get the bank shut up and I can lease the other part until I get the mortgage under control on the one piece, then buy the other part.
In ten years here I've pumped a fair bit of $ in. I've basically covered interest and taxes on the joint as though I owned it. And I did a lot of work.... fixed storm damaged roofs, laid a lot of gravel to expand the hardstand into an all weather log yard, electrical upgrades, drainage etcetera etcetera etcetera. No big $ in the improvements individually but it adds up. And now, after paying for those things once, I'm going to have to buy them again.
I know its hard, but you need to find a way to own your ground sooner rather than later. Or at least have an option to purchase at a set price in your contract.  We're all at the mercy of markets, customers, weather and a whole heap of things we cant really control in business; try not to add landlord to the list of risks you face. Bank or Owner, they both want to be paid and at least one way you can borrow against it. My business "assets" comprise logs, lumber, and equipment to turn logs into lumber, it'd look a whole lot nicer with the premises I need to park all that stuff on the balance sheet.
I've worked an 80 hour week for the last three years to keep my head above water with not a lot to show for it, my disposable income looks like a case of beer and a tin of tobacco a week. Had I owned the place I would have worked just as hard with not much different result, except that I'd not be having to find a deposit now at a time not of my choosing.
I wouldnt wish the last few years of my life on anyone.

I couldn't warm up to a banker if we were being creamated together.....
GOLDEN RULE : The guy with the gold, makes the rules.

Offline stavebuyer

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #29 on: July 14, 2019, 01:51:20 PM »
Problem with any "one product" such as fence boards is that all your low and mid grade logs won't be 16' long, all your boards from  your 16' logs won't be 16' long and neither will all the boards be 6" wide without a large amount of waste. The existing mills that can't give away low grade red oak lumber already know this or would be begging for 16' oak logs to saw and paying a premium for them. You can do well sawing fence boards out of the logs that will yield them but you better have a plan for the overall log or the yield loss will eat you alive.

Automation definitely. Baker and Wood-Mizer both have turn key solutions that will turn out 6-10k feet a day but you will need a chipper and possibly a de-barker as well as a dedicated truck and markets for the trailer load of waste you will generate daily. Think labor is getting tough: try hunting up a reliable CDL driver.

Offline nativewolf

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #30 on: July 14, 2019, 02:56:04 PM »
@stavebuyer good to hear from you.  After that barrel storage fire I guess you'll be busy  :D.

Right now if I can't get a 16' log it will likely stay in the woods, just no profitable market.  Lots of biomass will just stay put.  If I can get a 20+ I may saw bridge timbers.  Maybe.  

Waste will be epic  :D, I agree with that but therefore the mulcher.  I can do barn siding and may do some of that which would let me do 3" batten.  

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Offline longtime lurker

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #31 on: July 15, 2019, 12:29:02 AM »
 Operating fixed I've always worked with a greenchain on the outfeed side. Main thing being not to overload it when sawing by yourself so you have room to jog forward or reverse it to get things into the right stack without any more than pulling them off the side. Every time I overload it and end up lifting lumber over other lumber for want of room I say never again but I do it to myself all the time.

I've often wondered about a carousel. Takes up some space but theres no real walking involved - just stand in one place and deal with what the greenchain brings you next. You could I think pretty much shoehorn it into a "corner", in that you really only need to access it from where you're stacking, and on another side with the forklift to pull the stacks off.  Expensive once, but probably efficient is my guess.

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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #32 on: July 15, 2019, 06:07:33 AM »
Although it looks efficient, my guess is that it's not.  When I sawed hardwood grade, we would have a lot of sorts.  Generally we had one buyer that took 2 Com & btr, which had to be separated by length.  We also had a casket grade that got sorted out.  For the low grade, we had 1x4 and 1x6 boards that got separated by length.  The blocking was mainly a 3x6 separated by length and ties.  Then there were the occasional small orders.  Seems you would have to advance the carousel a lot, depending on your log.  By the time the carousel comes to the right bin, you could have the board stacked, and maybe 2 or 3.

We used both sides of our green chain.  Our even end was on the far side of the chain from the mill.  That's where we did the majority of stacking, and we used a cart system.  On the opposite side is where we stacked lumber that we didn't get a whole lot.  That was mainly the pallet boards.  

I think a green chain is the most efficient method for band mill.  It would reduce the amount of walking needed.  The other thing you can put on your green chain are stops.  If you have hydraulics, they're pretty easy to put so they can be operated remote.  I think if the mill has a pullback system, there would be no need for belts or rolls.  You can pull right back to the green chain.
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Offline moodnacreek

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #33 on: July 15, 2019, 08:28:49 AM »
Perhaps some one reading these posts is planning a set up.  So I thought that I should say that in my case the logs coming in to the saw are all the same length.[for that run]

Offline twobears

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #34 on: July 15, 2019, 12:20:08 PM »
I,ve thought about sorting my logs by length..it seems like it would save alot of time piling lumber.i,am planning on setting up a bigger mill and using the rolls with kickers likes been on these posts...i like percys setup.you could saw say 8 footers until the storage deck was full or you run out of logs and then scoop the lumber up and move it to the area where it would be piled..or if you had help it could be piled as it came off the kicker convoyer then moved to storage.i worked in a big mill that sawed hardwood.they had a green chain with carts beside it for lumber.the way it was setup all you did was run all day long one end of the green chain to the other end.plus when they filled the carts you never knew what length lumber went where because they kept changing how the carts where lined up.
 I,am thinking about using percys rollers/kickers and a mix of woodmizers ideas like they had at boonville off the sawmill would be a two way kicker to my edger and a resaw then the roller convoyer would go to a set of green chains with a two way kicker slabs going into a chipper or shear.the lumber would go left on the green chain dropping into a rack that can be picked up with forks.

Offline nativewolf

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #35 on: July 15, 2019, 12:41:37 PM »
Perhaps some one reading these posts is planning a set up.  So I thought that I should say that in my case the logs coming in to the saw are all the same length.[for that run]
Indeed that's the purpose of the thread, seemed several posters recently were asking the same basic questions: sawmill shed design, mill layout, etc.  I am considering a mill layout and wanted to specifically understand processes that might help address my biggest concern: labor.
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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #36 on: July 15, 2019, 01:04:22 PM »
We always sorted logs by length and by species.  I would saw 8' logs for a couple of days.  I might saw oak for a couple of weeks.  All depends on how it is coming in from the logging crew.  We also would run our log piles down in the summer to help prevent degrade from stain.  In the fall, they would pile things up so we had about a months worth of sawing.

We were doing about 2 MMbf annually as well as about 500+ cds of split firewood and 500 Mbf veneer.  We were working on 4 acres.
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Offline twobears

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #37 on: July 16, 2019, 10:16:46 PM »

RON when I worked at the big commercial mill we sawed hardwood and did it by species.we would saw say hard maple for a week or so then switch species.but we didn't sort by length and I think we should have.the log yard used a 210 log loader to unload trucks and cat wheel loader to feed the debarker it would have been easy to sort logs in the yard each load was layed out on the ground so the logs could be scaled then piled.i saw mostly white pine with my mill but I think I,ll try sorting by length and see how it goes. 

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #38 on: Yesterday at 08:30:35 AM »
I'll toss this picture up because it was in some stuff I saw advertised for sale today, and its relevant. Different kind of roundabout... would work pretty well with a dragback I'd say.



 
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Offline Hilltop366

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Re: simple automation to remove labor
« Reply #39 on: Yesterday at 12:32:29 PM »
Simple automation: Mill, log deck and dragback rollers up high enough to use gravity.

Make the rollers in two sections end to end, roller frames pivot in the centre of the ends so material can be dumped off either side.

This gives you 4 places to sort (5 if you use the end of the roller): waste, finished size boards, slabs to be edged, odd stuff to be sorted later. Everything dumps off the rollers on a rack to be handled by forks. 

Very little power needed to dump the roller, could use a manual leaver, air, electric tarp motor, or hydraulic. Power the end of the first roller to send stuff down the line that you want to go to the second roller. 

Thinking about what you want to sort at each drop and design racks to suit the purpose to reduce footsteps and manual handling.


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