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Schmalz introduces innovative ‘Spider’ Helpers for timber construction

 Friday, June 21, 2024

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Boards, panels, and cross-laminated timber can be cumbersome and heavy to handle. To facilitate their effortless and automated transport within the production process, HolzBauWerk Schwarzwald utilizes Schmalz’s advanced vacuum technology. Multiple suction spiders are employed to efficiently move not only standard boards but also components that weigh several tons.

The forests of the Black Forest supply a variety of wood species such as spruce, fir, beech and oak, which are used in construction, furniture manufacturing, paper production and other industrial applications. HolzBauWerk Schwarzwald, founded in Seewald in 2021, specializes in cross laminated timber (CLT). On 15,000 square meters of covered area, the company produces 20,000 cubic meters of CLT per year and shift from local spruce and Black Forest silver fir wood. With the products, builders realize timber construction projects throughout Germany, Switzerland, France and the Benelux countries.

HolzBauWerk started production in September 2022 and currently employs around 40 people. Using a fully automated system, the company produces solid wood panels from at least three cross-laid, flat-glued layers of softwood boards. They are between six and 32 centimeters thick, up to 3.5 meters wide and a maximum of 16 meters long. The panels are suitable for the flat and solid production of wall, ceiling and roof elements. Invented in the 1990s, the panels have become increasingly popular in modern timber construction since the 2010s thanks to their advantages such as sustainability, stability, fire protection, thermal efficiency and earthquake safety.

Secure grip

To streamline production, a third suction spider equipped with FMHD grippers stacks multiple single-layer panels in a buffer storage area, alternating between longitudinal and transverse layers. This precise arrangement prepares the panels for the CLT (cross-laminated timber) press. Another identical suction spider then feeds these single-layer panels into the CLT press. After each panel is positioned, a glue applicator applies a layer of PU adhesive, ensuring strong cohesion in the final product. “We use PU glue because it is safe for health and does not emit any harmful substances once cured, making it perfect for house and apartment construction,” explains Bauer.

In the next stage, the hydraulic CLT press applies high pressure to bond the single-layer panels, composed of alternating longitudinal and transverse lamellas, into the final cross-laminated timber structure, known as a press cake. This process produces exceptionally thin glue joints and panels that are dimensionally accurate and perfectly straight. Once formed, two ceiling-mounted suction spiders handle the CLT panels, moving them to a turning table, a wide belt sander, and finally to the CNC machining center. Here, the panels are processed into ready-to-assemble building elements for house construction.

Schmalz_HolzBauWerk Schwarzwald_Spiders

Customised Solution

Schmalz has designed all vacuum gripping systems individually for the different handling tasks at HolzBauWerk. The low weight of the basic aluminum components and the high holding forces allow for fast cycles. “When planning the complete systems, we can draw on many years of experience and many systems at home and abroad,” emphasises Philipp Bohnet. He is Head of Sales Systems at Schmalz and supported HolzBauWerk and the machine suppliers involved in the design of the vacuum technology.

“In our test center in Glatten, we also identify possible weak points immediately by conducting suction tests with customer samples and develop suitable solutions. This way we guarantee process reliability and simple and fast integration right from the start,” he added further.

The wood processing company has been using Schmalz’s vacuum technology since September 2022. “From the first contact in spring 2021, the preparation of the offer, project planning and commissioning to live operation, everything went smoothly,” emphasises Jörg Kübler, Managing Director of HolzBauWerk Schwarzwald GmbH.

“And our employees also really enjoy working with the vacuum gripping systems because they ensure automated and trouble-free processes. The systems have even been given names,” he adds with a wink. And Kübler likes something else – the proximity to the vacuum experts. “The company is practically around the corner, so we can count on support very quickly if we have any problems,” he says. Mr. Kübler finally concluded.

Read more news on: Schmalz, cross-laminated timber, vacuum technology, wood, sander, CLT panel, CNC machining

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