Vacuum Lift Versus Scissor Lift

A discussion of equipment options for moving panels onto the sliding table saw. October 26, 2007

For our sliding table saw, we want to get a lift so we can put a unit of panels next to the saw to save our saw man from lifting each panel. The question is, scissor lift or vacuum lift? We will soon be getting a CNC and will have the same question with that.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor B:
Either would work for your saw operator. Using the scissor lift will require you to slide the panels. What about scratches on finished wood panels? I have air tables on my saw and use a scissor lift and do have some scratch issues. I would think that for a slider, a vacuum lift would be a better choice. Although it would be a real chore if you don't get it placed the first time and have to move machines to make a better work flow.

From contributor L:
We've had a scissor lift in front of our beam saw for 10 years. Very handy, but has one major drawback. When sliding pre-finished panels off the stack and onto the saw, it is easy to get scratches. The problem is compounded when we are stack cutting. We had a jib crane and vacuum lift for our old CNC and it worked fine. When we put in the new CNC, we put it in a different location to get better flow. Now we are going to put in a gantry crane and use the vacuum lift to serve both the CNC and the saw. To improve flow more, I've purchased some heavy roller conveyor that will hold 7 units of board that the forklift can load from one end, and the vacuum lift can access all 7 units to load both machines. That will eliminate having to fire up the forklift to move material every time you need something different. The vacuum lift will also allow us to pre-position the next load on an air table in front of the saw so we can stack cut without sliding sheet on sheet and having scratches.

From contributor J:
What kind of pre-finished panels are you cutting? We have cut melamine and HPL panels for more than 20 years on our panel saw by sliding them off the stack and into the saw without any significant scratching issues. It seems that most scratches occur before they arrive in our shop or during handling at various stations after they are cut on the saw.

From the original questioner:
These are great responses, thanks. Just to clarify, we only cut melamine, HPL panels, raw particleboard, and MDF.

From contributor L:
Most of our work is HPL or melamine, but there are always some veneer jobs that get mixed in, so we need to accommodate those too. It gets really expensive to screw up a sequence matched veneer panel!

From contributor N:
We use both. We place the material on the scissor lift and use the vac lift to position it either on the router, table saw, or vertical panel saw. It is mainly used for the router. I have been very happy with my lift.

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