Ode to an American-Made Edgebander

Time was when a U.S. custom cabinet shop had to look beyond the U.S. borders and coastlines for an automated straight-line edgebander to edge finish particleboard, MDF and hardwood plywood components.

That was before 2008, when Safety Speed Manufacturing of Ham Lake, MN, purchased the engineering designs of a pair of edgebanders from Anderson Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) of Alberta, Canada. While sales for the initial launch of Safety Speed’s edgebander program were hamstrung by the Great Recession, the timing was not without a silver lining.  For many of the fewer buyers in need of an edgebander during those dark economic times, the low-cost, high-value proposition of Safety Speed’s hot air and glue pot machines proved appealing. Safety Speed was able to snap up market share at the expense of its much higher-cost competitors.

“Until we met AMT we had no intention of manufacturing edgebanders,” said Brian Donahue, president of Safety Speed. “However, after looking at the simplicity and quality of the design it was an easy decision to be the first to start manufacturing automated edgebanders in the United States. The majority of the competition at the time was from Europe, which consisted of machines that were more than 50 percent higher cost of our planned retail pricing.”

Even today, both models are priced under $10,000.

The 72GP Glue Pot Edgebander offers great flexibility for small- to medium-sized woodworking companies. It can apply polyester, PVC, wood or single laminate strips up to 1mm thick on edges up to 3-1/2 inches wide and parts as short as 6 inches. The glue pot is manufactured with ease of cleanup in mind and a standby temperature mode to prevent overheating of the glue. (Learn more and view video).

The 60HA Hot Air Edgebander, 60 inches long vs. the 72GP’s 72-inch length, has many of the same features of the 72GP, including precise electromagnetic end cutters, an accutrim edge trim system and dust collection outlet to keep end trim off the part and the shop floor. The 60HA uses pre-glued edgebanding that is applied with heat supplied by an electric blower system. The machine also features electronic variable speed feed and digital electronic temperature control. (Learn more and view video).

Betting on Made in America
Donahue’s belief that a made-in-America edgebander could successfully compete in a market dominated by many well-established Old World manufacturers has paid off.

“We expected to have a lot of dealer participation in getting the machine to market and were not disappointed,” Donahue said. “Our dealers were excited because it gave them a simple, but well-designed, American-made edgebander. In the first 12 months we had over 12 dealers selling the products for us, plus the dealers that were previously selling them when they had AMT’s label on them.”

It is one thing for dealers to like the products and their attractive price points, especially that of the 72GP, but what about craftsmen?

“The feedback we’ve gotten from customers upgrading from edgebanding by hand or just getting started in the business has been exceptionally good,” Donahue said. “They like the fact that the machines do not require a highly trained technician to operate or service. They also like the easy to navigate operating manual and know they can count on our phone support to help them be up and running within a couple hours of receiving the machine. The price and capability of the edgebanders make them ideal for shops that need have a couple of hours of edgebanding production a day. With top speeds of 24 feet per minute, it is easy to see how quickly you can edgeband a stack of parts.”

Over the past 57 years, Safety Speed has built its business on its solid commitment to quality and service. “The majority of our edgebander components are higher quality machined aluminum components that are simple to design, making it easier for the operator to work and correct any issues without an outside technician,” Donahue noted. “Our hard-anodized finished aluminum gluepot on the 72GP is the best in its class. The hard-anodized finish combined with strategically place heaters help it reach operating temperature in about 12 minutes at initial startup. The mounting placement of the glue pot along with the finish makes it easy to change glues or clean the glue pot.”

Making a Choice: Glue Pot or Hot Air?
Considering  the 72GP edgebander is priced less than $3,000 more than the 60HA, it’s easy to see why it is the more popular choice between the two machines. This goes not only for U.S. customers, but also for those in Canada, Mexico and even South America.

“We sell a lot more glue pot machines, as much as four to one,” Donahue said. “As a company we try to move customers toward the glue pot so that they have more control over their tape options and the glue on the product. The 72GP also applies tape at a much faster rate and is a much cleaner machine at the end of a production day. But some customers can’t afford the extra cost of the machine or just don’t have any plans for changing from pre-glued tapes in the future. It’s up to the customer to make the decision based on their business needs today and what they see in the future.”

Donahue said the edgebanders have been a “good fit” with Safety Speed’s line of panel processing equipment that includes, vertical panel saws, vertical routers and combination panel saw/router machines. “Adding edgebanders to our product offering allows us to offer our customers an American-made edgebander to complete the next step in their production process. For under $20,000, a customer can install an American-made vertical panel saw with scoring and an edgebander made in the same Minnesota plant.”

Article written by Rich Christianson. 

Rich Christianson is the principal of Richson Media, a Chicago-based communications firm focused on the industrial woodworking sector. Rich is the former long-time editorial director and associate publisher of Woodworking Network. During his 30-year career Rich toured more than 200 woodworking plants throughout North America, Europe and Asia and written extensively on woodworking technology, design and supply trends.

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