Comparing European-Made Shapers

      Woodworkers describe and compare the characteristics of shapers manufactured by Utis and Panhans. February 1, 2015

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
Has anyone had any experience with Utis shapers? They look like a real solid machine and I'm going to fly out to France from the UK to look at one.

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From Contributor S:
I could be wrong, but I highly doubt a Utis has ever seen North American soil, under that name at least.

From the original questioner:
I was all set to buy a Panhans until I saw the Utis. There are several features that are attracting me to the Utis. The Utis has a manual sliding bed instead of rings. It has inverter driven AC motors to power the Axis' instead of DC motors. The rise and fall of the spindle is truly vertical and not in the plane of tilt. Only three of the axis are programmable: tilt, rise/fall and fence. The infeed fence is adjusted manually. There is no touch screen. It only has one 160mm extraction point for the DC.

From contributor O:
I spent a half hour looking at Utis shapers last year at Fensterbau. Not enough time to make good decisions about quality and function. I am happy with my ten year old Martin T26 and have no plans to go to a different brand but always like to kick the tires and compare. These machines are not available in the US. I think they have been around for a while and look pretty good. I also looked at Beck - Panhans shapers and Hofmann shapers. Those would be worth checking out at if service is available in the UK.

Comparing it to my Martin I had these observations. I did like the manual sliding bed for the opening. My Martin has rings but they have the option of motorized ring. I think this is a case where manual is better. The other thing I liked is the solid cast frame. They ran it using a smaller than our nickel Euro coin balanced on the table. My Martin is vibration free but there is just something about solid cast construction.

Overall I thought Martin has better engineering and function in the smaller details. For example Martinís power feed arm is more solid and easier to use even with the Utis being motorized in and out. The Martin arm rolls on ball bearings and is convenient to the operator. I believe the Utis pull out table support is on ball bearings but did not feel much different from the one on my machine. I would be concerned about only one 160mm dust outlet depending on how they pick it up under the spindle. Martin uses two 120mm hookups with the bottom under the spindle collected in a fabric shroud. It works well on heavy window and panel cuts.

I would not worry about non-motorized infeed adjustment. I think manufacturers get carried away with automating everything on these. They are not a CNC router and all the automation costs a lot. In my opinion spindle raise, fence movement and tilt are the only things that need to be automated on shapers. Tilting on the same vertical is good. Martin has a readout that compensates for this. We find that we use the plus and minus 45 degree tilt of the Martin quite a bit. I don't know the pro and con of AC or DC for the axis motors. If it was me I would test the consistency of settings using my own tooling through several cycles of height setting and fence movement. Most important is the local service you can get for the machine you choose.

From the original questioner:
I agree with you about making shapers too complex. I was contemplating a Martin but I was put off a little by their use of touch screens and the sliding ring system is allegedly rumored to be problematic ( it is alleged that it can get full of debris and jamb up). I have a touch screen on my SCM shaper at the moment and I hate it. I think it is off putting from what you are actually doing and is hard to use in any case. The Utis has a limitation on its tilt. Its range is -30 to +45 degrees whereas the Panhans has a range of +/- 45 degrees. I'm still wondering if the -30 degrees limitation is going to be a problem. I will investigate the one 160mm port. The Panhans looks extremely well engineered but then again I am used to looking at my SCM. I have asked them to demonstrate the coin trick when I go out to see the UTIS. The Panhans uses a damper piston to reduce vibration and it is vibration free. They ran a largish tool at 8000rpm when I went to see the Panhans and all I heard was the air rushing around the tool. I can't say the same for my SCM.

From the original questioner:
I've been to France to see the Utis. I can't remember seeing anything so well built. The whole machine is made from cast iron. They say the reason for this is that cast iron is far more stable than fabricating with steel. For all the cast iron they order there is a six month lead time and then they leave it to stand outside for around two to three years to settle. They have a large stock pile of cast iron parts at the back of their factory. The machine itself weighs 1.3 tons. The inverter driven AC motors that drive the axes are massive in comparison to the DC servos that drive the axes on the Panhans but then again they have to be to drive the heavy cast iron parts. The encoders are separate to the axes motors. If ever anything was over engineered this is probably it. The rise and fall mechanism slides on a dove tail. There is an interesting feature about this dove tail in that there is a snaking groove between the sliding faces of the dove tail where grease is pumped through to lubricate the faces. This lubricating system is present in the tilting shaft as well. The main motor drives the spindle shaft via V belts instead of flat belts. The screw threads that drive the axes were 25mm, I think, in diameter which is probably overkill. The fence was driven by screw threads on each side with rams.

Everything about this machine is heavy duty. You get the feeling that this machine will be still in operation in another 100 years times. All the electrical components can be sourced from third parties and looks very easily to work on, so I don't think maintenance is will be a problem. I'm confident that I will be able to fix this machine myself if there are any problems. It isn't PC based so I don't have to worry about a computer dying on me. The main motor is S1 rated and is made by Leroy Somer so will last forever, effectively. The inverters are off the shelf. We ran an old largish steel tool up to 6000rpm and all I heard was wind. There was no audible vibration. I could feel a small vibration through the table that I would describe as negligible. The controller was a little more advanced than the Panhans which made me concerned about reliability but UTIS told me that they have to send out two controllers a year. They produce about 100 spindle moulders a year so the controller is pretty reliable. Even if it does break down it is just a case of plug and play. The only limitation of the control is that it only has 250 programs. Overall I was very impressed but I'm still wary from all the problems I've had with my previous purchases from other machinery companies.

From the original questioner:
The single port dust extraction is made possible by the heavy duty cast iron construction. The bed is actually comprised from two pieces instead of a single piece bed like all the other shapers I've seen. There is no bed immediately behind the spindle! There is just a large void which channels the dust into one port. It all looks very tidy around the spindle. I didn't see the DC in action but I imagine it would be very effective. Also, the sliding bed is easy to push in and out from the tool.

From contributor O:
Thanks for the update. Seems like a solid machine. Cast construction is nice for sure. Dual drive on the fence is good. My T26 is single drive but the new models are dual. I will look under the hood to see how the other feature compares. Does the pull out sash support work well? How about the feeder arm?

From the original questioner:
The pull out sash support on the UTIS is very smooth and strong. It is actually on bearings. Utis manufacture its own feeder stand and it is solid as a rock. It use prismatic slides and is powered by two motors. To change the orientation of the power feed is very easy. The cost of the stand is around 3500 euro but you definitely get what you pay for.

The Utis machine is not cheap but is probably in line with the Martin prices. I have been to the Panhans factory. Very organized very clean, lots of big expensive CNC machines. They are actually an engineering firm in their own right. They manufacturer parts for combine harvesters and probably more. They have an excellent quality control. They check all rotating components for balance and balance them if needed. They use specialist measuring equipment on their machined parts to make sure the CNCs are working to within tolerance. Everybody is working efficiently. The hole set up is impressive. They even grind coffee beans when they make you a coffee.

The Ultimo Panhans shaper is very different to the UTIS shaper. Panhans uses a welded steel base from which the aggregate is supported. Instead of encoders to measure where the axes are it uses a system that I have never seen before. It uses magnet strips and a sensor which measure the actual position of the rise and angle of the aggregate so it is measuring the actual positions and not the position of axis shafts which do not show the true position of the aggregate due to the play in gear boxes and threads. Everything under the table and the controller looked well engineered and designed. The cast iron table is in one piece with no breaks in it.

They are still developing the adjustable/sliding bed so only rings are available at the moment. The fence enclosure (I donít know what else to call it, itís the big ĎUí shaped part that holds the fences) is driven by a stepper motor on one side which has no measuring system other than counting the steps. I donít know what to think about this arrangement, good or bad? The fence enclosure has a locking mechanism which clamps it to the table after moving into position. I havenít come across this locking arrangement before either. I have questions with how the fence enclosure moves and am researching into it at the moment with Panhans so I really donít want to go into it at the moment. It has an excellent fence enclosure removal system for ring fence work. The Panhans is less expensive than the Utis.

Contributor O, you mention that Martin have gone for a double fence enclosure drives instead of one. I can see why they have done this because if not one side will lag behind the other. My SCM shaper uses prismatic slides for the fence enclosure and even though it is driven on one side it seems to be sturdy enough. Panhans seems to be handling a lot of different products and services with different designers allocated to each product and service. Utis has only three products really, thicknessor, surface and shaper with father and son dedicated to the design and development of them. I think that spreading yourself too thin can be a bad thing.

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