Robland NX 310 archive
Tuesday 3 February 2009
John Bullar puts this Robland combination machine to the test
The Robland NX310 is a brand new universal machine. It has been developed from a long line of universals made at the same factory in Belgium since the early 70s and I was keen to find out how well it was designed and built.
The problem with combis is that unused cutters, guards and fences inevitably get in the way and need dismantling as you swap between functions, so I was particularly interested in the efficiency with which the NX310 can switch jobs.
It takes up a fair bit of floor space for a 10-12in machine. Having said that, it gives you all the functions of panel and crosscut sawing, rip sawing, surface planing, thicknessing and spindle moulding in one package, plus there is the option of a bolt-on slot mortiser, so apart from a bandsaw it's hard to think what else a small workshop could need.
TablesawThe TCT saw blade locks on its tilting arbor with a special spanner and sits alongside a steel plate set into the cast-iron table. I liked the replaceable wooden infill which protects the teeth with minimal gap.
There is an option of two maximum blade sizes, either a 250mm main blade with a 100mm scoring blade for laminates - fine if you don't need to cut thicker than 85mm wood - or a single 315mm blade which will cope with 115mm thickness.
The saw has its own motor drive which, as with the spindle and the planer, has choices of 4hp 3-phase or 3hp single-phase.
An optional sliding arm supports a 500 x 790mm crosscut table beyond the sliding carriage with further support at the end of the telescopic fence for crosscutting large panels. This is rigidly hinged from the main frame and tucks away when not in use.
The sliding carriage on its own can be used for crosscuts without the table option, or it can be used for ripping off waney edges which cannot be run against the parallel fence.
Sliding CarriageThe sliding carriage mechanism is made from heavy-gauge extruded aluminium and moved quite freely, even with my not inconsiderable weight perched on it. The construction looks as if it will last well - the sliding mechanism uses eight small-diameter hardened steel rods for the bearings to run on. If necessary these can be rotated to even out wear over the years or replaced at moderate cost.
The optional scoring blade whizzed around in the opposite direction to the main blade at 8,500rpm. It produced a thoroughly clean cut on both sides of melamine-laminated MDF board.
The nominal kerf width is 2.8mm with side-to-side adjustment to align with the main blade by means of an Allen key. For normal timber cutting, the scoring blade is easily lowered out of the way.
Using the sliding table to saw fibreboard and plywood panels, it produced practically perfect 90 degree cuts. The blade fitted on the model I tested was unsuitable for ply, causing a lot of tearout on the underside. The scoring unit, designed for laminates, was no help here but a triple cut main blade could easily be fitted.
Sawblade adjustmentsSawblade height adjustment is by a basic plastic hand-wheel tucked beneath the carriage and table end, while the sawblade tilt adjustment is made by a crank handle plugged in beneath the planer outfeed table. Blade angles between 0 degrees and 45 degrees are indicated by a rudimentary pointer on a scale beneath the table.
Compound angles with both fence and blade tilted are easy to set up, although obviously tilting the blade also reduces its cutting depth. At 45 degrees the 315mm blade will cope with 65mm depth while the 250mm blade is limited to 55mm.
An excellent rigid clamp for securing timber to the sliding table provides a moderately useful reach, even with the fence angled at 45 degrees.
PlaningAccess to machine internals is via a simple lift-off panel for the planer motor, available in 3hp and 4hp versions as before. Dust extraction from the saw is from a 100mm port connected internally by a 100mm hose to the hopper.
A generously sized extruded aluminium fence is mounted above the planer tables and can be securely clamped between a cast bracket at one end and steel plates in the middle. The surfaces of the cast-iron tables are flat and well aligned but would benefit from a rub with wet-and-dry paper to reduce friction.
The planer fence can be angled and clamped between 90 degrees and 45 degrees to the table and provides a large area with good positive support for angled timber.
The surface of the fence, unlike the table itself, feels very smooth.
ThicknessingAn integral dust collection hood swings over the cutterblock ready for thicknessing, triggering a micro-switch when lifted for safety. An aluminium height-regulating tool is supplied to adjust the projection of the three re-sharpenable high-speed-steel knives from the cutter block, while springs beneath each knife push it up when the clamp bolts are released.
The system is easy to use and it works well. A Tersa cutterblock is also available as an option.
The thicknessing table is, rather surprisingly, much shorter than the base of the planer chassis, and while it is adequate for small pieces of timber this will inevitably lead to more end-snipe problems on larger sections. I would have liked this table to be longer or perhaps fitted with end-rollers to increase its effective length.
I would have liked a clearer indicator on the thicknessing scale.
For thicknessing or access to the cutters the infeed and outfeed tables hinge inwards in a butterfly wing fashion which keeps them well out of the way. Thicknessing results were good, the drive positive and the dust extraction effective.
Spindle MouldingThe spindle moulder has the same type of height adjustment as the saw and thicknesser. A grid door beneath the handle opens for access to the spindle lock and the pulleys.
Shifting the belt between pulleys enables the dedicated single-speed motor to drive the shaper cutterblock at one of four speeds. Power options are the same as the saw and planer.
A massive casting forms the guard and dust hood for the spindle moulder, which rises from the table well ahead of the sawblade. Shaping cutter blocks up to 120mm are secured to the standard 30mm arbor with an Allen key. There is no tilt available on the spindle moulder.
Cutting some deep moulding profiles in a single pass demonstrated how the moulder would behave under heavy use. With the belt drive set for a speed of 2900rpm, the torque is very considerable, so no risk of overloading. Obviously the wood took a fair hammering but machine vibration was negligible and resulted in a surprisingly clean finish.
The extruded aluminium spindle fences move with the guard casting, then they can be fine adjusted by jacking screws on each side. A Shaw-guard and pressure plate is pivoted on a short arm from the guard and lock in either position with a rigid steel plate.
The verdictCombination machines can save space and money. I would have preferred to see the NX310 fitted with a longer thicknessing table. The surface smoothness of all the tables could be improved, something the owner can easily do.
I did not test the slot mortising function, but the construction looked far more sturdy than usual for this type of bolt-on, so I would expect it to perform well. In fact overall the NX310 is extremely rigidly built for a machine in this section of the market. This of course makes it heavy, but universal machines are not expected to need frequent shifting around, and if push comes to shove a wheel option kit is available.
The design is not fussy, adjustments and indicators are limited to what is necessary although a digital readout on the parallel fence for the saw is available if required. Changing between functions is quite easy.
On balance I liked the NX310 very much - you get a great deal of machine for your money.