In the truss industry, people wonder if the machinery technology or the need for the technology came first. Either way, today’s homes are stronger, more economical, and have more individuality than they did in the past. Nearly any truss a draftsman can design, MiTek’s machinery can build. Today’s roof trusses have longer spans, steeper pitches, and stronger webbing than ever. But, as you’ll see, this was not always the case.
Like many industries, the truss manufacturing industry is quite large and has many facets. It seems improbable that one company could span the entire industry, but MiTek has shown that it is possible. Prior to modern day automation, early versions of the connector plate were used to assemble more generic roof trusses. Houses with similar roofs lined streets for miles at a time because changing the truss manufacturing setup took time, effort, and therefore, money. Unfortunately, because of this brief period of time, the term pre-fabrication or “pre-fab” still carries a stigma.
Over the years, MiTek has become a melting pot of top companies in the building components industry. These companies are now able to employ true growth, a healthy exchange of knowledge, and provide the customer with state-of-the art products. Leaders from companies such as Hydro-Air, Panel Clip, Gang-Nail, Diamond, and Tee-Lok have improved MiTek’s products and continue to revolutionize the industry by combining their ideas and traditions in one company. Every one of these companies has helped MiTek develop cutting edge machinery that allows home builders to spark their creativity and imagination without worrying about the probability of having their trusses created.
Hydro-Air and Gang-Nail were the industry leaders in early truss manufacturing. Hydro-Air developed the Mark 8™ press and Hex-Cut saw while Gang-Nail was known for its innovative connector plate and the International IV saw. Once on the same team, under the name of MiTek, amazing innovation ensued. Truss-manufacturing machinery—as well as the building components industry as a whole—hasn’t been the same since.
When computers became more prevalent, automated saws’ technology increased rapidly. Hydro-Air designed the Hex-Cut and Gang-Nail designed the International IV. These machines had five or six blades, and early versions gave digital readouts of the saw blades’ angle. Soon, the component cutting engineers from Hydro-Air and Gang-Nail combined forces and, in 1989, MiTek created a new saw called the Easy-Set® saw. Varieties of this saw featured a computer connection so information about the lumber specifications could be easily downloaded. A later version called the Easy-Set 4000 was MiTek’s first fully-computerized saw. MiTek later replaced this saw with the Cyber® saw in 1996 and eventually, the Cyber A/T saw in 2002—the industry’s current standard for component saws.
Unlike the component saw, press technology has been steadily improving since Calvin Jureit invented the modern day connector plate in 1955. The concept of the platen press came about to help embed the steel plates into the joints. Still made today and one of the first pressing machines, MiTek’s Mark 8 C-frame press assembled trusses by hovering over a joint and pressing the connector plates into the truss. Not surprisingly, the technology did not stop there.
Soon, MiTek invented the Glideaway which was essentially a series of C-Frame presses known for gliding over a jigged truss, embedding the plates, and gliding away. This machine gave developers the idea for a press that spanned the height of the truss and improved efficiency.
When Diamond was acquired, MiTek was able to offer its customers another method with which to press their trusses. Diamond specialized in roller gantry technology. Their designs and their continuing innovations helped create the RoofGlider® and RailRider® presses, which were the first trackless roller gantries and floor machines, respectively.
In 2001, Tee-Lok joined the MiTek team. Tee-Lok was known for their plate shipping methods and press technology. When MiTek combined the RoofGlider press with Tee-Lok’s Tee-Tracker® press, the result was an innovative and technologically-advanced roof truss press with slotted-top tables called the RoofTracker™ press. MiTek also combined the RailRider press with Tee-Lok’s Tee-Floor innovations to develop the upcoming RailRider® Pro press. Today, MiTek® presses are trackless and utilize slotted top-tables for easier jigging. Tee-Lok developed slotted top-tables in 1995 allowing specialized trusses to be built faster, cheaper, and with less man-power. To cut down on miscalculations and waste, MiTek has teamed up with Virtek to offer a laser system that can project an image of the truss onto the table to decrease setup time considerably. With the most recent additions of Production Conveyor Systems, Pacific Automation Ltd., and Koskovich, MiTek will continue to develop state-of-the-art machinery.
It is hardly worth comparing a home built in the 1950’s to a home built today, but if this venture were to be taken, the roofline is the most notable difference. Thanks to MiTek, today’s roofs have multiple peaks, valleys, hips, and are chock full of other jargon. They are stronger, taller, and, depending on the design, cheaper to build than ever.
Improbable as it may seem, MiTek spans the entire truss manufacturing industry and is able to do this with the help of their subsidiaries and their traditions. Just as truss manufacturing equipment serves little purpose without lumber, MiTek would serve little purpose without the knowledge it has gained from its history. Their history and products allowed for amazing advancement and inspired today’s technology. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter if the chicken or the egg came first as long as the trusses of a home owner’s dreams can become a reality.