Panel saws, as the name implies, are used for panel dimensioning. The sliding table allows a single person to cut full size sheets with little physical effort.
The sliding table allows one operator to guide an entire sheet of plywood across the saw on his own. The largest of these tables can complete a full 12ft rip cut.
The sliding tables on a panel saw differ from those mounted as accessories on standard table saw not only in their size, but also in who close they extend to the blade. On a panel saw the entire table top to one side of the saw moves as part of the sliding table. After market sliding tables are typically attached to the extension wing mounting points.
A scoring blade is a second, counter-rotating blade used to score the underside of the sheet as it is pushed into the main blade. This scoring cut eliminates tearout on the underside of the panel.
Digital controls speed up the cutting process and reduce errors. On a CNC panel saw the cutting height, width, and angle can be adjusted with a keypad.
Panelsaws are production machines. As such they are part of workflow. Planning the way the stock moves from the storage area onto the saw's table is just as improtant as any properties of the saw itself.
Automatic panel saws bring the computer controls to the tablesaw world. Simple digital controls allow the operator to set the machine's blade height, blade angle, and rip fence location. This level of automatic drastically increases productivity and reduces the reject rate.
A quality panel saw has a good sliding table. The table needs to support a lot of weight far out from it's mounting point. A good table will keep tight tolerances after years of use.
The ease with which a single operator can cut a full panel makes panel saws outperform tablesaws by a wide margin for this task. Panelsaws can be used for fine work, if need be. Most shops pair a panelsaw with one or more tablesaws.