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Friday | 30 March, 2012 | 11:25 am

Clean cut

By Gretchen Salois

Increased sawing abilities allow higher output, broader inventory

March 2012 - Slicing pieces of bar in great volume seems straightforward. Program the specified sizes and speed and proceed. However, there are a number of factors to consider when churning out cut bar. Easy loading, software that knows how to cut fast while optimizing blade life and efficient after-hours capabilities are features customers look for when deciding how to meet tolerance requirements while conserving resources.

A distributor selling to machine shops as well as customers in production spanning multiple industries, Sunbelt-Turret Steel Inc., Charlotte, N.C., heavily relies on its equipment to cut 1018, 1045, 1141, 1144, 4140 and 4340 annealed and quench-and-tempered bar. “We needed a machine that is fully automatic,” says Jerry Webb, general manager, Sunbelt-Turret Steel. Sunbelt-Turret Steel owns multiple Danobat machines, including a Danobat 800 and Danobat 520 it purchased from Addison, Ill.-based Pat Mooney Inc. Serving the metal sawing industry for 63 years, Pat Mooney, in addition to the Elgoibar, Spain-based Danobat Group, represents FMB in Italy and Nishijimax in Japan. The company also designs and builds material-handling equipment for sawing systems and sells and services metal sawing machines and sawing blades.

Since Sunbelt-Turret Steel’s initial purchases in spring 2010, the company purchased four more machines in 2011. “We sell to machine shops, manufacturing facilities and our biggest customers are gear shops,” Webb says. “We supply tons of gear blanks. A typical order for us would be 200 pieces of a large round that we’re cutting 2-inches thick to be used for gear blanks.”

With six locations throughout the United States, Sunbelt-Turret Steel needed a fully automatic machine, “where operators could dial in the tolerance as close as needed and the saw will maintain the tolerance throughout that period,” Webb says. The machine’s ability to cut overnight “as long as you have enough bar stock” is key because it shuts down when it is done cutting. “So you’re not running up power for an undetermined amount of time,” he adds.

Sunbelt-Turret Steel cuts 3-inch to 32-inch round bar. “We cut whatever the customer requirements are because that’s what we do,” Webb says. “We bring in full bars and process them, cutting them to customers’ specified lengths. Our goal is to ship our orders we receive within a 24-hour period unless an order requires hundreds of pieces to be cut.” He says this would require a few days to complete.

Preserving blade life
One major improvement Sunbelt-Turret Steel experienced was the Danobat’s ramp-up feature, which allows the blade to enter at a certain speed, increasing and slowing down as needed as the bar is cut. “We did not have this feature on previous saws,” Webb says. “It allows us to get a more precise and accurate cut. It helps lengthen the blade life.”

PatMooney03-2012According to Pat Thornton, president at Pat Mooney, Sunbelt-Turret Steel’s previous saws had a limited feed rate. “When you set the feed rate for the saw, you have to set it for the widest section of the cut,” Thornton says. “If you’re cutting a 15-inch round or any large-diameter size, the blade speed that you set is based on the material grade and also the largest cross section of the material that you are going to saw.

“In this case, the operator tells the Danobat the size of the workpiece and the saw knows when it’s up at the top, it can go a lot faster because there is no resistance from the blade and it goes faster at the bottom, with higher speed and feed with no adverse effect on blade life,” Thornton continues. “You get more parts and you get the same or better blade life as if you were cutting slower.”

Along with blade life, saws age with time and use. When Scot Forge, Spring Grove, Ill., found its machines were in need of replacement, the company sat down with Thornton at Pat Mooney to discuss options. The company has several Danobat machines in its Spring Grove, Ill.; Franklin Park, Ill.; and Clinton, Wis., facilities, with the latest purchased in August 2011.

“With the new asset, when we compared the total number of gross production minutes with our old machines, we found we had achieved a 24.27 percent gain in overall output,” says Heath Henke, saw shop supervisor at Scot Forge. “The older machine we used gave us 354,000 square inches compared to 440,000 square inches with the Danobat CP-520AF—an 86,000-square-inch improvement in the same time frame.”

Straightforward and secure
The increased accuracy and technology makes the Danobat saws user-friendly, Henke says. “Instead of having only a couple of operators who can operate the saws, the easy technology allows operators to run all machines as opposed to just one expert working with one machine,” he says.

According to Henke, operators enjoy running the new machines and the current operator running the Danobat has been doing so for only a few weeks and is already at ease. “The machine is productive, it’s clean and runs the daylights out of product,” he says.

Ease of use and tight accuracy is important to Scot Forge’s customers, which include the power generation, aerospace and oil and gas industries, among others. It currently works with 900 different grades of materials. “It could be carbon and alloys like 4340 or titanium, aluminum, copper and all grades of stainless,” Henke says. “The materials go across the board. We’ll cut, machine, heat treat and forge anything.”

Scot Forge cuts product from 50 pounds up to 60,000 pounds and its Spring Grove facility can reach 100,000 pounds. The company cuts diameters up to 62 inches.

Another helpful feature to Scot Forge’s operations is the machine’s main clamp system. “It clamps on both sides of the blade, allowing Scot Forge to get different-sized parts to really clamp securely,” Thornton says. “The previous machine they were using only clamped on the exit side whereas the main clamp on the Danobat is a split device—a big feature because before they could only do the entry side, so if they were cutting off a really small piece, it would flow [move] around and hurt blade life.”

Scot Forge’s investment allowed the company to address backlog concerns. “While we didn’t have any lateness issues, there was definitely backlog with the older saw,” Henke says. “But with the new Danobats, even our expediters have commented on how in that particular area of the shop, work just flies through.” The machines helped streamline business, and the asset acquisitions were well-timed as business is strong, he says.

“Sunbelt’s business is extremely strong,” Webb says, adding the company attributes much of its success to not only being able to buy and sell steel but also using saws that cut well. In particular, the ability to preset the saws saves time.

“You can put in several hundred presets, it’s just a matter of pushing the button and the saw starts cutting to the desired speed you program,” Webb continues. “I haven’t seen this elsewhere. Pat Mooney provides the backup support we need—including when we need replacement parts. They go above and beyond, flying in parts if they’re not in stock, in order to help us keep moving.” MM

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