Thursday | 27 December, 2012 | 3:28 pm

Faster flow

By Gretchen Salois

Rather than waste resources on replacement parts, service center overhauls workflow with fast saws

December 2012 - Klein Steel Service Inc., Rochester, N.Y., decided to invest in new technology because it was using 20- to 30-year-old saws to cut mild alloy bars in various diameters. “After having some problems with our older saws where we needed to find replacement parts, we found we’d be down at least six to 12 weeks,” says Dan Sile, operations manager.

In November 2011, the company purchased its first KastoTec4 KPC (Kasto power cutting) from Kasto Inc., Export, Pa. The new saw can cut diameters ranging from 4 inches through 16 inches. After using the saw, Klein purchased its second Kasto saw in August, upgrading to a fully automated version with a conveyor that cuts diameters of 5 inches through 16 inches. “The Kasto saws cut four times faster than our old saws,” says Jim Sloan, director of quality and engineering at Klein. The company already had Kasto’s storage retrieval system in place, as well as other saws. “We have a great ongoing working relationship with Kasto,” Sloan adds.

Klein supplies OEMs and machine shops and cuts 10 different alloys of mild steel as well as stainless, tool and structural steel. In order to meet customer demand, the company needed to provide shorter lead times by pushing through more work in less time without sacrificing quality. “The majority of our customers spend a lot of time machining parts, whether for gears or drive shafts,” Sile says. “By us having sawing machines that can cut more material faster, while maintaining tighter tolerances, we save customers time from their machining process.”


Removing guesswork

With quicker turnover, operators contend with an array of sizes and alloys throughout the day. By using Kasto saws, operators only need to program the diameter or thickness of the material to be cut and its grade. “The machine will automatically adjust itself so operators no longer need to do that manually,” Sile says. “It lowers the risk for human error and just lets the saw do what it needs to do.

“I think from an operator’s point of view, we were concerned someone who was used to working on older equipment would have problems adjusting,” Sile continues. “Instead, our guy wants to push through as much as he can. He’s really embraced the machine and produces cuts at a high rate. It’s eye-opening to watch technology work like that; the machine is his baby now.”

The machine’s ability to keep track of blade history particularly is helpful because operators can see how many inches of materials are cut during any length of time, as well as the blade efficiency produced by different blade models. 

“Knowing so much about blade life is huge for me,” Sile says. “It’s important that I’m able to look at and see [cutting history] rather than manually write down figures in a sketch pad. This software tells me exactly what we’ve got for the history of the blade and blade life.” Sile says the changes since using Kasto’s machines have been significant, going from three to four days of blade life to seven to nine days for the two saws.

In addition to being an easier program to use, the added versatility of the Kasto saws allows the company to serve more industries such as the nuclear, alternative energy, oil and gas sectors, says Todd Zyra, COO at Klein.


Villainous vibrations

In order to achieve accurate cuts and maintain tight tolerances, a sawing machine needs to absorb the vibration caused by the machine when cutting through varying thicknesses of metal. “The biggest or worst enemy of every kind of cutting process is vibration that’s been caused by the blade that interacts with the material being cut,” says Werner Rankenhohn, president at Kasto. “Twenty or 25 years ago, the blade was the weakest link in the cutting process, and a solidly built sawing machine could easily handle the cutting process.”

The reason the KastoTec4 KPC machines can withstand the vibration partially is due to the machine head that connects two band wheels filled with mineral cast to add extra mass to the overall machine. That extra weight eliminates most of the vibration transferred from the saw blade. 

kastoKasto also redesigned the normal bend guides located in the two guide arms and added an additional two guides. Both additional guides are located between the driver and the idle band wheel, further removing the vibration caused by the blade. “That, in conjunction with a heavier duty motor and more horsepower, is the difference between the KastoTec KPC and a standard band saw,” Rankenhohn says.

Unmanned machinery

Each customer cuts a different set of metals that need to meet certain tolerances and diameter thicknesses. In Klein’s case, Kasto needed to ensure its saws were capable of running for long periods of time unmanned. Concerns an operator normally would be responsible for now are determined by the machine. 

For example, when cutting for extensive durations, blade life must be monitored. As a blade becomes dull, it deviates from its true cut. “The machine notices this and slows down. Whether slowing down the down feed or slowing down the cutting process, the machine needs to act accordingly,” Rankenhohn explains. “If you’re using cutting fluids and there’s no one there, the machine needs to know when it’s running out of fluids by monitoring levels and telling someone so action can be taken.” Kasto’s machines send out emails alerting workers on-call that they need to either replenish the cutting fluid or change the blade because it’s dull. 

The increased blade life means less machine downtime and loss of valuable production time. Each time blades are changed, workers inspect the guides, chip wheels and interior of the machine. “They don’t just take a blade out and put one on,” Sile says. “It saves us about 20 to 25 minutes with each blade change, and that downtime adds up.”

“We run five days a week, three shifts per day, cutting different materials for customers,” Sloan says. “With the addition of these new saws, we do have increased workload demands from our customers. 

“We’ve been able to push through our orders. We went from four saws on our floor down to two saws and we’re putting more work on those two compared to four,” he continues. “We can actually grow and we can easily keep up with demand.” MM

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