BTM Saws’ Ian Tatham addresses changes to a process that remains true to its time-tested design and development
Modern Metals: What challenges to meeting customer demands are band saw manufacturers facing today?
Ian Tatham: The biggest challenge that saw manufacturers face is making the sawing process as efficient as the rest of the machine tools in a factory. For 20 years running, the development of sawing technology has remained basically the same for the bulk of the industry. By contrast, makers of machining centers constantly develop their processes, whether that’s physically redesigning the machine or revamping the controller. In the saw world, you can go to a major trade show and buy a machine that was designed and developed 30 years ago. And it’s basically identical. Some manufacturers alter controls a little bit here and there, but by and large it’s the same technology. German and Japanese companies have developed some new technology, but they’re very expensive and they involve lots of parts and service. At BTM, however, we’re developing cost-saving technologies to meet the immediate demands of manufacturers.
MM: Are there areas in which innovative technology can make a big impact on the bottom line?
IT: By applying various technological advances, it is possible to make saws cut faster with better blade life and a smoother finish. There are two things to consider. One—and we’re probably the only saw manufacturer in the world that does this—we stress relieve all of our components. As metal moves through the fabrication process, stress is added. With each step, there’s more stress—and the result at cutting is a very loud and somewhat inefficient process that directly affects both cut time and blade life. We put our components in a heat oven and take all the stress out of them. That way, the component will absorb cutting vibration. The result is a smoother machine—equipment that works more quietly—and that directly extends blade life. Any vibration you can reduce at the cutting tool and on the teeth of the blade is going to be a benefit both in faster cuts and longer blade life.
Two––what people often don’t understand about sawing is you pay X amount for the machine—upward of $20,000, $50,000, $100,000—and you’re going to invest an additional amount of money in blades. And if you can get blades to last an extra day, an extra shift, an extra cut, it makes a huge difference over time. Our control is the most advanced in the world and increases machine efficiency by 30 percent.
MM: Does innovation, used in conjunction with band saws, open additional markets to your industry?
IT: The main benefit for our customers is in having a versatile machine. Essentially, in the saw world there are two basic groups—straight-cut equipment typically works with carbon steel and a lot of alloy steel. Service centers are looking for a different machine than the guys that are doing miter cutting. We have machines that are able to perform both kinds of cuts extremely well. It gives versatility in the tool room or the machine shop, but also, with more efficient band sawing, we can displace a lot of cold saws. Cold saws are very expensive. A lot of people used them to cut beams back in the day and still do. They’re not very efficient because the machine is expensive, the blades themselves are extremely expensive, and there’s a high cost to set up and to maintain. Whereas the band saw blade is a lot less expensive and much easier to operate. We also have machines that cut floor grating. It used to be that the only way you could cut floor grating was with a torch, which can be messy; or abrasive saws—friction saws—that create a very dirty environment. We make a band saw that will cut twice as fast with a very smooth surface finish and runs extremely quietly. That’s going to revolutionize the quality of floor grating. MM