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Plasma Technology
Monday | 22 December, 2014 | 2:58 pm

Urgent orders filled fast

By Lynn Stanley

Above: The Koike plasma system pierces 13⁄4-inch plate.

Service center expands cutting capability to support customer demand

December 2014 - Rush orders can create headaches, setting off a flurry of frantic activity from sales to production. American Alloy Steel’s Rome, New York, stocking center takes a different tack: It welcomes those urgent work requests. “It’s our specialty,” says AA Steel District Manager Frank Carzo. The Houston-based company’s Northeast division cuts and burns steel plate around the clock to meet critical delivery requirements for a wide range of heavy industries. 

AA Steel is no stranger to pushing the envelope when it comes to difficult challenges. It claims to be the first service center to stock pressure vessel quality (PVQ) carbon and alloy steel plate. The company has five stocking centers in the U.S. and Canada with offices in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America. Its varied customer base includes mining and aggregate equipment, shipbuilding, off-shore oil drilling and refining, and vessel repair.

The Northeast division’s ability to maintain its fast pace has fueled its growth. The Rome plant relocated in 2009 but outgrew the facility in just three years. “We made additions to both bays and are working on adding a third bay,” says Carzo. “In addition to more space, we needed to increase our cutting capability.”

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The division turned to Haun Welding Supply Inc. in nearby Syracuse, because it “wanted to go top shelf,” says Ken Egan, Rome plant manager. Haun provides welding and industrial supplies along with compressed and liquid gases for upstate New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania, and is a distributor for Koike Aronson Inc./Ransome. Koike manufactures metal cutting, welding and positioning equipment for the mining, energy and heavy industries.

Top drawer

“We wanted to lead on quality and service so we needed the best equipment to do that,” explains Egan. “Technical support was also important to us. Koike is just a couple hours away in Arcade, New York. We do a lot of work for the power generation market. If a plant shuts down, it’s essential we meet those delivery requirements. We wanted that same kind of backup in our equipment manufacturer.”

Koike’s patented 3-D LT plasma bevel head also caught AA Steel’s attention. “The bevel head gave us the ability to pull work in-house and eliminate the hand work involved with weld preps,” says Egan. “We increased our cutting capability. Previously we could only bevel cut straight lines—no circles or contours. In addition to bevel cutting a radius inside a specified diameter, we can bevel the top and bottom of a part at the same time.” 

The division installed a Koike 400 amp plasma system with a 3-D LT bevel head and a 13-foot-wide by 45-foot-long water table that can accommodate 12-foot wide plate or hold and process consecutive jobs. “Not many plants can handle 12-foot-wide plate,” Carzo says. “Most service centers don’t stock it. The table eliminates the smoke factor and fumes for the operator and eliminates a weld seam for the customer.”

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The Rome plant stocks a varied inventory so customers don’t have to wait. Stock patterns include 8-foot, 10-foot and 12-foot-wide carbon and chrome-molybdenum flat steel plate in 20-, 30- and 40-foot lengths. Thicknesses range from 3⁄16 to 12 inches. “Our other plasma couldn’t hold the necessary tolerances,” says Carzo. “The Koike plasma system was able to cut shaped parts with tighter tolerances and less cleanup.”

The production advantages and ease of use prompted the division to replace older plasma/oxy-fuel equipment. “They were designed with a closed system that was challenging to deal with,” Carzo explains. “Parts were hard to get and quite expensive.”

The division installed a Koike Mastergraph Extreme 400 amp plasma system with oxy-fuel in 2013. It added two more Mastergraph Extremes with oxy-fuel in 2014. “All three machines use the same CNC controller and share a commonality of parts that are easily available,” says Tim Joslin, cutting machine product manager for Koike. 

Koike custom-designed the systems and the machines were built to accommodate the division’s material thickness specifications. Koike also provided custom widths to fit the new machines to the old lines’ existing footprints. “We have the ability to manufacture and design machines from a 5-foot to 30-foot cutting width and a cutting length up to 300 feet,” Joslin says.

Fast and clean 

AA Steel’s Northeast division processes more than 5,000 orders a year and with its new equipment, additional work has come through the door. “We have gotten many jobs where the accuracy and cleanup we can provide have helped us secure the work,” says Carzo. “Cutting smaller parts can be very time consuming. The faster we can cut and clean to customers’ requirements yet keep costs down, the better.”

With Mastergraph Extreme’s ability to provide tighter tolerances, customers no longer need to perform certain secondary operations. “If we can cut to a customer’s specified tolerance, they don’t have to machine the part down,” Carzo explains. “It’s a value-add to be able to give them a finished part.”

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The Koike plasma cutter is also equipped with Hypertherm TrueHole technology, which again saves customers extra steps drilling holes before being able to push the material into their production lines. “Koike’s higher acceleration and accuracy supports TrueHole and allows us to give customers bolt hole quality plasma cutting,” Egan explains. “It’s a time saver for them because they don’t have to drill and punch holes prior to assembly. Regardless of plate thickness we can cut a minimum 1:1 ratio hole. In terms of how large a hole we can cut, there is no limit.”

Double time

Customers aren’t the only ones saving time. The Mastergraph Extreme systems with the plasma and oxy-fuel configuration help the Northeast division march through its production jobs double time. 

Koike custom-designed the machines with a specialized heat shield and equipped them with multiple oxy-fuel torches. “If you can burn six oxy-fuel torches at a time instead of one, you’re cutting six times faster,” Egan says. A 11⁄4-inch-thick heat shield ensures the machine doesn’t buckle. In addition, sensors monitor temperature, initiating air systems to keep heat away from the machine. A rear shelf cover protects components from harsh cutting environments.

For AA Steel, the Koike equipment gives it the ability to perform “really heavy cutting with multiple torches,” Egan notes.

The most recent Mastergraph purchase is equipped with six oxy-fuel torches.

“Twenty to 25 percent of our work is plasma cut,” says Carzo. “The Mastergraphs give us the flexibility to move quickly and easily from plasma to oxy-fuel. We’re always striving to increase our capabilities because that, in turn, grows our customer base.”

Armed with Koike’s precise, high-powered, durable cutting technology and a fearless approach to demanding customer requirements, the Northeast division may find itself in need of yet more production space in the not too distant future. MM

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