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Coil Processing
Wednesday | 28 January, 2015 | 1:40 pm

All about the setup

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Running coil through the cluster leveler helps correct any imperfections, adding value to the material.

Fluid coil-to-coil changes make the difference

January 2015 - A company often invests much time and effort behind a major decision like purchasing a new piece of equipment. Many factors are considered but the bottom line is: Will it improve efficiency and help the business prosper? 

Once that initial purchase is made and the machinery is installed, it can be difficult to determine whether the right choice was made. Five years ago Alliance Steel decided it needed a way to process coils faster in order to stay competitive. And today, its leaders remain satisfied that they followed their vision.

The configuration of a slitter is very important. Using a three-head slitter, operators can set up and break down the heads simultaneously in preparation to run the next coils in queue. An operator makes a setup on one head, while the other operator breaks a previous one down. All this is done offline in a swift, well-rehearsed sequence of motions while a master coil is being processed. The throughput of the machine is dampened if accessibility is difficult so when Alliance Steel sought to accelerate processing, the service center required a compact solution with lightweight tooling, allowing operators to tool up the machine faster.

Alliance Steel’s customers range from automotive and transportation component manufacturers to those that produce displays and electronics. After much consideration, the distributor purchased a 72-inch-wide triple turret head slitter from Braner USA Inc. Since going live five years ago, Alliance has yet to experience a major breakdown of the machine. 

“We process thousands of pounds a month through here—this line has crazy good integrity to it,” says President and CEO Andy Gross. Bedford Park, Illinois-based Alliance Steel runs material ranging from 0.008 inch up to 1⁄4-inch-thick. 

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Products in inventory include hot-rolled pickled and oiled, cold-rolled, hot-dip galvanized, electrogalvanized, aluminized, prepainted and galvannealed.

“The biggest factor in the timing of our decision was that we needed to do change-ups faster,” Gross recalls. 

Alliance Steel worked to make its overall process more efficient and realized a big time savings. Instead of two-shift, 16-hour-days on its own old line, Gross found that his operators could eliminate an entire shift if run on the Braner—reducing production time down to eight hours. 

“My vice president of operations had told me that ‘no way,’ it wouldn’t work,” he recalls. “So we took all the business we were doing during that eight-hour shift at night and dropped it into the Braner turret head system and eight hours later, I proved him wrong.”

Rapid changeovers

Alliance Steel uses Braner’s 60,000-pound, 72-inch-wide triple turret head. Slitter heads are broken down and set up offline to allow for rapid tooling changeovers from one setup to the next. Braner’s separator tooling bars at the tension stand and overarm are set up offline and quickly interchanged as well. 

“By the time you get a coil off the recoiler, you can rotate the next setup in line,” explains Chuck Damore, president of Braner. The added benefit of using three turret heads is that while operators are breaking down one setup, they can set up the other head offline while a current job is running.

Threading through coils requires seamless transferring from uncoiler to recoiler. Moving coil at 1,000 feet per minute, “they can bang out coils,” Damore adds, noting Alliance Steel has run more than the typical amount of coils during an eight-hour shift. “Typically coil processors are running 16 to 18 coils a shift with lots of setup changes,” Damore says, but Alliance Steel has exceeded those expectations.

The machine’s compact design allows for easy threading. “The coil is rapidly threaded from the uncoiler, through the entry prepping station, into the slitter, through the tensioner and into the recoiler,” explains Damore. “It’s very fast because of the way Braner designed the machine.”

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Shape correction

A patented cluster leveler provides for in-line leveling and shape correction. “Operators enter the thickness and yield strength of the material into a touch screen controller and the adjustment is fully automatic. After the material is slit, a tension stand provides back tension for material entering the leveler,” Damore says. 

Among the machinery options and add-ons available in the marketplace, Alliance Steel’s leaders knew they wanted a cluster leveler. The component is useful because operators can flatten anything from 1⁄4-inch down to about 0.01-inch with one machine. “That is a very wide range but their technology allows us to get material extremely flat,” Gross says.

Service centers often work with mill material that arrives with center buckle, crossbow and other imperfections, Damore says. “Running the coil through the cluster leveler works it through a series of rolls that corrects those imperfections, thus adding value to the material.”

The Braner cluster leveler improves the shape and provides superior quality material to the recoiler. “The leveler enhances the winding quality because now, ultra-flat material is wound on the recoiler.”

Adding to the overall speed of the process is the automatic programmable down-ender during the packaging process. “The down-ending of coils goes from an exit turnstile into the banding station automatically,” Damore says. “You don’t need an operator.” 

Slit width sizes are entered into a touch screen controller. Once the operator hits “run,” the down-ender will automatically take each coil off the turnstile and send it down a conveyor where the coil is weighed and ID and OD seal-less straps are placed onto the coils.

“The down-ending cycle is fully automatic,” explains Damore. “The coil advancing into the strapping station is fully automatic. The operator will weigh and tag the coils and stack them onto skids.”

Gross says Braner’s system has proven itself for the long haul. “A setup used to take us anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes—that’s now down to two to three minutes for a setup change. It’s saved us not only an immense amount of time but manpower as well.” MM

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