Coil Processing
Monday | 26 October, 2015 | 10:56 am

Pride in results

By Corinna Petry

Above: Magic Coil Products’ new Red Bud multi-blanking line handles coils up to 25 tons, widths up to 72 inches and material thicknesses up to 0.14 inches.

Distributor takes on tolling opportunities with multi-blanking line

October 2015 - With economic and material selling cycles less predictable than ever, small and midsize companies sometimes become risk averse, especially when investing hard-earned dollars without knowing the ultimate outcome of that capital project.

Other times, if it listens intently, customers can persuade a company that the risk will pay off. Magic Coil Products LLC, Butler, Indiana, installed a Red Bud Industries Precision Multi-Blanking Line after customers repeatedly told their sales team that they would rather have their material blanked in one location than send it to a third vendor.

President Tom Cullen, who co-founded Magic Coil in 2002, had many years of previous metals experience as a trader and distributor. Located on the campus of Steel Dynamics Inc., the company sources 80 percent of the sheet it sells and 90 percent of the sheet it processes for others from SDI. 

Magic Coil’s 2014 sales were $112 million. Volumes since the Great Recession have grown 60 percent to 115,000 tons last year and Cullen expects to move 130,000 tons in 2015.

“Our salespeople wanted a multi-blanking line for years. We were encouraged by existing customers that didn’t want to rely on third parties for that level of processing but we are cautious about spending money,” he says.

The company first sought out a used line but could not “find anything viable,” so it committed $3 million to install the Red Bud line with all the ancillary equipment and put up a building addition to house it. “This will open opportunities for us to expand our business because, if you go to customers and say, ‘We don’t have a line but want your business,’ they will say, ‘Come back to us when you have a line,’” says Cullen.

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The line started up in April 2015, followed by trials in May and June. “The trial response was extremely positive.” Already, the line has broken up a three-month backlog of processing inventory that Magic Coil’s customers were sitting on, he notes.

Naturally, manifesting a toll processing division takes time but the sales team is bringing in new work. Fifty percent of the toll processing customer base is distribution, 35 percent is OEMs and 15 percent is mills, according to Cullen. 

The target markets for sheet blanks are agricultural equipment, HVAC, truck bodies and electrical enclosures. “It puts us into a different customer base; the majority of slitting customers are prepaint for garage doors, toll processing for tubing, for service centers and their customers’ applications,” he says.

Last look

Both slitting and blanking are “incredibly competitive and I don’t see any letup,” Cullen acknowledges. “There’s a gazillion slitters out there. But you must out-service [the rest]. We try to be the best so customers will give us a last look.”

Cullen hopes to fill the Red Bud line and run it on two shifts “as soon as possible. We are encouraged—the material runs fine and we had no rejections or problems, but right now, it is hard to grow quickly with so much inventory in the supply chain.” By October, he hopes customers would “come off the sidelines and start buying steel again.” 

2002 - Company is founded
2003 - Built an 86,000-square-foot service center; installed a 60-inch-wide slitter
2004 - Installed a 72-inch-wide slitter; expanded the plant to 126,000 square feet
2006 - Installed packaging line
2007 - Implemented barcode scanning system
2013 - Processed 1 millionth ton
2015 - Installed 72-inch-wide multi-blanking line

Line specs

Dean Linders, vice president of marketing and sales for Red Bud Industries, Red Bud, Illinois, says he consulted with Magic Coil when the company’s leaders realized “they needed to make a product they couldn’t do.” After they weren’t able to locate a used line that could meet tight tolerance requirements, they called Red Bud back in.

The line accepts 10-gauge material (0.140- to 0.020-inch) by 72 inches wide in coils up to 25 tons. The line is designed to blank cold rolled, galvanized and prepainted sheets at a maximum speed of 275 fpm. 

A Multi-Blanking Line cuts sheet to length but also has a slitting head to first slit material lengthwise and then cut individual strips to specified lengths. “This reduces labor costs,” says Linders, because sheet processors used to have to cut coils into desired sheet length, then hand shear those lengths into smaller parts. “Multi-blanking does both.” 

At the entry end of the line, coils are loaded onto an uncoiler, the bands removed, and then a peeler/breaker and entry pinch rolls are used to thread the coil’s leading edge into the cropping shear. The crop shear is then used to cut off the leading edge of the coil. In addition, when running only a portion of a coil, the crop shear is used to split the strip so the balance can be returned to inventory. To make the process more efficient, the line is programmable, that is, operators enter the requirement for, say, 100 parts. The line knows how long the parts are supposed to be, calculates the amount of material between the crop shear and prime shear and stops the strip so it can be cut at the appropriate length. “Then, you can process the remainder of the strip that is still in the line while the partial coil is taken off the line. You don’t have to back all the excess material out of the line,” Linders explains.

After being uncoiled, the material enters a corrective leveler to correct shape imperfections. An inspection area precedes the looping pit. It’s a table about 12 feet long that pops up to give operators a visual reference as to whether the material is flat, then drops out of the way when the line continues feeding.

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Safety standards

Linders says a key concern for Magic Coil was safety. “There are machine guards for each individual piece of the machine: fencing, light curtains, barrier gates. In the inspection area, you need to see the material but it’s hard to see through barrier gates. So we put in a light curtain system. It allows operators to see the material in a way that’s intuitive to the operator’s way of running the machine. If they see an imperfection, they just move their hand and the machine goes into creep mode, 3 to 4 feet per minute.” The flaw can be noted and line speed can return to 275 fpm with the push of a button.

Red Bud designers, says Linders, take into account the real-life way production line personnel work. “If we see actions taken that we deem unsafe, we try to find out why operators do that and then redesign the machine to perform these functions safely.”

Other features of the line include a programmable slitting head; a close-tolerance grip feed measuring system with automatic camber control; single-point blade gap adjustment on the shear—the gap can be adjusted in a mere 15 seconds, and a combination drop stacker/strip stacker with automatic strip divider positioning.

The Red Bud line can cut a nearly infinite variety of blank sizes, says Linders. Blanks coming out of the machine are neatly stacked onto pallets and can be removed with a push of a button. New empty pallets are automatically loaded. The unit also includes a part diverter that allows scrap or rejected parts to be automatically conveyed to a bin or separate table. “You don’t have to stop the line or manually remove unwanted material,” he notes.

As for Cullen, he believes in a promising future for Magic Coil. “We survived 2008 - 2009 quite well. We have pride in our results. But one thing we had not accomplished with slitting was getting enough toll processing work. Now, we hope to get enough opportunities to perform toll processing on our Multi-Blanking Line. 

“We treat our tolling customers with the same attention and dedication as we do with distribution customers—all of them expect a job that is second to none.” MM

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