Monday | 25 January, 2016 | 2:54 pm

Finding a format

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Vista Metals upgraded to a Friggi saw when the equipment it used couldn't handle capacity and capability issues.

Shops figure out how to avoid a one-size-fits-all technology

January 2016 - Specialty shops capable of handling particularly large sizes do what they do because their equipment is made to handle jobs that can’t be processed easily by their competition. 

Vista Metals Corp. in Fontana, California, produces aluminum billets up to 42 inches in diameter and rectangular slabs up to 42 inches thick. “With those large formats, we needed a saw that could handle it,” says Charles Shepherd, Vista’s plant manager. “Our existing equipment couldn’t and we were facing both capacity and capability issues. To open ourselves up to new markets, we needed something bigger.”

Vista Metals turned to Friggi America with its concerns and found it easy to talk with President Ben Fuschino about advancements in the field and what would work best. Shepherd says that once his company determined its needs, Fuschino visited Vista’s plant multiple times to work out the details.

“He works with our engineers as well, making it easy to get or expedite parts when needed.”

Between pricing, lead time and general communication, Vista Metals was satisfied with the whole package. “Any issues that popped up as we worked on getting the saw up and running were addressed quickly and successfully—they really back their product.” 

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Friggi became Progressive Alloy's saw of choice because of its range and quick delivery.

Vista’s newest Friggi saw provides a longer stroke, allowing the shop to offer extended material lengths. The additional capacity has allowed the company to pare down lead times. An existing saw in the plant performed similar tasks, Shepherd says, “but this latest version tripled our original capacity while adding far more capabilities.” Vista Metals runs a Friggi 2MF TS HS, a high-speed aluminum machine cutting in both horizontal and vertical directions and the Friggi 2MF AS HS, dedicated horizontal cutting of aluminum.

Timely solution

When potential clients come to Friggi with specific parameters and materials they need to cut, Friggi’s wide range of standard machines fit the bill. In situations with a specialized application, Friggi works with the customer to design loading, unloading and specialized marking and printing, weigh stations, outfeed storage, among other aspects, says Fuschino. Once the specifications and client expectations are set, a rough plan is worked through with engineers at the factory to design the machine. The entire process takes anywhere from a couple of months to a year.

With service centers in Las Vegas and Hartsville, South Carolina, Progressive Alloy Steels Unlimited processes hard metals for the aerospace, power generation, oil patch and other niche industries. When it sought to expand its capacity, it was aware of “the major players in the marketplace” for industrial saws but had not heard the name Friggi, says Progressive Alloy President Bruce Olson. “We needed a plate saw in a short amount of time. A company we worked with introduced us to Friggi.” The pairing left Progressive Alloy “incredibly happy,” and the company has since purchased three more. Progressive Alloy owns four Friggi plate saws, cutting primarily precipitation hardening grades of plate 15-5, 13-8 and 17-4, with capacity ranging from 48-inch to 24-foot lengths and up to 18 inches thick. 

Timing sealed the deal for Progressive Alloy. “We were faced with six- to nine-month delivery estimates with another saw manufacturer but Friggi had the piece of equipment we wanted ready to go,” Olson says. 

Olson says Friggi keeps feelers out and contacts Progressive Alloy if a potential opportunity comes up. Progressive Alloy was able to buy its latest saw because one of Friggi’s customers had lost work that could be performed only with a more advanced saw, and understood Progressive Alloy was thinking about upgrading. “So we went to look at it and bought it. So not only will they sell you a saw but they’ll help you resell it, too,” says Olson.

Friggi also found a company to buy the saw Progressive Alloy wanted to replace. “It wasn’t their brand but they helped make it easy for us to transition to a Friggi saw, and that other company gained by using a saw that wasn’t working for our specific needs,” Olson says. “That’s the stuff you don’t find in a brochure and it’s stuck with us.”

Design construction for work height was an important consideration for Progressive Alloy because they no longer need to get on top of the saw to set it up. “The physical work height from the floor is a different design and works better for us,” Olson says, adding that being able to set up a cut from the floor creates a much safer environment. The company runs the VAS L automatic plate saw, FG semi-automatic small plate saw and VAS OSF large automatic plate saw with rotating guides for stripping and ripping plate.

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Active Industrial Solutions owns a VAS H vertical block saw, allowing the company to significantly reduce  hours devoted to roughing.

Hands-off upgrade

“Our Friggi saw is probably the most profitable machine tool in our company,” says Gary Hottot, vice president of sales and marketing at Active Industrial Solutions, Windsor, Ontario. “We run our saws about 20 hours a day, six days a week.” Active Industrial Solutions makes molds, dies and components for automotive, consumer products, aerospace industries, and oil and gas applications. It owns a VAS H vertical block saw, 3,000 mm by 1,000 mm. “The Friggi has helped us gain a competitive edge but the key thing the machine does is significantly reduce our roughing hours,” Hottot says, and the time spent roughing plate is down 50 percent. 

One of its activities is manufacturing bumper molds. The cavity of each bumper mold needs a large center portion of the block removed. “We can remove that large piece of steel with the saw without using any of our machine tools,” Hottot says. “That reduces our carbide consumables need and gives us better capacity overall.” The removed steel can be used for small molds and mold components.

The saw is automatic and does not require an operator to stand over it while it cuts. “We have four saws in our sawing cell and one person handles all of them,” Hottot says. “That’s a big safety improvement because it’s a high-risk place, among all those saws. If someone makes a mistake, we end up with a block of scrap so we have to make sure anyone running it is trained well.”

Friggi offers specialty machines, including a gantry machine that can make up to nine cuts on one set up without having to physically handle or move the material, says Fuschino. It can cut vertically, a traditional band saw cut, horizontally, as well as angles. The new machine is also capable of radius cuts and some shapes.  

At Fabtech in November 2015, Friggi debuted its ONL 850 HS high-speed carbide machine that uses a thin kerf (0.042-inch) and 3-inch blade. It cut Ellwood forge die steel at a consistent rate of 60 square inches per minute. “This means kerf loss is reduced by over 45 percent and more production is going out the door and less going to chips,” Fuschino says, adding this is particularly helpful when cutting expensive material.

The team maxed out at 85 square inches per minute, “to see how fast the machine could really cut,” he recalls. “Even at that rate, the machine was barely working and still made no noise.”

Friggi approaches each challenge as if it is not building a saw but instead, a machine tool. “The more that can be done on a band saw, the more productive a shop becomes because it can use its large milling machines to do fine finish work rather than just create chips,” says Fuschino. MM

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