Coil Processing
Wednesday | 13 April, 2016 | 10:51 am

Open dialogue

By Lauren Duensing

Above: Mubea's Kentucky slitting line has run since 2013, processing automotive material.

FIMI fits its cutting talents to metal processor’s complex and evolving ability to deliver high-quality automotive material

April 2016 - A finely tuned machine setup that fits a user’s specific requirements will provide fine-tuned results. Attention to detail is especially important when serving the automotive industry. 

Mubea, headquartered in Germany, has a Florence, Kentucky, plant that produces tailor-rolled blanks and parts made from cold-rolled spring steel to OEMs and automotive Tier 1 suppliers. In the mid-2000s, the company needed a slitting line for the TRB facilities in Germany and began looking for a vendor. 

“We received a recommendation from another German cold-rolling company,” says Alexander Eick, plant manager, Tailor Rolled Blanks North America (TRB). “We took FIMI into consideration because the company was based in Europe and would be able to supply the type of slitting line we were looking for.”

FIMI started as a small workshop run by Emilio Rovelli and his sons, Vittorio and Pompeo Rovelli, grew up in it. Their company, Officine Meccaniche Rovelli, changed its name to FIMI (Fabbrica Impianti Macchine Industrial) in 1963 when they switched from producing textile-industry machines to coil processing equipment.

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FIMI's modular approach allows customers to design lines that meet their needs.

“Throughout the years, FIMI gained experience and references, which were capitalized in its own R&D, a larger design department and a workshop dedicated to the production of high-quality machines,” says Giorgio Viscardi, sales manager for FIMI.

FIMI produces cut-to-length lines; slitting lines; packaging lines for slit coils; recoiling, edge trimming and inspection lines; and develops automation for coil processing lines. FIMI equipment can handle stainless steel, carbon steel, painted steel, tin plate, electrical steel, automotive steel, high-strength steel, aluminum, and copper and brass. 

Tailored technology

The FIMI slitting line installed at Mubea's TRB facility in Germany performed well, and when the need arose, the company decided to install a second line at the TRB facility in Florence, Kentucky. “The TRB Florence plant produces a product range comparable to the TRB Attendorn (Germany) plant—the Tailor Rolled Blanks and cold-rolled spring steel,” Eick says. 

From single machines to complex cutting lines, FIMI engineers specialize in figuring out the best plan of attack to get material shaped and ready for production. “During the first slitting line project, we really liked that FIMI was able to customize a machine to our needs with tried-and-true solutions,” Eick says. 

Being able to put together a line from modular pieces is an advantage for customers. “You can tell the engineers what kind of abilities the line needs to have or what kinds of programs you want to slit on the equipment, and FIMI can provide you a few solutions that you then can combine into a modular line,” he says.

FIMI has spent years researching and developing coil processing equipment and in doing so, collaborates with customers, quizzing them about actual material data and production output. With this type of customization, it’s “essential to gain access into the customer’s projects,” Viscardi says. “We let the customer see our designs and choose the ones that match their material and desired production output,” he notes. “All FIMI automatic functions are available and can spark new ideas on how to rearrange working processes.

“In a tailor-made project, an open, frequent dialogue between customer and supplier is essential,” he continues. “With the communication technology available nowadays, meeting by conference call is an easy task.”

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To maximize productivity, the line has an offline tooling setup, a rapid changeover system and offline banding capability.

Rapid changeover

Mubea runs various types of material through the slitter. The U.S. operation primarily processes cold-rolled spring steel and steel strips for Tailor Rolled Blanks. 

The line has offline tooling setup, a rapid changeover system for the uncoiler and the upcoiler mandrel and offline banding capability. Operators can transition very easily from job to job and prepare most of the necessary activities you need to perform for changeover parallel to the machine running, Eick says. “This leads to a very short changeover time of about 20 minutes from slitting program to slitting program, including change of knife set and separator shafts.”

During the slitting process, any difference in thickness across the width of the coil introduces a strand length differential. This requires a looping pit for the different strand lengths. The slit mults or strands then enter into a felt press tensioning device to generate sufficient back tension of the slit coil on the recoiler. The tensioning system is mounted on a traversing base, which maintains a constant wrap angle of the slit material on the recoiler.

The operator-friendly FIMI line features the latest in HMI technology so the operator can quickly determine machine settings. In addition, safety fencing and guarding with electrical interconnects on gates are standard equipment. The guarding prevents an operator from accessing the equipment when the line is running at speed and does not interfere with normal line thread up or maintenance.

Mubea often is required to change the coil ID on the recoiler. To accommodate this need, FIMI incorporated a semi-automatic mandrel changeout system. This allows for the rapid replacement of mandrels, from 16 inches to 20 inches and back again, via a cassette-type system with a stand-alone carousel. The mandrels quickly unbolt, a cart comes in and extracts one mandrel and inserts the new ID mandrel. This is accomplished while the operator is threading up the next coil. This process takes mere minutes, which promotes maximum productivity of the line.

After processing, the slit strips are pushed away from the mandrel recoiler to feed the offline banding system. “You hand the mults over to the turnstile with the coil car, and then you can directly feed the beginning of the next strip into the machine, start slitting, and while the machine is running, you can take care of banding the preceding strip and packaging the coils,” Eick says. “The unit is designed to maximize machine running time.”

Serving customers

Mubea’s slitters are a great example, says Viscardi, of FIMI’s ability to listen to its customers and develop equipment that can handle tasks specific to their operations. The collaboration between the two companies resulted in a line that continually provides high-quality material to Mubea’s customers. 

“It’s a very durable and reliable design, which leads to a low amount of downtime and a consistent output of high-quality material,” Eick says. “So the material is ready in time and you can ship on time. We had this experience with the line in Germany and here [in the United States] it’s the same.”

High-quality material delivered on time is critical to Mubea’s customers. And, for FIMI, in addition to having a satisfied customer in Mubea, Viscardi says the knowledge gained in the process of making the company’s line will be reused in the future, helping put FIMI ahead of the next challenge. MM

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