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Wednesday | 13 April, 2016 | 12:11 pm

Hands off

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Peddinghaus' nesting software provides for common cut lines and chain cutting thermal technology.

Pry bars fall to the wayside as better design means less handling and wasted material

April 2016 - High rises, ballparks, hospitals, industrial facilities—as technology advances so, too, do the ways manufacturers outfit our lives. Achieving the needed designs of architects and engineers requires the latest technology. Taking advantage of every part of a plate used to cut out those parts used to be a manual process. Workers would take the plate, burn it on the table or shear-cut it, move the cut material over to a Plate Duplicator, and finally, punch the parts through.

“That’s a lot of handling—too much,” says Doug Fiorilli, vice president of plant operations at Steel Service in Jackson, Mississippi. Looking to keep its material handling chores to a minimum, Steel Service turned to Peddinghaus Corp. for a Flat Punch Burn (FPB) machine. The plasma punch includes a nesting program that automatically detects how many parts can be cut from it with minimal waste. 

The Peddinghaus Plate Processing FPB series machines and the High Speed Flat Punch Burn (HSFDB) series machines used at Steel Service have a basic “pass-through” design. Peddinghaus machines can carbide drill, tap, countersink, slot mill holes, surface-mill, contour bevel, and scribe or hard-stamp marks on plate.

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The pass-through design of  Peddinghaus systems enables users to process stock plates up to 96 inches wide by 240 inches long.

“Our machines can process plate from 1⁄4-inch up to 4 inches thick and are quick and accurate,” says Lyle Menke, chief spiritual officer (CSO) at Peddinghaus, describing the pass-through design in which 20-foot-long by 96-inch-wide stock can be loaded, processed and unloaded in one single process. Steel Service purchased a second FPB model from Peddinghaus after uncovering the efficiency of the first.

“Fiorilli can buy, say, a 20-foot-long plate from a steel mill or service center, feed it through the machine and use our nesting software where he can nest holes, mark parts and then run plate through the plasma thermal cutter,” Menke says. “Parts are cut and discharged from the table and conveyor where they are emptied and taken out of the machine.” 

Scrap is minimized, which cuts down on labor, a significant savings when running particularly thick plate.

Without the design Peddinghaus created, operators with that same 20-foot-plate would have to place it on top of a burn table and the torch would go over top of it with a bridge gantry and, after cutting, the parts would have to be removed manually. A worker may use a pry bar or similar tool to remove each part from the plate. 

“That kind of process is laborious and difficult, so our pass-through system works well,” Menke says. “It not only saves on scrap, it’s just an overall safer, more efficient process.”

Tolerances

Steel Service also purchased a HSFDB machine that can process plate, using a plasma, torch, high-speed drill and milling tool capable of cutting up to 3-inch-thick plate. “On our service center side, we can sell a process,” Fiorilli says. “Before we had to send material off-site to a machine shop and now we can perform precision drilling and cutting here.”

The high-definition plasma cutting head used on Peddinghaus equipment allows Steel Service to achieve high-tolerance parts the company didn’t produce previously. If cutting parts for fork lifts, for example, those parts must meet specific standard and repeatable measurements. Variation is not an option.

The main challenge included “oddball shapes we couldn’t nest and run down the drill-line,” Fiorilli says. “Non-rectangular shapes, connection plates—we work with material that often doesn’t have a square edge. It’s hard to drill on the drill line because it’s beyond its capabilities, or we would end up wasting too much plate and would have to drill the holes by hand.”

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Smart spindle electronic technology allows operators to carbide drill, tap, counter-sink, scribe part numbers and mill slotted holes.

Now, he continues, “we can nest the plate and the machine drills each hole using high-speed motors. There’s no comparison between methods.”

Working with non-rectangular shapes is the norm for many of Peddinghaus’ customers. “Our machine can drill, cut and tap holes as well as scribe part numbers on each part before it’s cut out of the plate,” says Ken Coulter, vice president engineering at Peddinghaus. “That allows us to put a series of holes that are a set distance apart and then go around and cut the finished part,” instead of cutting out on a burn table, and then moving and fixturing material on a separate machine.

Tweaking toward perfection

The software on Peddinghaus’ plate processing machines allows for thermal cutting via a common cut line and chain cutting, minimizing scrap. 

“We’re constantly tweaking how those features work and that is what separates us from competitors,” Menke says. Instead of pushing devices, Peddinghaus uses a roller design with a roller feed that propels the plate through the system, allowing for maximum use of the plate.

The HSFDB model “doesn’t just make a hole by drilling,” Menke says. “It can tap, counter sink, scribe, slot mill—slotted holes and surface milling are possible functions, a multifunctional result.” 

Full stock plates can be easily processed and fed through the machine. “The thermal torch (plasma or oxyfuel) can cut plate at any shape or length and drops everything into a hopper and onto an exit conveyor or discharge unit, and no additional handling is needed.” 

Peddinghaus also supplies angle master machines for Steel Service’s fabrication and processing needs. 

“Based on the markets we are in today, we are dealing with thicker angles,” Fiorilli says. “These thicker angles need machines that can handle not only the thickness, but process it at a fast speed. The [other] machines out there [can’t handle both].”

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Peddinghaus plate processors use a small footprint with infeed loading conveyors often located outdoors with the stock plate passed through a wall opening.

Higher tensile strength and harder angle iron steel from punching and shearing has led Peddinghaus to increase the capacity of hydraulic tonnage of cylinders for punching and shearing, says Menke. 

For a customer involved in heavy-gauge metal processing, making a variety of different parts and thicknesses is essential. A single Peddinghaus machine is able to process a sheet to plate, says Coulter. “That’s unlike a burn table where the customer would need a crane to move material,” he says. “If you take three to four parts out of a sheet, it’s very inefficient to do on a table. The conveyor helps cut down on material handling.”

Workers no longer need to maneuver heavy plate with a forklift or have it suspended on a crane, “a gingerly held process,” says Menke. Pre-positioning the punch or shear allows the Peddinghaus to move much faster through angle iron or plate.

Features that make the gamut of plate process and handling faster—without sacrificing accuracy—is where one fabricator stands out from the pack, says Fiorilli.

“Everyone fabricates the same way essentially,” he says. “The only way you’re going to make money in this business is to tweak how you handle and process material. The goal is to increase throughput and minimize handling.”  MM

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