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Coil Processing
Tuesday | 16 August, 2016 | 10:44 am

Niche needs

By Gretchen Salois

Above: The slitter controls the depth of material in both entry and exit pits and ensures that it enters the slitter head straight and flat.

New slitting line expands heavy-gauge coil capabilities

August 2016 - After opening up capacity on thinner gauge and smaller lines, Jim Wilber, operations manager at Mead Metals Inc. in St. Paul, Minnesota, realized processing heavier gauge material was taxing the one machine capable of doing the job. Any further expansion was just not possible with the resources he had at the time.

“The heaviest coil we work on is 0.134-inch and my slitter able to handle the job was always working overtime,” Wilber says.  Increasing volume on heavier gauge material required more sophisticated technology. As Mead Metals solicited quotes from other machinery builders, he says “most of the options were pretty similar. When we came across Burghardt & Schmidt, we found a company that really overbuilds its equipment—something really great to see.” 

The 8-inch shaft on the chosen machine exceeded competitors’ 6-inch shafts, says Wilber. 

“It’s a lot bigger and more solid—down to the bearings. The Burghardt & Schmidt machine was just so much more advanced and it was the huge upgrade we needed.” 

A coil and sheet processor of carbon and stainless steels and red metals, including beryllium copper alloys, Mead Metals runs jobs on material ranging from 1 pound to 10,000 pounds. 

“It’s quick turns here with three to four days on slitting jobs,” while competitors’ lead times may stretch from seven to 10 days. “We cover a lot of needs and can provide 2 pounds for someone working on a prototype, up to regular runs.” 

Mead Metals fulfills a market niche by providing customers that require smaller volume orders to get the material they need fast. End-users span industries from fish bait producers to electronics, automotive and aerospace. “We run the gamut.”

The specialty metals processor receives coils from the mill and slits, levels and edges sheet and conditions blanks for stampers, laser cutting shops “and whoever else needs flat-roll metal cut,” Wilber says. 

MM 0816 coil image1

The anti-flutter rolls and side-guides control the tension of the strip and the flatness as material is fed into the slitter head.

The right fit

Tasked with fitting a complete slitting line into a small footprint, Mike McGuire, U.S. sales manager for Burghardt & Schmidt, recalls that Mead Metals “wanted a slitting line and they were having trouble finding the right supplier. Mead Metals is different in the way they slit,” he says. “They work with small, finished coils weighing about 100 pounds or 500 pounds at a time. 

“They are also constantly changing the variety of metals they slit from copper and brass to all types of nonferrous metals. We worked closely with them to find out exactly how we could best suit their needs.”

Working with smaller finished coils lent itself better to accommodating a line within a small footprint. “The machine runs a tight line with no loop as well as with a loop but, because they are running smaller finished coils, they don’t need a big pit, allowing us to take the uncoiler and compress it through the recoiler to shorten the length of the line,” explains McGuire. In order to make the footprint narrower, Burghardt & Schmidt mounted the motors vertically rather than horizontally, as is the norm.

According to McGuire, three sides of Mead Metals’ line needed safety fencing. Burghardt & Schmidt brought the guarding all the way to the walls of the shop. “We tucked the scrap winders and everything else just off to the side of the machine and put in a specific type of guide to bring the scrap to the scrap winders,” he says.

The machinery builder is used to adhering to strict limits, like those required by Mead Metals, because each processing line is individually formulated. “All lines are customized and can have any degree of automation depending on the end user’s production needs, including the use of robots,” McGuire adds.

The ability to hold very strict tolerances is increasingly important and Burghardt & Schmidt’s shoulder runout does not exceed 0.00011 inch (0.003mm). Arbor parallelism and knife overlap is within 0.00039 inch (0.01mm). 

“This can also be controlled automatically during the slitting process to change if the material thickness changes in the master coil,” according to McGuire. The machine also slits down to 0.005-inch-thick material.

The key to cutting very thin material is not just in the speed adjustments, but in how the strip is controlled. “We control the line through tension,” McGuire says. “When you enter your material data and set a line speed, all tension is controlled from the uncoiler, through the head, to the recoiler. The recoiler is the master as the finished mults are the most important. 

“We control the depth of material in both entry and exit pits and also control that material so that it enters the slitter head absolutely straight and flat. This is done automatically,” according to McGuire. “The slitter is designed this way to produce the best slit edge so material does not rub together due to recoil tension changes.”

Investment in the future

The heavy-duty machine and advanced technology meant less hands-on lifting, a highlight for the coil processor. “Once you cut the band and hook it up, the coil feeds all the way through to the other end,” says Mead’s Wilber. “Other options just didn’t have that—it’s a lot more ergonomically friendly for our workers.”

The software component “is timed so the coil just flows through, which puts a lot less stress on material,” Wilber says. “It’s a big step ahead of where we were before.”

During installation, Wilber says Burghardt & Schmidt answered questions and “came through when we needed them. “There was nothing wrong with our old machine—it’s just that it was 17 years old and we needed better quality and tighter tolerances,” he notes. 

Since starting up the new slitter, Mead Metals has taken on an average of five new customers per week, representing “opportunities we wouldn’t have been able to handle otherwise,” adds Wilber. “And it’s not just local interest—we’ve got customers worldwide. We’ll ship 1 to 10,000 pounds of metal anywhere.”

Mead Metals’ customer service, coupled with its strategic capital investment, fosters positive word of mouth. “Our core values to be customer driven and always improving get through to our customers. They end up telling their friends and colleagues and we grow from that. We do what we can to stand out,” Wilber says.

Burghardt & Schmidt, whose reach is worldwide, entered the U.S. market in 2000 with stretcher bend leveling lines, levelers and traverse winding lines, and opened a sales office in 2005 in Wheaton, Illinois. 

With more than 20 years at Mead Metals, Wilber says the Burghardt & Schmidt line was worth the investment. Mead Metals President Sandy Crawford was convinced of its value. “[She’s] the source of the company’s positive corporate culture,” says Wilber. “It means when those on the shop floor believe a new capital investment  is necessary, it’s not overlooked. In fact, the group that made the purchase decision consisted of primarily production workers and end users,” Wilber says. “And they unanimously chose the Burghardt & Schmidt line.” MM

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