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Coil Processing
Friday | 09 December, 2016 | 11:34 am

Level-headed

By Corinna Petry

Above: Alliance’s new line has a 40-foot stretcher and can process 0.375-inch by 72-inch wide coils weighing up to 90,000 pounds.

Chicago-area service center uses brain, then flexes muscles with heavier gauge equipment

December 2016 - The great thing about tweaking what you’ve got is, when done right, it brings you new business and you can squirrel away some cash for the next big thing. That time is now for Alliance Steel LLC which, in November, started up a new Red Bud Industries cut-to-length/stretcher-leveler line.

The line handles material up to 3⁄8 inch thick by 72 inches wide from master coils weighing up to 45 tons.

Dean Linders, vice president of marketing and sales for Red Bud, says he’s known the Gross family, which owns Alliance Steel, for a few years. “They were slitting people and for a long time did not cut to length.” 

When President and CEO Andy Gross told Linders he wanted to perform blanking services, but wanted to try it on used equipment, Linders found Alliance an older Red Bud multi-blanking line. “He bought and installed that machine and ran it for a number of years.”

Once the blanking business took off, Alliance wanted to improve the line. “First, we quoted upgrades to the existing line. The head, stacker and feed system could all be replaced,” says Linders. Gross then determined Alliance had enough business to consider a new line.

“There are more stretcher-levelers being bought and installed all over the country” than ever before, Linders notes. “Those who don’t have one see it as the price of admission to that market. So we talked about a stretcher-leveler, too, and who do you want to bump heads with?”—that is, competing processors.

MM 1216 coil image1

After being stretched, material is very flat and will stay flat after subsequent processing such as laser cutting.

Once Alliance determined its direction, the biggest question was capacity needs. Meanwhile, however, the time was ripe to spruce up the blanking line. “We built a new feeder to breathe life into the old machine,” says Linders. “The new feed is so much faster than the piece that it retired, it has almost run him out of work so Alliance has to go out and get more orders.” 

Regarding the cut-to-length/stretcher leveler, the company initially considered a unit that would manage material up to 5⁄16 inch thick. Red Bud happened to have one in inventory because the customer that had it built could not take delivery. 

“We told Andy it was available but he wanted to go 3⁄8 inch so we reworked the line and added some new components so they could run the thicker material,” Linders says.

The need for speed

Drew Gross, Andy’s son and Alliance Steel’s director of marketing and business development, says both line speed and capabilities are very important. “Depending on the gauge mix, we are expecting to process between 10,000 and 15,000 tons of steel per month. It should be one of the fastest stretchers in the country,” with a cycle time of under 8 seconds.

As manufacturing methods have advanced, says Gross, “hard tooling has become an antiquated way of processing steel. Many manufacturers are moving to laser cutting their parts. Knowing that we will have to offer stress-relieved, laser-flat sheet to service the growing laser [processing] industry, our new line seemed like a necessary investment.”

He, too, mentioned the existing multi-blanking line and its upgrades. “Red Bud helped us get rocking and rolling in the sheet and blanking business. It has a Herr-Voss leveler and a new grip feed. 

“The stretcher-leveler will complement that line,” as well as the existing slitters Alliance operates, he continues. “It’s a nice addition to our core business as we continue to work toward servicing the laser market. 

“CO2, fiber—now everyone and their brother is operating a laser-cutting operation. The incoming material must be dead flat and stress relieved. And, with anything over 14 gauge, you really have to make sure you are eliminating the stress in that material,” Drew Gross says.

Alliance serves customers, primarily fabricators and OEMs, throughout the Midwest, Mid-South, Southeast and the Great Plains. 

Alliance, says Gross, participates in spot business and large contract volume on its slitting lines. “We feel there are stretcher-leveled sheet tons that can contribute to our spot and contract business.” Planning for the future, “we have a lot of capacity on the line.”

MM 1216 coil image2

Red Bud support technician Jeff Herrell puts the new line at Alliance Steel through its paces. Intuitive operator interface and advanced automation allow the system to be run by a single operator.

Laser on the radar

The applications for Alliance Steel’s flat sheet are diverse. “That’s what is beautiful about laser: You can simply plug in a file and the laser is making parts,” Gross says. “We serve manufacturers of trailers and tanks, lawn and garden equipment, automotive, heavy machinery, transportation, agricultural machinery and more. There are endless applications. Some of the largest OEMs in the country are stepping away from hard tooling and investing in lasers and we need to be able to support that.”

Customers, he says, “are thrilled we are doing this. There is a very positive response to our investment. We will offer stress-relieved material free of coil set and all wave so they don’t have to worry about metal warping or reacting and knocking off the tip of the laser—a possible $25,000 problem.”

Gross says this investment boosts the business possibilities for Alliance Steel. “I expect our new capacity to fill up. The potential for growth is all over our radar.” 

He credits Red Bud with “making the best stretcher in the business. Their technology is superior to the competition. We have a lot of confidence in the machinery we are buying.”

Line components

The new line is equipped with a coil stage and load system so Alliance can load multiple coils; and a coil prep area to cut bands and have coil prepped before it is needed. The line’s uncoiler can manage 90,000 pounds. Beyond that, the line features a peeler-breaker system for threading; entry crop shear to crop the heads; two roller levelers from Bradbury, each with e-drives; and an inspection table. It includes a stretcher with a 40-foot-long bed, a high speed shear, a 20-foot-long stacker, and a stack table that holds 20,000 pounds, says Linders. Another feature that stands apart is the feed system. “While we’re known for our grip feed systems, this is a mill-duty type line that actually has a high-speed roll feed system on it,” he says. 

Alliance Steel will bring on more employees to work the new processing tons, Gross says. “We are committed to offer everything manufacturers need in coil processing: slitting, shearing, temper passing, stretcher leveling and multi-blanking. We believe in bringing value to our customers by expanding our capabilities; The goal is always to make Alliance a better partner to work with.” MM

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