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Coil Processing
Wednesday | 13 September, 2017 | 12:28 pm

Full circle

By Gretchen Salois

Above: The Red Bud mandrel uncoiler retrieves the coil and elevates it to the proper height based on its diameter. Once loaded, the overarm automatically lowers.

The natural next step leads one scrap and recycling distributor to invest in stretcher/leveler technology

September 2017 - In 1886, German immigrant Joseph Thiebes arrived in Spokane, Washington, and started a business trading cattle hides and furs. During World War I, the company shifted focus and began collecting ferrous and nonferrous scrap. In the 1950s, it expanded into sales of new steel products.

Today, Pacific Steel and Recycling in Great Falls, Montana, spans nine Western states with more than 40 locations that collect scrap, sell it back to steel mills and purchase finished product from those same U.S. mills. “Everything comes full circle,” says Ed Joyce, vice president of operations.

During the last decade, Pacific Steel has invested in the recycling division. “We now have two shredders and four stationary shears to service the scrap market in the West,” Joyce says. “As we evaluated our capital needs for the growth in our steel distribution division, we came to realize that we had a great opportunity to grow that business unit with a coil level line.”

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Room for growth

The decision to install a coil processing line was the result of the natural evolution of the business, Joyce says. Pacific Steel chose Red Bud Industries to supply the coil processing line at its Syracuse, Utah, plant. “We looked around at other options and were impressed that everything Red Bud does is made and manufactured in the U.S.,” says Joyce. “We like to buy American.”

Being able to customize lengths and provide laser-flat material to its customers were the main drivers behind the capital investment. The new 100,000-square-foot Utah plant houses the Red Bud stretcher-leveler, which can level sheet and plate in coils from 14 gauge up to 5⁄8-inch-thick, and from 36 inches to 96 inches wide. The majority of the coils ship via rail directly from producers.

“The stretcher-leveling equipment is automated to a point where I don’t have to worry about investing in a lot of manpower,” Joyce says. “There is not as much art to it like with a lot of these older leveling lines because of the technology.

“There still is a learning curve,” he continues. “But the job isn’t reliant as much on an operator’s look or feel of the material. The Red Bud stretcher helps us get laser-flat quality material that our customers expect and demand.”

Since installing the machine earlier this year, Red Bud’s team helped Pacific Steel through each phase of the process. “Red Bud’s service has enabled our crew to get up to speed in a very short time frame. After two long years of research, we’re able to meet the growing need in our footprint.”

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Exit conveyors/packaging end of the line—shown are first stacks of stretcher-leveled material produced by the new line.

Foresight

Purchasing a leveling line isn’t an overnight decision, says Red Bud Industries’ Dean Linders, vice president of marketing and sales. “A selling cycle can be anywhere between five and 10 years,” he explains. “Organizations take years to plan ahead for the capital investment.”

Pacific Steel took the Red Bud, Illinois-based stretcher leveler and coil processing line manufacturer by surprise. “We were at a small trade show packing up at the end of the day when someone from Pacific Steel walked up and started speaking to one of Red Bud’s salespeople,” recalls Linders. “That’s when we learned they wanted to purchase a 96-inch-wide stretcher-leveling line from us.”

Months later, Linders found himself in Montana to discuss the specifications and what the company hoped to accomplish. “We sat down with about 12 to 14 of Pacific Steel’s people and discussed what they needed the line to do,” Linders says.

Much of the product Pacific Steel produces goes to customers that laser cut the perfectly straight and smooth metal. “They need to have confidence that the material will stay flat when it goes through subsequent processes and that their parts won’t warp,” Linders says.

Coil preparation

Pacific Steel’s new line saves time. “As an example, while one coil is running, the operator can preload others,” Linders says. “The coils can be prepped and bands removed in advance. You also don’t have to spend time loading coils onto the uncoiler. Once the previous coil tails out, the machine will automatically retrieve the next coil and load it onto the mandrel.”

The system retrieves the coil and elevates it to the proper height based on its diameter. Once loaded, the over-arm comes down automatically, Linders explains. “The coil is then rotated so its tongue is in the proper position for threading. As a result, when the operator comes back to thread the next coil, it is already loaded with bands cut with the tongue in the right spot. That alone can save you five or 10 minutes with each coil.”

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The line acquisition was a team effort. Pacific Steel’s personnel (above) gather during an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Safety first

Safety standards differ depending on which country you’re working in. As such, regulations may be more stringent in Australia than the United States. “We make sure all our equipment meets the strictest standards no matter where the machinery is being delivered,” says Linders. “If that means we have to adjust our designs to meet Australia, Germany or the U.K.’s stricter standards, we also apply them across the board to all customers.”

He notes there are stringent requirements specific to machine guarding, lockouts and zone control. “We have achieved the balance of both safety as well as functionality—even though these two things don’t always go well together.”

Red Bud has installed at least 45 stretchers so new customers feel comfortable when they purchase one of Red Bud’s machines, says Linders.

In a fast-paced production environment, some might argue that stretcher-levelers are slow, but they are a lot faster than they were 15 to 20 years ago, according to Linders. “One of our 50-foot-long stretchers takes less than 8 seconds to cycle.” This is measured from when material stops moving, is stretched, and starts moving again.

Red Bud’s machines also use a type of metallic gripper that can be used for hot-rolled, pickled and oiled, cold-rolled and galvanized sheet and plate. “They don’t need to be changed when running different types of material and the pads typically don’t need to be resurfaced for up to a year or more.”

Tolerances

Customer needs differ depending on the material they are running through the line. For example, “for customers running hot-rolled material, expectations have historically been less critical concerning length or squareness tolerances,” Linders says. “However, over the years, the demands for even this material have become more stringent. In order to meet these requirements, we took a chapter from our blanking lines—which will produce extremely tight tolerances—and made it so that the angle of the shears used in our heavy gauge lines can be adjusted as well. So if the part isn’t meeting the squareness spec, the operator can pivot the shear to compensate, allowing for a more square part.”

Pacific Steel operates numerous service centers in the Intermountain West where it stocks, processes and distributes steel products to the manufacturing, fabrication, and energy sectors, as well as smaller service centers. “We felt that by adding a coil line facility, it would take our steel division to a whole new level,” Joyce says. MM

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