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Aluminum

Shaping the future

By Abbe Miller

January 2010- The mass stateside mobilization in the 1940s known to proud American citizens as the war effort materialized in the form of U.S. natural resources, such as agricultural products and processed metals. From butter to gasoline, rations at home kept the troops overseas armed and ready.

Victory gardens sprouted as the seasons came and went, but some projects brought forth by the war effort remained. The Cressona, Pa., aluminum extrusion facility is one of those.

Currently operated by Sapa Extrusions Industrial, the Cressona operation is the largest common alloy extrusion facility in North America. Designed and constructed during World War II for the U.S. government, the facility produced extruded shapes and tubing that were in high demand for the production of military vehicles and supplies. Operated by the U.S. government from April 1943 to October 1944, the facility eventually was used by the Defense Department for the reclamation of returned ordnance material.

  Aluminum ready
With 100 acres of land, 13 buildings on-site and 34.5 acres under its collection of buildings, the facility promotes the idea of American pride in manufacturing. Continued investment in state-of-the-art technology, equipment and process control has transformed the Cressona operation into one of the most advanced facilities in the industry.

The size and breadth of the Cressona facility and its product line require a multitude of aluminum processing machines. In 2009, Sapa Extrusions Industrial, a regional unit of Sapa Extrusions, which is a business unit of Sapa AG, Stockholm, Sweden, introduced two new sawing systems from Klingelhofer Corp., Mountainside, N.J., to its facility. A Kastospeed M15 and a Kastowa M9 were implemented in January 2009 and July 2009, respectively.

"The M15 is a little larger than the M9 and has a handling system that will do rounds and square shapes of aluminum, which makes it better-suited for an aluminum extruder," says Fred Schaefer, vice president of Klingelhofer, an importer and distributor that has specialized in metal sawing machinery for more than 70 years.

The fully automatic cold sawing machine features a flat magazine for the variety of bar stock materials it can handle. The magazine has three cross-feed rails with a storage area of about 82 inches.

Operators at the Cressona facility manually load extrusions on the cross-feed chains, where the track rails are adjusted for different bar sizes by a hand crank that the operator positions. The infeed track is designed for bar lengths up to 20 feet. Once the bars are in place, the M15 does the rest.

"In a plant like Sapa, they don’t always know what a customer is going to want," says Schaefer. "If you come to them with a specific shape, they’ll design and manufacture it for you. On the old-style machines, the operator had to deal with the shape differently than he does on the M15. With the flat magazine, all the operator has to do is line the material up on the flat magazine. It then conveys the material into the loading area, where the loading discs automatically load it. With the old-style machine, the operator had to make sure that it loaded and stayed oriented. Before the Kasto, they’d have to have an operator intervening all the time. Now, the operator only has to be sure that the extruded aluminum shape is put on the conveyor correctly at the beginning."

Its pusher-type bar infeed has a variable speed between 25 feet per minute to 260 feet per minute. And the fact that the M15 can boast short cut times is important, considering the millions of pounds of product Sapa Extrusions produces each year.

And those aluminum products are prone to scratching. Therefore, the M15 is well-suited for Sapa Extrusions--thanks to its pusher feed and flat-top chains, which eliminate damage to the extrusions. "As many items as we can are made from a polyamid, a nylon-type material," Schaefer explains. "The flat-top chain conveyor, for example, is made from that nylon. The loading discs are also made from nylon, as are the rollers. Besides that, there’s no gripper--there’s a pusher. Unlike other machines on the market, we never clamp onto the material until it’s stopped moving. A pusher advances the material against a gauge. By pushing it, we’re never clamping onto it. Anything that comes in contact with the material is made of nylon. Using a pusher doesn’t damage the material during the positioning for the cut."

Rich history
Just as the Cressona facility and Klingelhofer are able to tout long and successful histories in metal processing, so can Kasto Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG, Achern-Gamshurst, Germany, the manufacturer of the M15. The company, which produces material retrieval systems, band saws, hacksaws, circular saws and high-production circular saws, was founded in 1844.

What began as a carpentry business evolved into a house of innovation. Water wheels, looms, and paper and milling machines came from Kasto, but the most notable achievement for the metals industry came in 1947 with the invention of the first power hacksaw. It was the beginning of a long line of saws to come. In the United States, Klingelhofer imports Kasto’s high-production circular saws.

Streamlined sawing
"The automatic feed table enables one operator to control two saws, resulting in a 50 percent reduction in our labor cost," says Jim Ponter, process improvement coordinator at the Cressona plant. "In addition, when we need assistance, the Klingelhofer service has been excellent and prompt." 

Automatic crop cutting, which is programmable, is achieved with remnant end detection that interrupts the cutting sequence when a bar end reaches a minimum length of 23/4 inches. A cut-piece discharge chute is able to separate crop cuts and remnant ends from good pieces, eliminating further operator interaction with the equipment.

Ease of use continues at the operator interface. A Siemens OP177B is mounted on the machine and displays crop cut length, material starting length, actual cutoffs, required cutoffs, saw blade size, saw blade speed, with/without cut piece spreading and motor load. The control panel is even able to let an operator know the expected life of the saw blade in use.

The M15, which uses carbide-tipped or high-speed steel saw blades, has a capacity up to 6 inches for rounds, depending on the saw blade diameter in use. Its loading table has a capacity for bars up to 20 feet long.

"This equipment allows us to cut larger-diameter product more efficiently, with a greater cut tolerance control of up to 0.004 inch and at significantly higher speeds than the equipment it replaced," says Rick Worst, plant manager at the Cressona facility. "For impact slugs and the automotive market, such as parts like air bags and brake systems, we’re able to quote more precise jobs, which allows us to be more efficient and competitive." MM

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