Tuesday | 20 April, 2010 | 5:57 am

The freedom of precision

By John Loos

April 2010- When the average person thinks of sawing, images of crude hand saws chomping into a block of wood are usually what come to mind. That type of sawing works for a casual home improvement project, despite being relatively rough and imprecise.

In the world of manufacturing, however, sawing needs to be accurate and consistent and has evolved accordingly into a high-tech process.

tsuneTsune America LLC, Columbus, Ind., a specialist in high-production sawing, has made a name for itself in the ferrous saw market, with a line of highly efficient and accurate machines that serve steel service centers, forging operations and automotive suppliers, among other industries. The saws are manufactured by Tsune Seiki Co. Ltd., Toyama, Japan.

However, Tsune America has also been establishing itself as a notable name in nonferrous sawing, thanks to two high-tech machines defined by their precision and ease of use.

The TK5M 90PL and the TK5M 150GL CNC are both magazine-fit machines that feature carbide-tipped saw blades, variable cutting speeds, brass blade guides, automatic saw blade protection and trim/remnant sorting, and an automatic incline magazine.

The 90PL is a 3.5-inch-capacity machine, and the 150GL has a capacity of 6-inches, plus CNC touch-screen controls, allowing for simpler operation, full-stroke vicing and self-adjusting.

"The [90PL] was actually kind of similar to the original small steel cutting machine, with a similar frame and design, but with no gearbox, just a direct drive, because you want high speeds for cutting nonferrous materials," says Tom Billington, sales manager. "The [150GL] machine is a big step forward, with linear guides on the saw head feed, the material feed and how they’re mounted on the machine, and ball screw drives, of course."

The 150GL features ball screw saw head feed and gripper feed, plus both horizontal and vertical clamping, making it a logical next step for companies using the 90PL and looking to add capacity.

Automatic advantages
One company that had success with the 90PL and made the leap to a 150GL was Aacoa Extrusions Inc., Niles, Mich., a custom extruder of aluminum shapes that serves a variety of industries, including automotive, marine, construction equipment and athletic equipment.

Aacoa purchased its 90PL sawing system to accommodate high-precision work for the automotive industry.

"The reason we purchased [the 90PL] is we were taking on some work that required high accuracy in the length, flatness, parallel of the ends and the perpendicular," says Harley Rensch, engineering manager for Aacoa. "We do quite a bit of work like that, and most of that is automotive work that requires tight tolerances on usually two or three of those areas on any particular part.

"The Tsune saws are one of the few saws out there that can get the kind of accuracy that the customer’s asking for," he adds.

Roughly a year ago, Aacoa decided to add a 150GL to its operations to handle bigger parts and increase efficiency on smaller parts.

"They were looking for something that was much higher production with little operator involvement, and that’s where we came in," says Billington. "We supply machines that are full, complete systems with magazine-fed machines, sorting of the trim cuts and rim ends from good parts. It’s not necessary for an operator to stand there and throw out parts or drop-ins from a basket of good parts. Once you start up, it’s really made to watch itself, and the operator can go do something else."

According to Billington, Tsune’s nonferrous saws can achieve ±0.004 inch, or 1/10th of a millimeter, on length control. This allows for large quantities of parts to be run with consistent accuracy.

"With [jobs for] the automotive industry, you’re looking for high production, but you’re also looking for a good finish, perpendicularity, parallelism and good length control on the part because a lot of times these parts are going to be minimally machined where the cut surface is," says Billington. "[Aacoa] would prefer not to have to machine that side, and that saves them a step. So that’s the philosophy there: to get a good, clean part that’s very accurate."

In tandem, the two saws not only increased Aacoa’s overall efficiency and capacity but also allowed the company to tackle highly specific jobs.

"We run a few jobs that require a high surface finish on the saw end surface," says Rensch. "You have to slow the saw down to achieve it, but we can get about about an 80-microinch finish, and there are a few jobs we use that for to get a really good quality finish on the sawed surface."

Another benefit Tsune emphasizes is the growing focus the saws’ manufacturer, Tsune Seiki, places on the environmental impact of its machines.

"One thing they’ve done with the new machines is to try to get greener, so they went from larger oil sumps in the machine to small hydraulic power packs, [meaning] there’s less oil to dispose of," says Billington. "They’re always looking at what we can do to to reduce your carbon footprint, [so] less fluids are used on the machines. We use spray mist and got away from flood coolant on the machines."

The result is cleaner operation and fewer headaches related to the disposal of flood coolant. Tsune’s saws use a spray mist lubricant on the blades and small quantities of lubricant to reduce splatter on the machine and work area.

"The whole point is to not only have a good, safe-running machine, but it’s also for the machines to be well-built, accurate and environmentally sound," says Billington. "And I think a lot of people are moving that way and trying to be cleaner about everything they’re doing."

Helping hands
According to Rensch, a large factor in Aacoa’s decision to make its recent saw purchase another Tsune saw is Tsune’s emphasis on responsive customer support. It helps, too, that the Tsune saws have needed minimal troubleshooting or technical service.

"They’ve been low maintenance," says Rensch. "I don’t think we’ve had Tsune in to service anything on the saws. We get good support from them."

Tsune’s responsiveness was particularly valuable when Aacoa implemented the 150GL saw and needed clarifications on the operational differences between it and the 90PL.

"The two saws have a different method of feeding the part forward," says Rensch. "We would call Tsune and talk through issues, and they would handle over the phone what we needed to adjust or set differently. They’ve been very responsive that way."

That bit of human touch can go a long way in a world where customers sometimes feel anonymous after they’ve purchased the equipment.

"When you call us, you’re always going to talk to a person," says Billington. "You’re not going to get some recording and have to punch in the right guy’s name to find somebody. When the phone is answered, it’s answered by a person who, in most cases, knows a customer. We know our customers very well, and that’s unique, too."

Not only does Tsune strive to maintain a friendly rapport with each customer but it also keeps close watch on its machines in the field, allowing technicians to react quickly to service issues and questions. "We never leave anyone hanging," says Billington. MM

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