Friday | 03 September, 2010 | 6:44 am

Tailored solutions

By Lisa Rummler

August 2010 - Most ferrous saws have nothing in common with fingerprints and snowflakes. This is not the case, however, with those from MetlSaw Systems Inc., Benicia, Calif., a division of Inductotherm, Rancocas, N.J. Every one of the company’s ferrous saws is built to the specifications of the customer, so no two are exactly alike.

The one-of-a-kind nature of its ferrous saws allows MetlSaw to partner with its customers to create sawing solutions perfectly tailored to their specific situations.

Seeking a solution
About two years ago, a North American manufacturer of machinery approached MetlSaw with a problem: It was buying pre-cut stainless steel plate, and there were concerns about delivery times and the quality and precision of the cuts. The manufacturer wanted to bring the cutting process in-house and eliminate reliance on an outside company for the material.

MetlSaw took the information the customer provided and developed a ferrous plate saw that processes 2-inch to 6-inch stainless steel plate. The saw meets the manufacturer’s requirements for precision--each cut is ±0.005 inch--and it gives the company the opportunity to saw as needed.

This, in turn, enables the manufacturer to manage its inventory and just-in-time manufacturing to a greater degree and exercise more control over its operations. The customer also sought to maximize efficiency and reduce waste, so MetlSaw designed the saw to be zero-drop/zero-scrap, which ensures every piece the saw cuts is usable. A key component is the saw’s magnetic registration beam. It holds the stainless steel plate in place as it moves incrementally up to the blade-cutting slot.

MetlSaw also specially designed the flood coolant recovery system and slip clutch on the manufacturer’s saw. The driving force behind these elements was to eliminate spilled coolant and protect the saw’s motor and gearbox if issues were to arise during use, respectively.

"MetlSaw designed, built and delivered the saw that we needed," says a representative for the manufacturer. "The saw has performed flawlessly."

Further, the manufacturer lauds MetlSaw for building a ferrous saw that is shaping up to be a big benefit to the bottom line.

"We estimate a return on investment in 19 months," says the representative. "We are well on our way to meeting that goal."

It’s in the details
MetlSaw’s standard ferrous plate saws are 6 feet wide or 12 feet wide, but it has built some as large as 20 feet wide, says Doug Jamieson, sales and marketing manager at MetlSaw. The standard for the back gauge is 12 feet.

MetlSaw also manufactures ferrous cutoff saws, which typically have a cutting window of 2 feet, 3 feet and 4 feet with a back-gauge length starting at 12 feet.

In terms of the cutoff saws’ back gauges, up to 20 feet is standard, but MetlSaw will build to customer specification up to 100 feet, says Jamieson.

Despite the ferrous saws’ unique natures, they have some similarities. For instance, all of them can cut hard steel, tool steel and stainless steel up to 6 inches thick.

Further, in regard to specification and tolerance, MetlSaw’s ferrous plate saws and ferrous cutoff saws are identical.

To maximize the performance of its ferrous saws, MetlSaw emphasizes the importance of chip load, says Jamieson.

Many factors determine chip load, including the diameter of the blade, the number of teeth on the blade and how fast the end user feeds the blade through the material.

"We provide a formula for our customers in order to get the optimum chip load, which we have determined is about 0.005 inch thick," says Jamieson. "If you achieve that chip load, you’ll be able to maximize the life of the blade, the saw will continue performing as specified and you’ll get excellent results.

"That’s the formula we work with for our customers, and they play with that. It’s not a hard science, but using the formula as a basis enables them to optimize the performance of the saw."

Additionally, MetlSaw ensures all customers have a solid foundation with its saws immediately after they are installed.

"When we manufacture the saw in Benicia, it’s always 100 percent set up and functioning to specification in our factory, and we bring out whoever the purchaser is for what we call pre-acceptance before we throw it on the truck and ship it to them," says Jamieson. "But once the saw gets there, our service techs handle the installation. And once the saw is ready for sawing, we start training--there’s no practice sawing, so we don’t waste any material."

Long-term relationships
MetlSaw has been in business for 35 years, and most of its customers are metal service centers and OEMs. Many, including A. M. Castle & Co., Franklin Park, Ill., have worked with MetlSaw for a long time.

The 120-year-old worldwide distributor of metals, including aluminum, brass, carbon, cast iron, nickel alloy and stainless steel, serves a variety of industries: defense, aerospace, power generation, heavy equipment, and oil and gas, among others. A. M. Castle operates in more than 55 locations in North America, Europe and Asia. At its Franklin Park, Ill., facility, the company uses a ferrous plate saw from MetlSaw that can cut 12-foot-long steel plate up to 6 inches thick, says Joe Kuechel, plate operations manager at A. M. Castle.

"It’s a good, reliable saw," he says. "It’s 14 years old, it still holds good tolerances and the reliability is good."

A. M. Castle uses the ferrous plate saw to cut orders that require close tolerances, which is one of many benefits it offers, says Kuechel.

"Without the saw, we wouldn’t be able to hold the tolerances that some of our customers require," he says. "And its reliability--it’s always ready to work. We haven’t had any quality issues on the saw."

Design dynamics
MetlSaw controls all manufacturing processes at its factory, which helps the company maintain high standards for its products, says Jamieson.

Part of that involves keeping up to date on technological advancements, and where possible, implementing them into the saws’ control systems.

These include Allen-Bradley ControlLogix PLCs with a PanelView 1000 touch screen, precision ball screws for incrementing and measuring cut lengths, state-of-the-art hydraulics, a unique slip-clutch design for the gearbox and 50-horsepower, TEFC motors coupled with a 50-to-1 gear reducer.

Additionally, MetlSaw oversizes its blade flanges to minimize vibration in the sawing blade, which helps optimize the precision of the cut. The company does not make saw blades, but it does use standard models from worldwide manufacturers.

"They are precision blades, carbide-tipped, with a triple-chip design for precision and milling of the cut surface," says Jamieson. "This type of blade is resharpenable."

MetlSaw also uses Iscar blades that have replaceable tips. Jamieson says these blades have a higher up-front cost than standard ones, but the long-term investment tends to pay off. MM

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