FFJ 0317 face squareFace Time - Investing in a high-performance saw blade can help improve production and reduce backlogs, says Michael Masters, chief technology officer at Wikus Saw Technology

Investing in a high-performance saw blade can help improve production and reduce backlogs, says Michael Masters, chief technology officer at Wikus Saw Technology

MM 0419 face leadApril 2019 - Q: What are some signs that a saw blade may be faltering?

A: Most suppliers are trying to achieve a certain material removal rate in order to maintain production requirements, remain profitable and stay within cost. When a blade isn’t giving them that removal rate, it might be an opportune time to upgrade to a more aggressive blade, cut that same material a little bit faster and lower the cost per cut. Others may change blades when they want to reduce the time they spend on secondary machining operations or if they have difficulty achieving square cuts with a smooth finish.

Most blade manufacturers offer level 1, 2 and 3 products—the good, better and best. It’s not always necessary to jump to the best-performing blade that will provide the fastest cuts since it’s all about timing in manufacturing, with every operation feeding—not burying—the next one.

Each blade as you step up a level provides benefits, but some of those benefits may not be necessary in specific applications. Manufacturers might be limited by their machine, especially if it’s an older saw that can only achieve a certain number of surface feet per minute or has a slower, inconsistent feed system.

Q: How can blades help improve saw performance?

A: When a machine is at its limit, it is important to consider all the options. Eighty percent of the market is running machines with older technology. New saws have features like better feeding systems and more precise control of the head descent and feed rate. A new saw requires a decent investment, however. When companies are striving to get whatever they can out of the machine they already own, one thing to consider is the available blades. Selecting the proper blade becomes a key factor when looking to improve performance.

Q: What are some tips to help decide which blade will provide the most value?

A: Determine what you are trying to achieve or improve and address those concerns with the blade manufacturer. For example, cutting structural material may require a wider set because that material has a tendency to pinch. A closed-die forging operation requires tight tolerances on a blade to maintain flat and square cuts. Tooth strippage may be an issue when bundle cutting structural steels and a more robust tooth tip would be advantageous. Maybe a company just wants to get more parts out of the material. If you are cutting hundreds of slugs out of 1-in.-diameter tubing and you can save 10 thousandths of an inch with each cut, it’s possible to get one or two extra pieces out of a 12-ft.-long section, for example—just by changing the blade.

Q:  Can a next-level bimetal blade be a better choice than carbide?

A: We have a customer that needs to cut a specific number of pieces per hour because they are feeding forging ovens. Those ovens are on all the time, and it costs a lot of money to keep them hot. Every time the door opens to take one part out to forge, they must insert another part. Initially, they were looking at carbide blades, but we reviewed their machines and the materials they were cutting, and determined that carbide wouldn’t significantly improve their operations. The machine wasn’t able to run any faster, so it didn’t make sense to spend three or four times more for carbide blades.

Instead, this customer upgraded to a next-level bimetal blade that had a much higher rake angle. That blade digs faster because it has a more positive tooth geometry, so they can cut faster. In the future, if the customer wants a product with a longer life cycle, we could step them up again to the next level and provide a coated bimetal blade. The coating adds cost to the blade, but the total cost would still be less than a carbide blade.

Most people are underutilizing their saws by not considering all their blade options. If a customer is not willing to try out a next-level blade, he’s doing himself an injustice because there are many ways to improve production when your machine is at its limit and you aren’t able to buy a new machine. MM

Michael Masters is the chief technology officer at Wikus Saw Technology Corp., Addison, Illinois. 800/369-0447. Of his 35 years in the band sawing industry, he has spent the past 18 years with Wikus.