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Coil Processing
Thursday | 11 October, 2018 | 12:53 pm

Next generation of high-strength steels motivated National Material of Mexico to install line from Red Bud Industries

Written by By Gretchen Salois

Above: With the installation of the Red Bud line, the service center expects to increase production by 120,000 tons—making the annual production total over 300,000 tons

October 2018 - Demand is on the rise for National Material of Mexico’s processing services. “We found we were running out of capacity and made the strategic decision to align our capabilities with the new generations of steels used in automotive applications,” says Carl Grobien, vice president of Mexico operations. Processing a volume of 850 short tons of advanced high-strength steel coil per day warranted an equipment line upgrade.

As more and more car manufacturers require high-strength lightweight steel alloys to reduce curb weight and get better mileage, producing those steels go beyond the capabilities of a traditional slitting line.

MM 1018 coil image1

The combination of automation and safety guarding allows users to thread material from uncoiler to recoiler without having to touch the strips.

“We needed equipment that was different from the slitters [typically found in the marketplace],” Grobien says. NMM turned to Red Bud Industries, Red Bud, Illinois. The steel service center has a network of seven locations throughout Mexico processing uncoated non-exposed to coated exposed carbon steel in slit, sheet or blank form, in all steel grades including all AHSS steel grades.

“We’re positioning ourselves for the new generation of steel and are planning for the future,” Grobien says. In addition to the automotive sector, NMM also serves the home appliances, HVAC, transformer and generator manufacturing, and industrial equipment sectors, among others.

With the installation of the Red Bud line, the service center expects to increase production by 120,000 tons—making the annual production total over 300,000 tons.

Investment in the new line is a preemptive—or proactive—move. “Very few mills produce high-strength steels at sizes ranging from 0.25 inch by 72 inches by 60,000 MPa tensile strength,” Grobien says. “Taking a forward looking point of view positions us to be the only processor in Mexico with equipment with those capabilities.”

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Due to the hands-free process, users can take 20 to 30 strips and feed them from the slitter, across the loop and into the recoiler gripper slot.

Precision, speed and automation

In order to meet NMM’s needs, the machine needed to be able to run both thick and thin materials as well as the newer ultra-high-strength steels. “Because of their diverse product range, a machine that was a marriage of both capabilities was necessary,” says Dean Linders, vice president of marketing and sales at Red Bud. “Safety was also high on NMM’s list of priorities. The combination of automation and safety guarding allows users to thread material from uncoiler to recoiler without having to touch the strips.

“We have strip dividers, separator bars and can nest strips with the push of a button,” Linders continues. “We really wanted to keep people away from the strip and have it safeguarded and, as a result, limit the need for operators to interact with the strip.”

According to Linders, users can take 20 to 30 strips and feed them from the slitter, across the loop and into the recoiler gripper slot, without ever touching them. “On most machines, it’s common practice to have people manually feed the strips into the gripper slot,” Linders explains. “Depending on whether it’s heavier gauge or thinner high strength, it doesn’t always go easily into the gripper slot. It’s not uncommon to see operators using screwdrivers to move around the strips—we wanted to eliminate all of that.”

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The Red Bud line can handle critical material with tensile strengths up to 250,000 psi on gauges up to 0.125 inch thick.

Safety was a major consideration for the coil processing company. “The extensive guarding of the line makes our operators safer,” Grobien says. “Keeping workers safe is our number one concern.”

To eliminate manual handling, Red Bud designed a recoiler strip divider that automatically locates and nests the strips between the dividers before clamping them in place. “Since operators don’t need to manually interact with the strips, we were able to put a full safety cage around the recoiler,” adds Linders.

“Meanwhile, time tracking and efficiency software makes it easy for managers and users to determine where they are in the process, including coil loading, threading, how long the machine is stopped for set up, taking material off the recoiler, etc.,” he says.

This information can be filtered by the job, shift, week, month or year and various metrics give a visual reference for users to compare past orders and see where downtime may be slowing down production. “This allows managers and users to determine how to make the best use of time. Trackability makes a huge impact on productivity.”

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New offerings

The investment also had the benefit of increasing NMM’s product line. “We were limited to producing a maximum of 60-inch-wide slitting material. So we increased it to 72-inch-wide capabilities,” Grobien says. The service center can now process advanced high-strength steel at thicknesses up to 0.25 inch. The Red Bud line can handle critical material with tensile strengths up to 250,000 psi at gauges up to 0.125 inch.

After meeting with multiple manufacturers before ultimately selecting Red Bud, Grobien says achieving the right balance was the key factor in the company’s decision. “Aside from knowing Red Bud well through its reputation, after we did our side-by-side comparisons, we realized the Red Bud line had everything we were looking for,” he says. Red Bud’s extensive manufacturing capability, safety operation features and automation were the winning combination, according to Grobien.

NMM operators appreciate the equipment’s ease of operation as well as the time tracking software. “We can analyze the productivity of the line itself,” explains Grobien. “Our ability to connect to the machine through an application helps us see the point of view of where we can improve.” Simple offline banding, automatic threading, plus safety operation mechanisms with lockout/tagout features have proven particularly useful. MM

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