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Coil Processing
Wednesday | 13 March, 2019 | 10:02 am

Automatic, systematic

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: In this configuration, a robot is stationed where it can place dunnage between stacks of cut-to-length sheet, keeping employees out of danger.

Machinery builder seeks opportunities to improve safety and efficiency while reducing costs

March 2019 - Mills, toll processors and service centers value the people who operate their machinery and they value the quality of the material coming off their lines. Over time, even the best made, most durable equipment needs refurbishing or some upgrades. Delta Steel Technologies has anticipated the need to automate some portions of metal processing lines and has introduced robots to perform certain tasks that tend to slow them down and potentially endanger operators.

Founded in 1964, Delta Steel Technologies manufactures slitting and cut-to-length lines (with and without stretch levelers), temper mills, rolling mills, pickling and galvanizing lines, coating and painting lines. Its menu of services include retrofitting and remanufacturing existing equipment, whether it was built in Delta’s factory or by another machinery manufacturer.

“One thing we noticed through the years is that metal processing equipment hasn’t always caught up with the technology and automation that other industries are using, so we see a tremendous opportunity for the metals industry in this area,” says Tyler Icenogle, director of new equipment sales at the Irving, Texas-based company. “And there is a lot of good old equipment out there.”

Delta Steel Technologies will revamp, recondition and redeploy existing equipment to help customers mitigate initial equipment investment.

“We are not a used-equipment dealer or a repair company, but we restore and modernize for future glory,” says President Joe Savariego. “These old lines can run another three decades once we decommission and rebuild them from the inside out. They will leave our factory as good or better than originally built. We are doing that with our own equipment and equipment built by others. If you have an old slitter or leveler manufactured by a company no longer in business,” he says, “no problem, we have rebuilt those with great success.”

MM 0319 coil image1

A robot cuts test samples out of a plate. Samples are then sent to the lab to verify the material meets requirements.

This aspect of the business has been extremely rewarding, notes Savariego. “We see a distinct opportunity to revamp old lines and apply automation to them to get people off production lines. The big push is productivity and safety.”

Delta Steel Technologies hired young engineers and sent them to robotics training classes, building its new department from the ground up. But the company also partnered with makers of commercially available robots that can be tooled to perform numerous applications. One is a pick-and-place robot positioned in the stacking area of a cut-to-length line. The robot places the dunnage (wood sticks to separate stacks of sheet) on the rollout table and between the bundles. This is work commonly performed by a shop floor employee, who can be at risk of injury at that location.

“We are a systems provider,” says Savariego. “The robots cannot work on their own; they must be part of the system.” Controls for the robot itself include those that direct the unit to move up and down, left and right, forward and backward. He says the company has learned how to produce the robot tools and can now leverage this engineering on behalf of its customers.

Cutting test samples

Savariego cites another application for steel mills. “We are using one robot to stencil sample plates out of high-strength steel coil.” The robot cuts the sample, which an operator sends to the lab for testing.

Previously, a worker, armed with a hand-held plasma torch to cut the sample, would have to insert himself at one end of a coil that can weigh 80,000 pounds, the edge of which, if not managed correctly, “can easily pop open and injure someone.” The new configuration “allows us to take the outer wrap off and use a robot to take one or more samples from a coil. Steel producers, in particular, are likely to adopt this application.

The overall idea, Savariego says, “is that for any kind of repetitive function that a human being performs, we can replace a human with a robot for that function.”

Icenogle says Delta “can analyze any line or manufacturing cell and determine if it’s possible to retrofit with a robot. A lot is dependent on how the existing machines were designed.” The response from customers, he says, “has been incredible.”

Banding

Delta is studying a third application for robot-aided automation. “We are looking to remove banding on the entry coil with a robot and dispose of the banding,” Icenogle says. The robot can cut the bands, ball them up and place them into a chute that leads to a scrap bin. This would also improve worker safety because there is a danger of coil movement when removing banding.

“We are confident there are other applications,” Savariego says. “We want people to call us with potential applications, and we can visit their facility and point out opportunities for robotic activities. You can walk through any facility and see people working and realize that it would be better if the person wasn’t standing there.”

The robots, says Savariego, are “easy to program, depending on application and the age of existing controls. With all new systems, everything is tested before shipping.”

When talking with potential customers, he is emphasizing the efficiencies of automation.

“Most of the older machines are manual and rely on the operator to run them efficiently.” With new controls that aid automation of an existing line, a cut-to-length line, for example, “you can program permissives to allow multiple things to happen at once. And if there is a safety issue, it shuts down automatically,” Savariego adds.

“We can replace controls on all existing lines with modern controls. Everything we use is off-the-shelf technology. We are an integrator.” However, he notes, “most integrators go from a tire plant to a diaper factory to food processing. Delta focuses 100 percent on steel mills and metal processing service centers.”

Adding the tools and features of automation underscores Delta’s reputation as a one-stop shop for new equipment, refurbished equipment and engineering solutions, he says. MM

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