March, 2024- The COVID-19 pandemic not only caused major disruptions to businesses when the virus swept across the globe in 2020 but also when the pandemic transitioned to an endemic last year.

“Coming out of COVID, with the ramp-up in the commercial aerospace industry and the defense industry, we started seeing jobs where urgent shipments were required,” says John Olson, vice president of Progressive Alloys Steel Unlimited Inc. in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company also has a facility in Hartsville, South Carolina. “Most of our customer base wants a 98 percent or better on-time delivery performance, and they give us about a three-day delivery window.”

Progressive was launched in 1999, and Olson says he was the first employee, starting Jan. 1, 2000, as a band saw operator.

The service center now has about 40 band saws at the two sites, including its first saw. Management considered using its existing saws and scheduling a lot of overtime to meet the rising demand, or adding band saws, Olson says. “At a minimum, 85 percent of what goes out my door is cut. The majority of our materials are cut with a band saw.”

Those materials primarily include PH grades of stainless steel, such as 15-5, 13-8 and 17-4, as well as some nickel-base superalloys, titanium and unique niche-type alloys like Custom 465, Olson notes. The aerospace grades the band saws tackle primarily measure from 3/16- inch to 9 inches thick, with 13 inches being the thickest in stock.

Olson says he heard about pulse cutting band saws from Amada Machinery America Inc. in Brea, California, and discussed the sawing technology with the representatives from the machine tool builder and with Amada’s West Coast distributor, Saw Service of America in Pico Rivera, California. Progressive already buys its blades there.


The PCSAW430AX pulse cutting band saw is preprogrammed by Amada to cut with its own Axcela G carbide-tipped blade. 


Olson says he trusts Saw Service’s advice because the distributor has sold the shop blades for about a decade and he felt confident about its sawing equipment expertise. Saw Service recommended an Amada PCSAW430AX pulse cutting band saw.

The cutting feed on the PCSAW430AX pulse cutting band saw is controlled by a servomotor.

Saw Service had that machine in stock. “We brought it here in March and, within four days of running, it proved to be the machine that we needed.”

Happy with his decision, Olson says he instructed the operations manager to let him know when the saw ran two weeks straight without any downtime because Progressive runs lights-out production after the third split shift finishes at 10 p.m. “Because what that tells me is it’s time for the next purchase.”

The second PCSAW430AX arrived in September 2023, and the South Carolina facility purchased the same model early this year.

In total, Progressive has added seven or eight saws in the past year. An X model of the pulse cutting saw is also available, Amada reports, in which the cutting feed is controlled by a hydraulic flow control valve with stepping motor, while the AX model uses a servomotor control for the cutting feed.

The PCSAW430AX saw features pulse cutting, which cancels the vibrations that occur during the penetration force. 

Olson adds that a pulse saw driven on a ball screw provides a consistent feed rate. He describes this as if the blade fit on an automotive enginestyle camshaft. “The camshaft is spinning as the motor in the saw is turning, so instead of that blade just getting pressured down and pulling chips out, the guides are riding on that camshaft and the blade is almost bouncing up and down a little bit, which is giving you a little bit of relief as it’s cutting the metal.”

That “bouncing” cannot be visually seen, he says, but it relieves pressure off the blade to allow it to cut faster.

Progressive’s go-to band saw blade type is bimetal because it effectively cuts a variety of alloys at a rate of 2 to 3 square inches per minute, Olson says. However, the PCSAW430AX is preprogrammed by Amada to saw with its own Axcela G carbide-tipped blade.

The Axcela G features a kerf-dispersal tooth shape to reduce cutting resistance on high-alloy steels and a tooth tip micro-chamfer to enable ultra-high cutting rates and reduce tooth chipping, according to Amada.


The band saw can run different types of blades, Olson acknowledges, but the machine operator must reset the machining parameters. Because Amada designed the pulse cutting saw to operate with its carbide blade, he expects the machine is unlikely to run better with another blade so Progressive uses the carbide option.

“It’s almost like if I’m going to go out and buy a Ferrari, I’m not going to run regular unleaded fuel in it. If it tells me to put premium in it, I’m putting premium in it. Basically, we bought the sports car version of a band saw.”

As a result, Olson says the carbide blade cuts the same alloys as the bimetal blade at a rate of 10 square inches per minute. “We’re getting almost five times the production off of a machine now.”

Not only is the pulse cutting saw fast, but it is also “extremely beefy,” according to Olson. He estimates that the 15-hp machine weighs three to four times as much as a standard band saw with the same capacity, which minimizes vibration during cutting to help extend blade life and boost productivity.

Although most workpieces are well below the saw’s capacity of 13 inches for rounds and 13 by 13 inches for rectangles, Olson prefers to purchase greater machine capacity than is necessary at the moment. “We always buy things to do more than we need.”

In addition to its size, Olson admits the band saw can be intimidating to operators because it looks like a CNC machine tool with an enclosed front, a touch screen and a copious amount of buttons. However, it’s easier to train on and use than a standard band saw because the operator only has to indicate the metal grade, workpiece size, the desired length of cut and how many pieces are needed.

“All I have to do is load the machine, hit ‘go’ and try to keep up with taking the parts off as fast as that machine is cutting them.”

Since Progressive Alloys Steel Unlimited’s leaders are always thinking about what’s coming down the pike, an additional Amada might be in the cards before the year ends. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we buy another one of those pulse saws. It’s a pretty amazing piece of equipment.”

Amada Machinery America Inc., 800/877-4729,

Progressive Alloys Steel Unlimited Inc., 800/798-5619,

Saw Service of America, 800/803-7297,