Before: A 3/¹6 inch-thick AR200 sheet has extensive warping and internal stresses after being perforated.
December, 2023- In any system, the quality of output is determined by the quality of the input. Cutting parts naturally exerts heat, and that heat being exerted onto the material can make the metal warp or spring back, often resulting in a scrapped part and damaged equipment. Leveling the material prior to cutting, or the part itself after cutting, solves the problem, and companies that don’t have the budget, space or volume to invest in precision leveling equipment can turn to toll processors to get the job done. Toll processors’ business model ensures they are nimble enough to react quickly and flexibly, understand tolerances and help coordinate logistics.
PUTTING TECHNOLOGY TO WORK
Machine manufacturer ARKU has more than 90 years of experience with the metals industry, in addition to its 50-plus years of leveling experience. The company is putting its machines to work for toll processing services at its Leveling Centers in the United States (Cincinnati) as well as overseas in Baden- Baden, Germany, and Kunshan, China. The leveling toll processing services are offered for parts, sheets and heavy plate by utilizing ARKU precision levelers such as the EcoMaster and FlatMaster series.
ARKU equipment uses the roller leveling process, where the material or part passes through a series of alternating bends, shaping it so that it is flat and stress relieved, which contributes to better results in any subsequent production step, such as welding, bending or folding
After: The same AR200 after having been leveled and stress-relieved by the FlatMaster.
According to the company, even if the sheet metal has no obvious defects, leveling on a toll processing basis is still worthwhile. This is mainly because internal stresses are not visible to the naked eye and are capable of causing materials to warp after cutting or during welding, for example. ARKU literature indicates that “leveling sheet metal increases the reliability and accuracy during laser cutting as well as downstream processes such as welding or bending. This makes joining processes safer and increases the quality of the final product. Leveled materials also place less wear on tools, which extends their service life.” In addition, fewer malfunctions are likely to occur during downstream processing.
ARKU’s facility in Cincinnati is fully equipped with precision levelers and deburring machines.
It is especially important for companies to consider adding leveling to their process when welded assemblies have to be reworked because they are out of tolerance—or for any perforated materials.
A side benefit for customers of ARKU’s toll processing service is that they get to experience the machines in action, which can contribute to confidence in a future machine purchase. Parts, sheets and plates can be sent to the Leveling Center. ARKU offers free tests for any new materials a client sends in to ensure flatness can be met according to the customer requirements, and there are no minimum quantities. Fabricators and service centers throughout North America that cannot currently justify a machine purchase have benefited from this service.
CONFIDENCE IN QUALITY
A1 Fabricators and Finishers LLC, Batavia, Ohio, is a close neighbor of ARKU’s Cincinnati facility and has been partnering with the company for leveling services since late 2015, says Joshua Weidner, an A1 fabrication engineer. “The processes we use can cause a lot of stress to the sheet, making it bow or curl. Naturally, we cannot have that, as the sheets need to be flat when we deliver the completed part.”
A1 processes “quite a few” of these types of parts, Weidner says, “but nowhere near enough to purchase a machine.” In business since 2004, the fabricator operates from two facilities, totaling 145,000 square feet designed for continuous flow manufacturing, and it is prepared for continued growth in the future. It serves customers ranging from military to safety, food service, machining centers and transportation. Every project has its own challenges. “Most of the parts we produce are components of larger assemblies for quite a few different industries,” says Weidner. “It’s always interesting to see the completed units, knowing that we had a hand in it.”
A1 ships material to ARKU “after it is processed in house,” Weidner notes. “Since using ARKU, the sheets are being returned to us flatter than our previous vendor. We have not had any issues with parts not being flat enough. And to top that, we have never had to return parts to have them processed again.”
ARKU serves a small “niche part” of the fabricator’s project portfolio. “Most of our work revolves around sheet metal fabrication, most of which rarely will need leveling services. But having ARKU as a vendor has saved us in the past. From time to time, we have parts that need to hold a certain flatness tolerance that we may not be able to keep after processing, and partnering with ARKU allows us to take those jobs on with confidence.”
A1 Fabricators and Finishers LLC, 513/724-0383, http://a1fabricators.com/
ARKU, 513/985-0500, http://arku.com/