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Tool & Die

Metal to art

By Lynn Stanley

An ironworker helps to create one-of-a-kind choppers

August 2011 - The Jaws IV 55-ton ironworker slices through steel up to 1 in. thick, overshadowing other shears that strain to cut material just 1/8 in. thick. Able to punch, notch, shear and brake, the ironworker isn’t just for industrial fabricators. Eddie Trotta, owner of Thunder Cycles, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., uses the versatile tool with the small footprint to create unique pieces of art every time he builds a custom chopper.

Sporting sleek, classic lines with an innovative twist, Trotta’s designs and his name are known worldwide. His customer base is as varied as his creations, including the New York Mets baseball team, Sara Lee executive C. Steve McMillan and Steven Tyler, frontman and lead singer for Aerosmith.

Trotta, the winner of two Biker Build Off competitions on the Discovery Channel, says he came across Edwards Mfg., Albert Lea, Minn., at Fabtech in 2005. “They demonstrated the tool for me, and I was sold on the spot,” says Trotta, who first used the ironworker in a 2005 Biker Build Off competition. Edwards manufactures high-quality, low-maintenance hydraulic ironworking machines, associated tooling and accessories for the steel fabrication industry. The machines, their parts and accessories are made in the United States.

The ironworker anchors Trotta’s fabrication line at his 30,000 sq.-ft. manufacturing and showroom facility. “It’s very versatile, like having seven different machines in one,” he says. The all-in-one fabricator’s tool does the heavy lifting for Trotta’s shop, but he also uses it to produce a range of parts including motor mounts, angle-iron frames and 2-in. screens. In addition, Trotta’s shop produces more than 400 parts for Harley Davidson dealers worldwide. “If you were to consider the ironworker a class of equipment,” says Jordan Loehr, international sales manager for Edwards, “its competitor classes would be band saws, drill, brake and tooling presses. We designed these functions into one tool to help customers reduce time and increase efficiency.”

Custom work
Trotta works with aluminum but primarily uses steel. It takes about six months to complete each bike. Trotta, who built his first shovelhead engine at 16 years old while working part-time at East Coast Choppers in New Haven, Conn., still is involved in every step of the design and fabrication process. “I like what I do,” he says. “It’s therapy.”

For Trotta, the fabrication process begins with making the frame of the bike. “We use very heavy steel tubing up to 1 in. thick,” he says. “The ironworker can punch right through anything we give it. Flat sheet metal is then cut into different shapes for bending. We use tools like the English wheel for the finesse work.”

Trotta adds his bike frames are known for their giant-size tubing. “We use 1½-in. tubing on the frame rails but on the front downtube we jump up to 2 ½-in. drawn over mandrel with a 0.187–in. wall thickness,” he says. “The ironworker comes into use every step of the way for processes like tube notching.”

Engineered with robust, heavy-duty material and hydraulics, each of the ironworker’s blades has four cutting surfaces. According to Loehr, most fabricators rarely move beyond the first cutting surface because of the blade’s rugged construction.

The ironworker handles the shop’s bulk work and is able to handle a range of tooling. “We make some of our own tooling,” says Trotta. “The ironworker is flexible enough to accept the tooling we build.”

Trotta and his team use the ironworker every day for multiple jobs. “We haven’t had the first problem with it,” he says. “The machine has required no maintenance. We’ve never even sharpened the blades. If I was revamping my shop, the ironworker would be on my top-five things to buy list.” <p> Trotta plans to upgrade to a 100-ton ironworker with an accessory pack that will allow him to attach an Edwards 10-ton tube bender and 40-ton shop press. The new machine will increase capacity and offer greater versatility to support new work for Thunder Cycles. FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Beckwood Press Co. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters Triform

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc.

LASER TECHNOLOGY

Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

AMADA AMERICA, INC.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. Mazak Optonics Corp. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC MC Machinery Systems Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

Murata Machinery, USA, Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC TRUMPF Inc.

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

COIL PROCESSING

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group MTS Sensors Rolleri USA

STEEL

Burghardt + Schmidt Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

PRESS BRAKES

Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC.

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial Automec Inc. BLM Group
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

MC Machinery Systems Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies SafanDarley

WATERJET

Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

PUNCHING

Barton International

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit

SAWING

Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc. Behringer Saws Inc.

WELDING

Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. DoALL Sawing American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

HE&M Saw Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Savage Saws T. J. Snow Company

 

MetalForming Inc.

 

 

 

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

 

 

 

Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

 


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