Meal machine

By Julie Sammarco

Automation is an affordable, portable and versatile alternative to hand grinding and finishing

November/December 2011 - Although only 44 percent of Americans eat it daily, breakfast beats all other meals in terms of sales growth in the quick-service restaurant industry, with breakfast sandwiches beating out every other option on the menu, according to the Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group.

But what is less well-known is how the equipment used to make breakfast bites comes to fruition. Rocky Mountain Cookware, Harlowton, Mont., spends time deburring and polishing steel and aluminum to make quality griddles that help restaurants serve the most important meal of the day.

Deburring and polishing quickly and consistently is important for Tom Horan, company president. His workers previously used hand grinders to make griddles for the restaurant industry. Since purchasing a SuperBrush from SuperMax Tools, St. Paul, Minn., in 2010, he has improved shop efficiencies and cut costs.

Using hand-grinders “was extremely labor intensive,” Horan says. “We needed a lot of workers and a lot of time. Normally, it would take six to eight hours to run more than 200 units of material by hand, but this machine takes off four hours of that time.”

Horan also invested in a SuperBrush because he was trying to reduce costs. Some comparable machines cost twice as much as a SuperBrush and perform tasks Horan finds unnecessary in his job shop. “All we needed was to polish and deburr and the SuperBrush does just that, and it has the price tag we want,” he says.

Processing today’s material
The SuperBrush is an automatic sander that can polish, deburr, finish, sand, buff, clean, de-scale and remove oxidation. It is available in 24-in., 36-in. and 49-in. widths, and it can be customized with a variety of brushes to cater to client needs. It is also portable, allowing shop owners to take it out when they need to use it and put it away when they don’t. Yet, the most-important aspect is its ability to automate hand work at an affordable price, according to Bill Schroeder, president of SuperMax Tools.

“This is an affordable process for automating certain features within job shops or the metalworking industry. It’s typically a single or a double head. We were trying to find a simple solution for people who are doing things by hand,” says Schroeder. “Originally, we always made this machine for the wood-working industry, but some of the same machines are used in metalworking as well. It works best for deburring and graining a number of different types of material.”

Affordability has become a main concern for shops, says Schroeder. “Everyone is looking for an affordable solution with consistency,” he says. “A lot of people today aren’t buying the best of the best material anymore. If they can save a buck, they will. They’re buying material that is cheaper, which sometimes comes with imperfections. They can kick out those surface imperfections with the SuperBrush, so it’ll allow people to save some money on material.” The ability of the SuperBrush to operate two sets of brushes running in opposite directions enables formed and non-leveled material to be deburred faster and with less effort than if done by hand. Horan believes that is one of the best assets of the machine.

“We put our material on the machine’s conveyor, and it runs it under two sets of brushes. It’ll cut all the burrs off the unit as it goes through it. That used to take two rounds with a hand-grinder and a very skilled individual. That is a big savings right there. Doing this work by hand was messy and dirty and was wearing people out,” he says.

A bonus for Horan was being able to put his employees to work doing other tasks in the shop, which meant less potential for work-related injuries caused by the repetitive motion of using hand grinders and sanders. It also gives them experience in other areas in the shop. “Because this machine is so much less labor intensive and more consistent, it allows us to put our guys working in other areas, which is nice for them and for us,” he says. Consistency works hand-in-hand with reliability, notes Horan. “If we had to buy a new machine every year or so, we’d probably be better off with a more expensive unit if it was going to last longer. If it was going to pay off in the end, it might be the better deal. But that’s not the case with the SuperBrush,” he says. “We’ve been beating up on it for over a year now and it’s holding up very well.”

Versatile applications
The SuperBrush is a versatile machine, allowing customers to use it for a variety of materials and end uses. Many people who process lower-quality material can benefit from using the SuperBrush. “That can be anyone from a service center to a small job shop. There are variable speeds on brush heads and on the conveyor system and variable widths for different-sized material,” says Schroeder.

The ability to switch brush heads allows the SuperBrush to process different material. Carbon steel, stainless steel, nylon/silicon carbide, flatter-style, Scotch-Brite and custom brushes are available. “A flatter head, which is like little strips of sand paper supported by a broom brush material, works well for deburring holes,” says Schroeder. “Wire brushes are best for heavy deburring. Other people are using grinding wheels, wide belt sanders and disk sanders by hand. That’s still useable. But for people who are trying to deburr a light burr and give it some kind of pattern or do polishing, the SuperBrush is a great alternative to doing it by hand.

“Anytime you have to handle anything by hand, production bottlenecks,” Schroeder continues. “When you’re trying to expand your business, especially in today’s economy, you probably won’t want to hire a bunch of people. But you can get a machine that’s versatile and an alternative to hiring multiple workers.”

Versatility is a key reason Horan decided to purchase a SuperBrush. The machine might help future business endeavors. “It might have even more uses for us in the future. We used to be in the camping industry and if we ever decide to re-enter, there are some applications there that we can use this machine for, which is nice,” he says.

Perhaps one of the most-notable characteristics of the fully assembled, made-in-America SuperBrush is “there really isn’t anything comparable to it,” says Horan. “Other machines have multiple heads, are very large and take up a lot of space and cost upwards of $100,000. This is the only machine that I know of that allows me to do simple deburring and polishing in my work space for an affordable price.” FFJ

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  • Rocky Mountain Cookware 
    Harlowton, Mont.
    phone: 800/669-6588
    fax: 406/632-4254 
  • SuperMax Tools
    St. Paul, Minn.
    phone: 888/454-3401
    fax: 651/454-3465


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