Restoring roadways

By Gretchen Salois

Changing methods help resuscitate America’s fast-deteriorating roads

March 2012- Drivers cringe as their tires rumble over uneven roads as they try to avoid hidden crevices and potholes. It can be difficult to navigate disintegrating roads while taking care not to collide with vehicles in neighboring lanes. America’s roadways are declining with age, and quick-fix fillers no longer are doing the job.

Roadway Construction Products, Clarkson, Ky., manufactures steel reinforcement for roadways. Its products include tie bar assemblies used to join parallel concrete slabs together and welded dowel bar assemblies, which are load transfer assemblies used in concrete pavement contraction or expansion joints. The company also makes loose dowel, which it supplies in bar sizes ranging from 1⁄2 in. up to 2 in. in diameter, and basket and tie bar stakes used to anchor dowel bar and tie bar assemblies, which are available in 8-in. to 20-in. lengths and manufactured out of 1⁄2-in.-diameter wire or hot-rolled round bar.

Aaron Decker, maintenance manager at Roadway Construction Products, a division of Mid-Park Inc., Leitchfield, Ky., says its customers include “everybody—cities, states, private jobs—all are either developing their properties or upgrading their roads with steel reinforcement. We’re seeing more jobs being quoted now and continuing to increase.”

Roadway Construction Products previously cut hot-rolled steel with a band saw, but it needed to increase production. “We were actually losing business because of our pricing,” Decker says. “With smaller production rates, the cost to produce parts was higher compared to our competitors, and we were losing jobs.”

In late spring 2011, the company opted for the TK5C-72GL, a circular cold saw with carbide-tipped saw blades from Columbus, Ind.-based Tsune America LLC.

The Tsune saw allowed Roadway Construction Products to improve cycle time. With five-second cycles, the company was able to cut 4,000 parts during an eight-hour shift, up from 2,200 parts during the same time frame, Decker says.

The machine’s cutting parameters change depending on the job, according to Decker. Initially, operators program the dimensions and grade of material to be cut for each part. “We cut a specific diameter, length and grade of material for customers. When we change from one program to another, it is done on the touch screen,” Decker says. When changing to a different diameter, “you just have to go to the library list and pull the next program you want and it installs everything for the cutting program. Then all you have to change on the table is one lever to the different diameter rod to be cut. It’s a very quick process changing from one material to another.”

Myriad improvements
In addition to cutting sizes ranging from 1⁄2-in.-diameter to 2-in.-diameter round bar, Roadway Construction Products needed a customized magazine component to its Tsune machine. “Roadway Construction Products wanted something unique. They needed a 40-ft. magazine as opposed to a 20-ft. magazine because their cutoffs were fairly long,” says Tom Billington, sales manager at Tsune America. “They’re doing 18 in. to 24 in. on a regular basis and they wanted longer magazines to handle much longer stock lengths.”

The machine mostly is automated and only takes one person to operate instead of two or three. “It’s automated so a material table is behind the saw, you set your material on it, set the bundle apart, set up magazine feeds and the program takes one bar at a time and feeds it through,” Decker says. “The program then sets it and empties the finished part out the other end. The only thing you have to do is initially load the magazine—the machine does the rest.”

Averaging 16,000 to 18,000 parts per blade, Roadway Construction Products was pleased with consistent, high-quality cut parts. The company also liked that the circular saw blade is easy to change, a one-man operation.

Tsune achieved the faster cycles in large part because of the machine’s direct coupled servo drives. With this system, it isn’t necessary to ramp up to speed or ramp down when stopping versus protecting the belts when driving the ball screws through a timing belt and pulley system.

“If you’re running through a belt, it could jump a tooth and throw it off and it might not feed accurately,” Billington says. The Tsune also stages the next bar, resulting in quicker bar changes. “The last bar cut is made and 10 seconds later the new bar is being trimmed—you’d have a lot of dead time if you were waiting 24 seconds for a new bar to come in,” Billington says.

The equipment has not required maintenance work since the company has been using it, Decker says. The band saw needed a lot of upkeep for the bearings and wheels that guide and turn the band saw blade. “They were constantly wearing out and you had to keep adjusting them. That’s a lot of upkeep there,” he says. FFJ

Unlikely applications
From a driver reaching to adjust a rearview mirror to a hospital patient waiting to receive medical treatment, neither may realize the tools they use and need come from the same manufacturer: Rohbi Enterprises Inc., Broadview, Ill. The rearview mirror contains an aluminum tube, and a stainless steel tube is used to transport medicine.

Rohbi uses machines from Tsune America LLC, Columbus, Ind., to cut the metals for each product.

“We do some interesting things with the Tsune machines we own because we are a job shop for both ferrous and nonferrous materials,” says Kevin O’Toole, general manager, Rohbi Enterprises. The company cuts 300/400 series stainless steel, 3000/7000 series aluminum, oil-hardened or water-hardened tool steel and extrusion of any alloy. “We do any kind of metal we can cut, including exotic metals, such as alloy 600, a nickel alloy.”

The company purchased its first 50-mm machine in 1999, a 90-mm machine in 2001 and a 101-mm machine in 2005. “All equipment, no matter what you buy, has a minimum of what you can do and a maximum, and we exceed those because we work with the machine,” O’Toole says.

Rohbi Enterprises runs its Tsune machines 10 hours a day. “There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not producing parts,” he says. “We base buying machines on the jobs coming in, and I recently asked for quotes for additional Tsune machines to add to our operations due to a quote we made on a large project recently,” he says.

The various jobs for which Rohbi manufactures parts require quick changeover. “You can literally change over jobs in less than five minutes,” O’Toole says. “We go from a pretty intense 1-in. part to a 4-in. size with seamless changeover.” He notes it takes longer to clean out the machine if the company is switching from stainless to carbon steel, for example, but that is “because everyone wants everything cut so close,” he says.

The machine’s blade has a 14-in. diameter on the larger machines and 9.8 in. or 10 in. on the smaller machines. “You could go up to a 16-in.-diameter blade that could cut 5-in.-diameter pieces,” O’Toole adds.

Rohbi Enterprises does “a little of everything, including aluminum and steel,” says Tom Billington, sales manager at Tsune America. “O’Toole added a stamper to one of our machines so he could put a number on a guy’s part before sawing it off, which was something we couldn’t do. Yet, somehow, he managed some way to do it by tying it into the clamping system.”

“Some of our customers own Tsunes but have us run parts for them,” O’Toole says. “People don’t want to deal with issues worrying and running parts. Anything that comes across my desk, I have to find a way to get it done, and the Tsune equipment makes it so much easier.”

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  • Roadway Construction Products
    Clarkson, Ky.
    phone: 270/242-2571 
    fax: 270/242-9288
  • Rohbi Enterprises Inc.
    Broadview, Ill.
    phone: 708/343-2004
    fax: 708/343-9179
  • Tsune America LLC
    Columbus, Ind.
    phone: 800/264-5290
    fax: 812/378-9893

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