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Press Brakes

Opening doors

By Lynn Stanley

Above: With the 770-ton APHS hydraulic press brake, Waste Gas can bend a variety of heavy material thicknesses and long products that require high tolerances like this 20 ft. polished perforated plate.

Job shop expands work portfolio with large press brake technology

October 2014 - With the company’s reputation for being a “one-stop-everything” Kyle Cloman, president and CEO of Waste Gas Fabricating Co. Inc., says he sometimes thinks of it as the 7-Eleven of steel fabrication. In the spirit of the popular convenience store chain, the Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, job shop is differentiating itself with compelling value adds and an efficient supply chain that includes a no-minimum parts policy, rush orders for close tolerance parts, and an inventory stocked with 3.1 million lbs. of domestic carbon steel, stainless and aluminum in all grades and thicknesses.

“We’re very diverse, very service-oriented,” Cloman says of his company, which opened its doors in 1976 as a rebuilder of steel furnace waste gas devices. Market declines in the steel industry steered Waste Gas toward general fabrication, a step that has helped the company grow its employee base and expand its manufacturing facilities from a modest 3,500 sq. ft. to 70,000 sq. ft. The job shop has also added a third shift to its work schedule. 

New investment

ISO 9001 and ISO 14001-certified Waste Gas runs a transparent business, choosing to invest in its customers beyond what one might expect from a traditional job shop. “We partner with service centers, other fabricators and manufacturers, to find out what customers need and then develop the best way to fabricate the product,” he says. Cloman also believes in investing in his employees. In 2007 an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) was established at 30 percent employee ownership. Waste Gas became 100 percent employee-owned in 2013. 

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my employees,” Cloman explains. “It was a way for me to give back,” he adds, referring to the ESOP. “I can steer the ship but I can’t make it run.”

FFJ-1014-press-image1

Ninety Waste Gas personnel serve a solid customer base of more than 400 companies ranging from local weld shops to major civil engineering firms and construction contractors for the bridge, furnace and heavy equipment industries. 

The bulk of these markets demand large part fabrication and specialty bending for all types of steel. Waste Gas has the capability to laser cut, plasma cut, flame cut, shear, saw, roll, machine, weld, finish and deliver its products. Growing demand prompted the job shop to consider adding the capacity to bend thicker metal and accommodate larger dies. “We can also order material up to 12 in. thick and flame cut it,” he says. “With our biggest press brake weighing in at 350 tons, 14 ft., we were limited in what we could bend. We’d been talking about a larger press brake for a while and then we got a timely call from Mid-Atlantic Machinery.” The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, company is a distributor for Fab-Line Machinery LLC, based in St. Charles, Illinois. The company specializes in press brakes, shears and plasma cutting systems.

Heavy weight

“Fab-Line happened to have a 770-ton, 23-ft. APHS hydraulic press brake in production at the time,” Cloman recalls. “All the numbers fell in line with our budget and we installed the press brake in June 2012.”

Longer bed length and deeper throat depth were important criteria for Waste Gas. A 12-in. throat depth is standard for most machines on the market. The APHS press brake’s throat depth was custom built at 48 in. Added depth gives the ram more space to open wider, allowing operators to bend and form deep channels in long parts; for instance, processing that can’t be done on conventional press brakes due to throat interference. A deeper throat also makes it possible for Waste Gas to bend large cone shapes, angles and different types of channels for sizable frame and bridge sections while maintaining tight quality specifications.

“Kyle [Waste Gas] is working with heavy material thicknesses that require very high tolerances, which is not the norm for the heavy plate industry,” says Patrick Canning, president of Fab-Line. 

Waste Gas runs a variety of material thicknesses on the new press brake from light gauge to 1-in. including high yield, high tensile armor plate. “High yield, high tensile material is trickier to work with,” Cloman says. “You have to watch your bend radius closely while ensuring the safety of your operator.” The fabricator is one of just a few U.S. companies to earn OSHA’s Safety And Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) certification. 

Waste Gas typically produces and ships parts within a two-week work window but rush orders are no problem for the job shop adds Cloman. Neither is volume. The company can fabricate just one specialty part or setup to efficiently run 10,000 parts. “We don’t have any minimums,” Cloman notes. “Because of that practice, some of the smallest customers we started with 35 years ago are now our biggest customers.”

The APHS press brake gives Waste Gas the flexibility to support a broad assortment of parts and maintain a high degree of accuracy. “The press brake is very precise,” says Cloman. “It allows us to achieve the tolerances customers are asking for.” Meeting tolerances is especially critical for Waste Gas when it comes to bending parts for large construction and civil engineering companies. Proper fit-up of fabricated members translates to accurate and efficient assembly of steelwork at a job site. “The APHS press brake is servo-driven for accuracy in bending heavy materials like plate,” Cloman says. “The machine’s repeatable backgauge, and particularly the programmable control, have been a huge help in giving us the precision we need so that we get a good bend the first time. We can enter each die into its CNC system, plug in material type, thickness and die selection and it will show our operator if the job can be done.” The CNC system checks forming consistency through constant monitoring and correction of beam parallelism.

FFJ-1014-press-image2

Line-up

Bending accuracy also gets a boost from Fab-Line’s unique v-laser technology. The high intensity pointer helps operators correctly align press brake tooling with the scribe line on heavy, long pieces of plate prior to forming. “If you have a 20 ft. piece of plate, you need two operators, one on each end of the material, to control the crane and line up the tick marks with the tooling,” says Canning. “With scribe work you can’t always use a backgauge. That means operators, standing to the right and left of the ram wearing ear plugs, have to eyeball alignment and communicate with each other from 20 ft. The v-laser casts a light beam along the surface of the material making it easy to position the material and get a better bend. The technology isn’t costly, but without it, it’s like driving a car in the rain without windshield wipers. And on a part that size, if you miss, it’s scrap.”

For parts requiring slots, cutouts or clearance holes, Waste Gas develops a flat pattern to ensure tolerances for length and width are first met. The holes are then cut before the part is moved to the press brake. “The nice thing about the v-laser is that we can use the light beam to quickly line up our bending locations on material with cut outs for more accurate forming,” says Cloman. “Otherwise we’d be hand-marking the parts.”

In addition to improving accuracy, the APHS press brake’s technology features—like the v-laser, deeper throat depth and repeatable backgauge—save Waste Gas valuable production time. “When it comes to large part forming, if you can make the part quicker, it saves you time, which improves your bottom line,” says Canning. “If you are able to realize a time reduction of even 15 to 20 percent on large parts that cost thousands of dollars, the savings can add up to a sizable amount of money.”

The addition of the APHS press brake has been huge, says Cloman. “It has allowed us to open up quite a few doors and enhance our support to our customers. The machine has helped us secure larger work across the board.” That includes large-scale art sculptures. “We’re working on an enormous 20 ft. cone section for an art project right now that is set to travel all over the world for public display,” Cloman says. In keeping with the company’s 7-Eleven mentality for service and convenience, Cloman explains when asked how he managed to get into the art business, that it was simple, “Someone called and asked me if we could do it, and I said ‘We sure can.”’ FFJ

 

Sources

  • Fab-Line Machinery LLC
    St. Charles, Ill.
    phone: 630/587-0505
    fax: 630/587-5584
    www.fab-line.com
  • Waste Gas Fabricating Co. Inc.
    Fairless Hills, Pa.
    phone: 215/736-9240
    fax: 215/736-9244
    www.wastegas.com
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