Tube & Pipe

Making cuts

By Lynn Stanley

Above: A Hill Manufacturing operator uses a Mathey Dearman 1SA CNC saddle machine to make beveled straight cuts on 6-in. pipe.

Manufacturers mow a path through production obstacles with progressive technology

October 2014 - Equipped with the world’s first field portable, CNC-driven saddle machine, pipe cutters are putting down their hand tools to slice through pipe with the precision and speed of a Jedi’s light saber. Mathey Dearman introduced the new machine in January this year, making the jump to light speed when it took a historically manual machine and transformed it into a high-strength, lightweight, aluminum-skinned system powered with CNC technology. 

Referring to the CNC saddle machine, “It’s a huge leap forward,” says Robert Grantham, director of marketing and product management for Mathey Dearman. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, company has been designing and building cutting and beveling machines and clamping, aligning and reforming systems for pipe and tubing since the 1930s. 

“Fabricators used to bid on a job and then spend days, weeks or months hand-cutting pipe before they could deliver an order,” Grantham explains. “Now they can bid on jobs with the knowledge that production will take just hours.”


Game changer

The machine can be set up to work with oxy-fuel or plasma. Its software interface gives operators an easy-to-use tool for setting up and controlling complex cuts, bevels and miters. Development of the technology began in 2012 when Mathey’s management team took a closer look at the industry and noted that cutting still remained largely manual. “A lot of the work was being accomplished with patterns, soap stone and a lot of elbow grease,” says Grantham. “It was very time-consuming. We found a way to take a durable, time-tested design and take it to the next level with today’s technology to make our equipment more relevant for customers.” 

“It fills a niche,” adds Kevin Dooley, vice president of sales and marketing for Mathey, “and in the realm of production, it serves an incredible need. Cut quality is critical, especially for welders who have to adhere to very tight tolerances. The geometry alone is enough to make your head hurt.”

Cutting pipe manually means operators have to make a cut, grind it and then visually check it before repeating the process to achieve an acceptable fit-up. “It might take up to an hour and a half to accomplish fit-up for one joint,” says Dooley. “We’ve reduced that process to five minutes. It’s that much of a game-changer.”

Early adopters MCPS Limited, South Shields, England; and Hill Manufacturing Inc., Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, find the CNC saddle machine is cutting a swath through raw, uncut pipe and tube to deliver significant cost savings, higher quality cuts and faster production rates.

MCPS designs and manufactures comprehensive cathodic protection and marine growth prevention systems for the marine, offshore oil and gas, offshore wind farm and marine civil industries. A time-sensitive job required the company to cut 6-in. (152 mm) diameter schedule 80 pipe into 14.75 in. (375 mm) lengths and bore 4-in. holes to produce corrosion-fighting sacrificial anodes. The anodes, made from a highly active aluminum/zinc alloy, were then molded onto a [cross member] pipe. The application called for one tower to be welded to each end of an anode. Anodes are typically attached to metal structures such as pipelines or undersea platforms to slow corrosion.


Time and money

The job’s 391 sacrificial anodes called for 782 towers to complete the project. When the company analyzed the job’s production steps, it found set-up and hack sawing individual cuts took 160 minutes to make 32 units. Boring two 4-in. holes, using two types of hole blades [costing $400 per blade], took 30 minutes each. Total time to produce 782 towers added up to 456 hours or 57 8-hour workdays.

The company began looking for a way to reduce its production time when it submitted a bid for a job requiring a larger number of cuts. A video demonstration of Mathey’s CNC saddle machine proffered a potential solution. 

The cold cutting method could not meet the job’s required turnaround time, Graeme Crowe, general manager for MCPS, said. Investing in a Mathey CNC 1SA saddle machine with integrated plasma cutting, MCPS installed the new system in December 2013. “The CNC saddle machine was launched with the capability to perform single cuts at one time,” Grantham says. “MCPS worked with us to develop a method for linking multiple cuts then saving the sequences for future use.” The enhancement allowed MCPS to move from one cut to the next without operator intervention. “We were able to modify the software on the fly to meet customer requirements then download the updates,” says Dooley.

MCPS used the CNC saddle machine to make two 4-in. hole cuts and one sever cut to 6-in.-diameter schedule 80 pipe to produce 14.75 in. (375 mm) towers. Total time for setup and three cuts took 7 minutes per pipe. To complete fabrication of 782 towers took just 11 8-hour days. The saddle machine saved MCPS 46 8-hour days, allowing the company to reclaim 368 labor hours for a savings of $18,547.

“The Mathey CNC saddle machine allowed us to win and finish the job on time,” says Crowe. “Otherwise we might not have been able to meet the customer’s deadline for this project. The equipment paid for itself with just one project.”

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Hill Manufacturing was carefully weighing the costs of bringing its contour hole and saddle cutting work in-house.  

Hill Manufacturing is a one-stop solution for producing high-quality machine parts for a wide range of markets. Scott Nuessen, production manager for Hill Manufacturing, oversees fabrication of manifolds that are used in the oil and gas industry. The company met with Mathey to talk about the impact the CNC saddle machine could have on eliminating their dependence on outsourcing. Hill Manufacturing purchased a Mathey 1SA CNC saddle machine and a 2SA CNC saddle machine with a Hypertherm Powermax 105 plasma machine to support production of 77 manifolds on 10-in. pipe, and installed the equipment in February this year. Production requirements entailed five hole cuts, two straight cuts with 37.5-degree beveled ends and five adjoining saddle cuts on branch pipes.

When outsourcing the work, Hill Manufacturing purchased pipe components with holes and profiles laser cut and had to account for a 14-day lead time from order placement to receipt of components. An area job shop, specializing in CNC laser cutting, started production once it received the components. The shop’s typical lead times ran from 21 to 30 days.


Opening doors 

Feeding raw uncut pipe to its Mathey CNC saddle machine, Hill Manufacturing found the quality of their plasma cuts an improvement over laser cuts in most cases. Customer lead time was reduced from 21 to 30 days down to 14 days or less. Expedite fees associated with outsourcing were eliminated. Cost for 10-in. pipe cut-to-length without contour holes and bevels fell almost 50 percent. Hill Manufacturing’s 30-day analysis of the manifold project revealed an average monthly savings of $21,560 or more. The company is also realizing time savings that includes purchased product lead time and reduction of lead time for customer delivery of the manifolds. 

“We used to outsource all our components and then have them sent in to be put together like a puzzle,” says Nuessen. “The Mathey CNC saddle machines allow us to perform most saddle holes and saddle cuts without having to buy a CNC pipe profiling machine costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.” And while Hill Manufacturing recognizes the equipment carries some limitations, the manufacturer is gearing up to make a capital investment in additional saddle machines.

Like its customers, the groundbreaking CNC cutting combo is opening doors for Mathey which is readying plans to release a 3SA (12 in. to 20 in.) and a 4SA with capacity for 20 in. to 26 in. pipe.  The saddle machine’s portability makes it a flexible tool, but many customers are installing the new machine as part of a compact, fixed workstation, Dooley observes. The machine’s safer, faster, more precise cutting operation is complemented by a learning curve measured in minutes instead of hours. “There’s really nothing like it on the market,” he adds. FFJ



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