Plasma Technology

Shaving time

By Gretchen Salois

Above: The Peddinghaus HSFDB-2500C with Shop Data Systems software allows Capone Iron to save steps when laying out plate and bevel cutting it.

One-stop station minimizes handling and scrap

November 2016 - It’s a cumbersome process to load a 40- to 100-lb. slab of sheet onto the table, process it, then pick it up and set it aside to be transported to another station, and another, and another. The back strain alone could put a worker out of commission if material goes askew. Reducing the amount of material handling is economical, and is more likely to keep aesthetics, and backs, intact.

Cutting A36 and A572 carbon steel, Capone Iron Corp. fabricates 1⁄4-in. through 4-in.-thick plate for erecting schools, hospitals and warehouses throughout New England. “With production ramping up, we found that every time we had to take a part off one machine and do another operation, it was costing us more handling time—that’s a killer,” says Stephen Kinney, general manager at Capone Iron, which operates from Berlin, New Hampshire, and Rowley, Massachusetts. “Anytime you can do a job in one work step, such as laying out a bevel and cutting it in one station, instead of taking plate from one station to another, shaves a lot of time off production.”

After looking at several companies and their machines, Capone installed the Peddinghaus HSFDB-2500C with Shop Data Systems Inc. (SDS) software. “We figured Peddinghaus has been around forever and, as an industry staple, was a good fit for our needs,” Kinney says. “The fact that we can bevel plate on it was a big selling point.”

Before automatic beveling capabilities allowed for plate to move through a line and be cut in one pass, someone would have to bevel by hand which, ultimately, means cutting the plate twice: once to get a rough shape and then to lay out and bevel the edges. As a result, Capone Iron had its plate fabricated elsewhere. Outsourcing didn’t present any problems but the company wanted greater “control over how we process our plate,” says Kinney.

Since installing the Peddinghaus, SDS-controlled line, Kinney has been able to redistribute manpower to other areas of the shop. Capone Iron’s newfound ability to process rush orders “no longer leaves us at the mercy of our vendors doing the plasma cutting,” he notes. “Our Peddinghaus processes enough plate to fill both [of our shop] facilities easily.”

FFJ 1116 plasma image1

The pass-through design eliminates handling material in between processes.

Handle once

The Peddinghaus HSFDB is multifunctional, able to process stock plate up to 4 in. thick, 8 ft. wide and 20 ft. long in one pass. “It will carbide drill, tap, counter sink, surface and slot mill the plate and then the plasma torch will contour bevel the edges and cut all parts,” says Lyle Menke, chief spiritual officer at Peddinghaus Corp., Bradley, Illinois. The plate is processed in a continuous step. It is loaded, fabricated and then the machine offloads finished parts to a discharge conveyor. “You never have to take a part to a different machine for another operation,” says Menke.

With the pass-through design of the HSFDB plate processor, says Kinney, there is “no more [manual] lifting of heavy parts from a burn table.”

A system like this, which minimizes handling and reduces scrap and labor, can be applied not only to structural steel fabricators, but to service centers and agricultural and other heavy equipment manufacturing plants, according to Menke. 

Most competing plate systems don’t offer a spindle head that can drill, tap and counter sink, Kinney says. Using SDS software at the plasma cutting step allows Kinney’s team to detail individual parts, create 3D models that workers can adjust, and automatically nest parts, resulting in the least amount of waste. “We can save the nest results and the parts are ready to be cut on the machine,” he adds.

Beveling prowess

The contour beveling capability of the Hypertherm plasma unit brings multiple operations onto one apparatus. Customers comment often on the high cut quality achieved by the plasma contour unit. 

The SDS software removes any guesswork during the plasma bevel cutting process. “We allow the operator to set offsets for each angle to ensure accuracy during the cutting process,” explains Gary Hochstatter, SDS general sales manager.

“With our optional MRPLink module, part files and material can be imported directly from an MRP system instead of requiring an operator to manually import part files one at a time. With the type of parts most of our customers cut,” he continues, SDS has an advanced nesting algorithm that can practically eliminate scrap and skeletons. “We can process an entire plate with no full kerf pierces, and automatically apply common line or chain cutting to the parts on the nested plate.”

FFJ 1116 plasma image2

Capone Iron can take on rush orders now that its plasma cutting abilities are in house.

Opportunity arises

Among its other features, the software automatically detects if hole locations fall within necessary parameters. “If a fabricator is doing certain parts repetitively, it can process a ton per hour up to 1 in. thick or 2 tons for plate 2 in. thick and higher,” Menke says. “It’s one machine with one operator processing stock plate and making finished parts in one pass, reducing labor and minimizing scrap remnants.”

Nesting software allows operators to input the part files and select options from a drop-down menu for a simple bevel or k-bevel, for example. “It’s really intuitive,” Kinney says. “You just pull down the menu and click OK.”

The contribution the Peddinghaus/SDS package has provided Capone Iron is in the kinds of jobs it can accept and in the way it opens up its processing schedule. “Before we couldn’t take on certain jobs if we didn’t feel comfortable with the inventory stream,” Kinney says. “Now that we have control of the delivery schedules, we can confidently commit to jobs, knowing we control that aspect of the production process—and in the construction business, it’s all about how fast you can get it done.”

Waste not, want not

The software helps operators through every step, including with material yield. It makes use of the small section of plate that’s covered by the clamp, called the tail stock. This section is clamped to hold the material still during the cutting process and then scrapped. “Our algorithm cuts parts out of that [otherwise discarded] tail stock,” Hochstatter at SDS explains.

With pre-set programming features and functions, Hochstatter says programming and setup times are reduced—those unproductive hours are reclaimed to focus on the jobs as they come in the door. 

In addition to its plate processor, Capone Iron has a full Peddinghaus line with a coper, drill line, band saw, pass-through sand blaster and plasma robot. “The least amount of time you can spend handling a part, whether cutting, grinding or cleaning it, the better,” Kinney says. “Even if condensing the process shaves only seconds off each part’s production time, we do thousands of parts for one order and that time adds up.” FFJ



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