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Deburring/Finishing

Fabricator prioritizes safety by automating its deburring operations with equipment from Lissmac

By Lauren Duensing

Fabricator prioritizes safety by automating its deburring operations

September 2018 - A safe shop floor is an essential component of good morale because it illustrates an employer’s commitment to providing workers with the tools necessary to succeed in their jobs. And upgrading fabrication technology—trading manual methods for automated equipment—is one way to achieve a safer workplace.

United Western Industries Inc. (UWI), Fresno, California, specializes in metal fabrication services, including custom forming, CNC machining and laser cutting. The company was established in 1971 directly across the street from its current facility. At that time, UWI’s four owners worked for Vendo, a vending machine company. UWI’s original owner Clifford Gartin and his team wore multiple hats out of necessity, and their hard work laid the foundation for the company’s growth.

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Parts before and after processing to remove oxide and round edges.

Today, it is woman-owned, has 38 employees, and the bulk of its business comes from the trucking industry. In its 20,000-square-foot shop, UWI can produce anything from a one-off component to a large production run, due to its use of efficient processes and focus on continually upgrading and improving its fabrication capabilities.

The company recently installed two machines from Lissmac Corp., Waterford, New York, for deburring and oxide removal. According to Gale Pirtle, president, UWI ran some parts at Central Cal Metals, also located in Fresno, which has four Lissmac machines, and concluded that UWI “needed to have Lissmac deburring machines” of its own. After discussions with Lissmac, which also ran sample parts for the company, Pirtle and her team were ready to purchase.

UWI’s leadership knew the justification for the machines would be easy due to safety concerns in the grinding department. Ongoing manual grinding can be hazardous to employees due to the vibration of the tools, which can eventually affect dexterity in the hands. In addition, slag and rough edges on parts can cut hands, and the dust and debris kicked up during the process affects air quality.

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For Gale Pirtle, president, and Bruce Ketch, general manager, a safer grinding department justified a new capital expenditure.

Prior to the installation of the two new machines, UWI was using manual tools to deburr parts, which, Pirtle says, in addition to the safety issues, “was not as consistent with the removal of oxide and edge rounding parts.”

Safety and part quality were major considerations, but UWI also wanted to address a bottleneck that was occurring in the metal fabrication department. Although three employees were each assigned to deburring and removing oxide for four to six hours a day, the manual nature of the task meant that cut parts were moving slowly through this area.

Two-sided process

Automated deburring alleviates many of the dangers associated with manual grinding, reducing risk for employees. Lissmac’s oxide removal and deburring systems employ a two-sided process to address oxide layers and sharp edges. This allows cut parts to be processed in a single pass, meaning there’s no need to turn them over and run them through the machine again. This method proves to save time by 60 percent compared to one-sided processing.

Once the new Lissmac equipment was running, employees noticed a huge difference in the amount of dirt, dust and noise in the grinding department.

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“Employees like the machines because they have stopped the frequency of manual oxide removal, which is very dusty in the air, making all employees safer at work,” Pirtle says. “Now, the oxide removal and the deburring machines have eliminated paint chipping, and all parts look consistent and are consistent. Our customers are happy with the end results.”

Consumables savings

In addition to alleviating the bottleneck and improving safety, UWI is saving money on consumable items, such as sanding pads, and has reduced the time spent by employees down to a maximum of two hours for one person. “There’s no bottleneck, no chipping once parts are painted, and they have more time to do other projects,” Pirtle says.

FFJ 0918 deburring image4

Lissmac deburring and oxide removal machines can process both sides of a part, so processors don’t need to flip heavy parts and run them through twice.

In addition to keeping operations running smoothly and meeting customers’ requirements, having an up-to-date manufacturing facility allows UWI to participate in community outreach programs. The company partners with the San Joaquin Manufacturing Alliance, which is working to bring manufacturing back to the high schools and local community colleges, to organize tours of the facility and teach students about the “metal fabrication machines and the rest of the facility’s processes,” Pirtle says.

“The new generation will be going out into the workforce soon. With these tours, they have a better understanding of the equipment that is out there for businesses to use to keep employees safe, speed up the process and retain customers.” FFJ

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