WBT provides customers with proper buffing achieved using calculated brush speeds and abrasives from Apex Machine Group

By Gretchen Salois

Above: WBT can use finer abrasive nylon discs in particular stations to remove soot from the weld joints without removing too much of the surface coating.

January 2019 - Being tethered to technology is commonplace. Workplaces extend their reach into employees’ lives and conversely, workers use that mobility to work on site and—ever more frequently—remotely when needed. As such trends evolve, WBT is seeing an uptick in demand for sturdy trays to organize the countless cables that keep data centers (dedicated space used to house computers and storage systems, including power supplies) running.

Trays are manufactured in sections and include round or shaped crosswires and come with a T-weld edgewire, to ensure safe installation. T-welding protects both the cables and the system installer from sharp edges. WBT also provides custom configurations, is UL certified and manufactures its products in Centralia, Illinois.

WBT’s process also keeps its environmental footprint in mind. Traditionally, trays are made with basic uncoated steel. Once fabricated, they are then trucked to a different facility where the parts are immersed in hydrochloric and sulfuric acid washes to remove any impurities before plating. “It’s a nasty process to go through,” says Gregg Winn, owner of WBT.

FFJ 0119 deburring image1

Before (above) showing dirty wire intersections compares with the product after cleaning with the TB 1600 (below).

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Zinc-plated parts are then packed onto a second truck and shipped back to the original manufacturer, that then packages and ships the finished product to the end user.

“WBT’s process leaves much less of an environmental impact,” Winn explains.  “In our case, there [is no need for] multiple truck trips to and from zinc plating or powdercoat facilities. Instead, we pioneered the use of galvanized wire when manufacturing the tray sections.”

Using a TB 1600 machine from Apex Machine Group, WBT is able to “clean” the soot and any residue left by the welding process, eliminating the manual labor involved without removing galvanized metal—if the coating erodes, the product will rust.

Previously, workers manually removed the soot marks left on the 2 in. by 4 in. mesh grid pattern with hand brushes or repurposed machinery. “That works when you’re not selling a whole lot of trays, but demand is up,” Winn says. “It was important to find a way to deburr and clean the joints efficiently and quickly.”

Soft touch

In order to gently remove soot, WBT needed flexibility. Softer brushes buff the trays to a uniform finish, maintaining the consistency required for an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

“Instead of the back and forth between acid washes and manufacturing facilities as is typical during the traditional process, the customer receives the apex bannerad 140x140tray after it runs through the cleaning and deburring process,” Winn says.

The ability to address both sides of the tray with one machine was paramount. “We looked at our options and Apex was the only system that allowed both sides to be cleaned at the same time. It was ergonomically easier,” Winn adds. “The process is fast, very clean, and results are repeatable. It does a much better job than our old machine did and our consumables costs are down about 30 to 40 percent compared to what we were doing before.”

The brushes spin as well as oscillate, reaching every nook and cranny and at increased speeds. “We’ve run samples for prototypes for Apex and are happy to help in that way. And if a belt breaks or we need new brushes, we can call them up and they get them to us same or next day.”

Adjustable sanding

The TB 1600 deburrs the top and bottom of material with 100 percent uniformity, claims John Becker, vice president of Apex Machine Group, Minneapolis. Rotating discs leave every edge and profile with the same degree of edge radius—whether the left, right, front or back edge. Every part is deburred the same over the whole width of the machine.

“Many times we will install coarser grits in the first station, finer grits in the second station, and can have completely different grits in the bottom deburring stations for added adjustability, like processing parts with laser film,” explains Becker.

“We tested for quite a while to get WBT the correct grit, stiffness, disc [speed] and sanding depth for their applications,” he continues. “We ended up installing multiple sanding media in their machine for their process.” As a result, WBT can use finer abrasive nylon discs in other stations to remove the soot from the weld joints without removing too much of the surface coating.

FFJ 0119 deburring image3

The TB 1600 deburrs the top and bottom of material uniformly. Rotating discs leave every edge and profile with the same degree of edge radius.

The TB 1600 can use flexible sandpaper, abrasive nylon, wire and ScotchBrite-brand products for a wide variety of configurations at any station. Machines can be built in 40-in., 52-in., 64-in., 76-in. and 8-ft.-wide sizes.

“We can run anything from thin-gauge material up to 5 in. thick—that includes preassembled parts, 3D parts, and profiles from perfectly flat with no holes to something with different shapes and numerous holes,” Becker says. “That’s the best part about it; the profile doesn’t matter. Every edge will be done the same, every time.”

Fitting in

WBT is growing “exponentially,” says Winn. The Apex TB 1600 keeps up as demand continues to grow. “We expect huge growth this year and next—we don’t see things slowing down,” he says. “We would have never been able to keep up using our old methods.”

Previously, he says, a 24-in.-wide tray was as large as it got, “but the new Los Angeles Rams stadium uses 6-in. by 36-in. cabletrays. There was no way we could have fit that on our previous machine. We would be hand finishing each piece.”

Winn says WBT plans to purchase a second TB 1600 for its satellite facility opening in Phoenix during 2019. “We were limited to 36 in. widths before, whereas now we can do 60 in. with our current machine. WBT has seen a trend toward the larger sizes of tray.” FFJ



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