Stand-out finish

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Before passing through the Lissmac, left, versus the processed part, right.

Shifting from manual to automated grinding allows fabricator to provide faster and consistent results

July 2020 - The oil and gas industry has a stronghold in Texas but Laser Masters Inc. in Houston has avoided dedicating its entire operations to one industry. COVID-19 has affected nearly all sectors but oil in particular is floundering as downward demand reflects continuing shelter in place orders in much of the country.

“We’ve always tried to serve a variety of industries that would keep us afloat no matter what happens. During times like these, variety has helped us stay afloat,” says Steve Doll, president. The 15-year-old shop works on jobs requiring thousands of fabricated parts in one run. Until recently, Laser Masters would use two to five people to manually grind burrs and round edges with a right-angle grinder.

FFJ 0720 deburring image1

Since installing the Lissmac, Laser Masters has condensed its grinding operations from multiple stations placed throughout the shop floor to one machine in one area of the shop.

“We found that even with great care we had wavy type finishes on parts, even when we avoided touching the surface,” Doll says. “The time it took and the inconsistent results left us looking for an automated way to achieve a consistent finish.”

Doll spoke with local vendors to find out what they were using to deburr their parts. “The name Lissmac kept popping up,” Doll says. “I had already purchased an off-brand machine to deburr edges but it left a little swirl. We decided to give Lissmac a try.”

Sustainable results

Over the last year, Laser Masters has adjusted by downsizing multiple manual grinding stations to one Lissmac machine station. “At first I was worried about teaching workers how to run a new machine but we found it’s very simple to run,” Doll says. “We’ve been able to teach anyone. So far we have three people who can run the machine whenever we need to.”

FFJ 0720 deburring image2

Simplicity has allowed Laser Masters to adjust to faster outputs using the Lissmac without forming bottlenecks. Before installing the Lissmac, grinding stations were strategically spread out throughout the shop floor in order to ensure safety. “We didn’t want debris flying around so we had to make sure to isolate every grinding area,” Doll says. “We no longer have to set up multiple grinding stations scattered throughout the shop. Operations are more streamlined.”

The SBM L G1S2 1500 has one grinding belt on both the top and bottom of the machine to remove vertical burrs or dross. Two sand block belts on both top and bottom remove a secondary burr and round the outside edges as well as inside slots and cutouts.

“You load a part into the Lissmac G1S2 that was cut with a fiber laser or turret punch and it will remove vertical burrs and round edges on the top and bottom of a part in one pass,” says Tim Corley, director of metal processing sales at Lissmac Corp., Mechanicville, New York.

FFJ 0720 deburring image3

Parts through the Lissmac G1S2 will last longer in a salt spray test. Tests showed no rust for 500 hours versus an unprocessed part where edges rust at 50 hours or less.

Fiber lasers allow for fast and precise cutting, but the cut edges can be sharp. “Lissmac has tested a fiber laser part with no secondary process, versus a fiber laser part that has been deburred and edges rounded through the Lissmac machine,” Corley says. “Parts through the Lissmac G1S2 will last longer in a salt spray test—no rust for 500 hours versus an unprocessed part that will see edges rusting at 50 hours or less.”

Rounded edges also allow workers to handle parts without risking lacerations. Press brake tooling will last longer when the part is deburred on the top and bottom.

“It also provides better paint adhesion,” Corley adds. “The top and bottom edges of a part have more surface area for paint adhesion. We have performed internal salt spray tests as well as worked with customer salt spray tests (more than 1,000 hours per test) that prove edge rounding prevents rusting.”

FFJ 0720 deburring image4

The SBM L G1S2 1500 has one grinding belt on both the top and bottom of the machine to remove vertical burrs or dross.

Automated adjustments

The Siemens S7 controller gives users options including a touch screen control to activate and deactivate the heads. Auto-wear compensation uses “photo eyes” that read the sand block belts (edge rounding), that senses when sand blocks are worn down. The machine will automatically move the sand block belt heads into the correct position to provide consistent edge rounding per part.

Auto-wear removes subjectivity from the process because instead of relying on operators’ input, it refers to data that direct the machine to make adjustments automatically.

“In our older machine models, this process had to be checked before and after each shift,” Corley explains. “Operators had to manually adjust the position on sand blocks. However, if someone was not trained on the machine, they might adjust the machine so that the blocks wore down too fast. Or they might not make an adjustment at all and the machine wouldn’t perform edge rounding like it is designed to do.” Such issues don’t exist with the new controller and auto-wear compensation.

FFJ 0720 deburring image5

The Siemens S7 controller gives users options including a touch screen control to activate and deactivate the heads as well as store jobs for later reference.

Users can store programs for specific processes depending on the job. “There are times when a laser cuts material with virtually no vertical burr, however, there is still a call for edge rounding on the drawing,” Corley says. “You can create a recipe for that part that doesn’t engage the grinding belts, which are meant for vertical burrs or dross. If you know the part will always have a vertical burr based on the material and speed you are cutting, you have a recipe for the grinding belt and sand blocks to be activated.”

If a part has a PVC laser film to protect a grain finish, the customer can use a program that turns off the top grinding belt and only uses the sand blocks on the top and bottom of the part. The sand blocks won’t remove the PVC protective coating but will still round the edges. The bottom grinding belt can stay on since there is no PVC on the bottom. Other features like bar code scanner, motorized conveyors and maintenance alerts give users the ability to automate more steps as well as communicate job progress in real-time.

Even after months of running the machine “it still runs like day one,” Doll says, adding that the construction of the machine itself surprised him. “I didn’t expect it to be so sturdy (compared to the off-brand deburring machine used previously). But now we see that it’s that robust construction that allows it to absorb any vibrations and eliminate the chance of wavy finishes,” he adds.

Parts are fabricated, easy to handle and loaded to pallets more quickly because there is no need to hand-grind parts. “We never know what jobs we’re running on any given day,” Doll says. “The way things have been going [with COVID-19], that continues to be the case.

“We were initially concerned about the capital investment but it has since paid for itself and has been well worth it,” Doll continues. “There are no hiccups, everything is uniform.”  FFJ



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