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Tube & Pipe

Double duty

By Gretchen Salois

Photo: Engineer operating the robot on the BLM GROUP LT-FREE.

Dual work chambers allow the machine to keep working during loading and offloading

February 2021 - At Sharpe Products, each day brings with it a wide range of tasks. “We never know what types of jobs we’re going to get from fabricators or other customers,” says Paul Krickeberg, president and CEO.

The industrial and commercial tube and pipe bending, laser tube cutting, and custom fabricator needs to be able to cut holes into tubing before and after the bending process. “No matter how many features you’re able to cut before bending, there are still parts where notching, coping or slottings must be done after the bend, whether due to location or complexity,” Krickeberg says.

Most recently, Sharpe purchased the LT-FREE 5-axis laser cutting system from BLM GROUP. The ability to process a wide range of parts is essential for the company. The LT-FREE’s dual work chambers and index tables allow users to load and offload parts while the machine is cutting, saving on production time. The part is manipulated by the robot, which makes it possible to cut geometries to specification on complex-shaped parts, such as the radius of a pre-bent tube or 3D hydroformed or stamped part.

FFJ 0221 tube image1

Heat shields produced on the BLM GROUP LT-FREE.

For over 30 years, Sharpe Products, New Berlin, Wisconsin, has offered custom tube and pipe bending as well as laser cutting, end-forming and other specialized services. The company has purchased numerous machines from BLM GROUP. Sharpe Products also has BLM LT Fiber, LS5, LT5 and E-Turn machines.

Located 15 minutes outside of Milwaukee, Sharpe Products operates out of two locations. “We may be tasked with cutting features on a 6-in.-OD tube for an engineering customer designing a new product or creating specialized slots or cutouts for an OEM,” Krickeberg says. “We need to be able to respond so that we can supply whatever it is they need.”

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BLM GROUP LS5 flat sheet laser cutting system.

Simplified process

Since its release in 2013, BLM GROUP has added smart functions to the LT-FREE, known as “Active Tools” that simplify the process for operators. Features such as active speed automatically optimize parameters at actual speed without operator input; active piercing, which improves piercing efficiency and increases quality and reliability; active focus, which changes laser focus for each geometry and simplifies complex part management; active grippers that add input/output (I/O) options and active tool management for high-accuracy applications; and active restart, which minimizes part waste.

BLM GROUP’s ArtCut 5-axis CAM software allows users to program the machine offline using a 3D model and clicking on the geometries to cut. ArtCut simulations ensure the program is good prior to part processing. The company’s tube-processing experience allows additional functions, such as adding extra length to the end of the tube.

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The BLM GROUP E-Turn is used for multi-axis bending operation.

The human machine interface (HMI) eliminates complex machine programming, including robot programming and the need for laser machining expertise. From the 3D preview of the part, users can move any geometry with one click or add micro joints if necessary. A comprehensive database includes cutting parameters for any application.

Each machine has helped Sharpe Products expand its offerings to customers, with greater capacity to tackle a wider variety of part configurations. “We recently completed our company training on the LT-FREE,” Krickeberg says. “We’ve been able to shift how we have our production floor set up by moving our tube and flat sheet laser equipment into one dedicated area. The LT-FREE increases efficiency over machining and eliminates the need for consumable tooling (end-mills, drill bits, etc.).”

Repeatable quality and tolerances coupled with readily available customer service from BLM were selling points for Sharpe Products. “Laser spring back features put us ahead of competitors using hydraulic machines.” Krickeberg says. “We’re able to provide our customers with consistent, high-quality parts. It’s an advantage for us.”  FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Beckwood Press Co. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters Triform

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc.

LASER TECHNOLOGY

Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

AMADA AMERICA, INC.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. Mazak Optonics Corp. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC MC Machinery Systems Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

Murata Machinery, USA, Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC TRUMPF Inc.

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

COIL PROCESSING

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group MTS Sensors Rolleri USA

STEEL

Burghardt + Schmidt Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

PRESS BRAKES

Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC.

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial Automec Inc. BLM Group
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

MC Machinery Systems Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies SafanDarley

WATERJET

Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

PUNCHING

Barton International

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit

SAWING

Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc. Behringer Saws Inc.

WELDING

Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. DoALL Sawing American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

HE&M Saw Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Savage Saws T. J. Snow Company

 

MetalForming Inc.

 

 

 

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

 

 

 

Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

 


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