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Deburring/Finishing

Heavy hitter

By DENIS WEINFURTHER, ARKU INC.

Above: With the EdgeBreaker 4000’s intuitive touch-screen interface, operators can make adjustments or perform automatic calibration of the tools in no time.

Fabricator uses grinding technology to make deburring process safer and more efficient

December 2021 - When the late Ted Corbin founded Metal Trades Inc. in 1962, he had one piece of welding equipment and a pickup truck. Since then, the family-owned company has grown exponentially. Metal Trades earned certification as a Master Ship Repair Contractor for the U.S. Army and has an Agreement for Boat Repair with the U.S. Navy. The company developed into a multi-skilled specialist in heavy custom steel fabrication for barge/commercial marine construction and ship repair.

The company’s complex is housed on almost 50 acres, and it operates its own deep-water access point off South Carolina’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Able to accommodate vessels up to 370 ft. long and 70 ft. wide, including massive crane barges, Metal Trades also supports the power generation market with parts that range from transformers and cooling units to oil tanks.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the last 59 years is the company’s relentless pursuit of quality. “No matter what product, they all have one thing in common,” says Virgil Taylor, processing manager for Metal Trades. “They are custom-made, and they are heavy. Standard solutions don’t stand a chance in the demanding industries we serve.”

Taylor, who has been with the company for 25 years, knows what he’s talking about. According to him, customers who rely on high-quality equipment have equally high expectations concerning product design and functionality.

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Metal Trades has increased part consistency and throughput with the EdgeBreaker 4000.

Improving processes

“We do serve a niche market, but a demanding one, that continuously asks us to push our boundaries,” says Dustin Corbin, vice president of operations for Metal Trades. “This requires us to be flexible at all times.” That means scrutinizing the company’s internal processes for ways to improve.

In 2019, Metal Trades identified a need to fabricate and deburr steel more efficiently.  The existing manual methods had become a major pain point.

“We employ well-versed welders and fitters who do a tremendous job,” says Taylor. “On top of that, once parts were oxyfuel or gas cut, the staff handled and manually deburred them. For smooth fabrication, we need to take the dross off our parts.”

The process proved to be problematic. Deburring with hand grinders kept the welders and fitters from performing their primary jobs and posed a safety risk. Metal Trades processes parts up to 2 in. thick and 40 in. wide. To mitigate the risk and reduce labor expenses, the company began looking for automated deburring support.

“We wanted to keep our welders and fitters on their jobs and proceed to fabrication without secondary handling,” Corbin explains. “After all, we aim to maintain high deburring quality for heavy parts at all times. Efficiency is our No. 1 driver.”

In 2019, a small team from Metal Trades traveled to Fabtech in Chicago. Equipment at the ARKU booth caught their attention. The company has been designing and building levelers, deburring machines and coil lines for many years. Corbin met ARKU Sales Manager Nathan Brown and they discussed the options for an automated deburring machine. After Brown demonstrated the machines’ capabilities, “it was obvious that the EdgeBreaker 4000 was a highly promising fit. I was particularly interested in the machine’s ability to deburr the top and bottom of a part in a single pass.”

In terms of process efficiency, “this was exactly what we were looking for,” adds Taylor. The EdgeBreaker 4000’s oscillating grinding drum removes burrs from plasma and oxyfuel cut parts up to 4 in. thick with repeatable results. Edge-rounding tools on the top and bottom foster double-sided edge rounding as well. This double-sided design can cut processing times by up to 50 percent compared to conventional single-side machines.

Metal Trades installed an ARKU EdgeBreaker 4000 and found the installation to be straightforward. “ARKU technicians managed the setup smoothly and helped us wherever they could,” Corbin says. “Given the facility’s layout, there was no optimal spot to place the machine, but ARKU worked with us to identify the best location for optimal operation.”

The most important aspect of the installation wasn’t space. “Training and knowing how to handle such a powerful tool are infinitely more relevant for quality,” says Taylor. “In addition to standard machine training, we make sure operators understand that thickness is crucial for smooth operations.”

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Nick Cromer, Metal Trades steel processing lead, left, Daniel Freeman, Metal Trades steel processing specialist, Virgil Taylor, Metal Trades steel processing manager, and Nathan Brown, sales manager at ARKU Inc.

Above and beyond

“In our industry, I encounter new challenges every day,” Taylor continues. “Sometimes, equipment is intended for certain processes but we take pride in using it above and beyond its specifications. I like coming to work without having to dread the repetitiveness of other industries.”

The EdgeBreaker 4000 is processing roughly 10,000 lbs. of heavy parts per month. “ARKU’s equipment is a real lifesaver,” says Corbin. “It takes the dross off neatly and has accepted all matching parts without major issues. For us, the improvements are mainly internal, since we’re saving rework and manual labor hours.”

The EdgeBreaker 4000 also helps to achieve good painting on the parts’ edges, which boosts corrosion resistance. One of its major benefits, though, is barely perceptible: it’s a virtually silent operation. According to Virgil, “the EdgeBreaker is one of the quietest machines I’ve ever run. Even at full capacity, except for a low humming, you can barely hear it. This is highly unusual in the industry and creates a quiet working atmosphere. Standing right next to the deburring machine, a customer once even asked me if it was running at all.”  FFJ

Sources

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