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Sawing/Cutting

Fast cutting

By Russ Olexa

Quicker ways of cutting steel are as easy as picking up a circular saw

August 2009 - When fabricators are faced with cutting small pieces of steel stock up to 1/2 in. thick, they often reach for a cutoff or air saw that uses a grinding-style circular blade.

These can be loud, messy, inaccurate and even hazardous, with sparks flying everywhere. But they’re a convenient and inexpensive way to cut metal.

In fact, convenience and low cost would make a circular hand saw, such as the ones used for cutting wood, great for cutting steel, especially when you compare them with expensive manual plasma cutting systems.

But wood-cutting saws lack the necessary heavy-duty design and high-amperage motors to do the work. So SteelMax, Centennial, Colo., developed one to make steel and other material cutting easy.

Ask Gary Prudhomme, executive vice president at Oakland Welding Industries Inc., New Baltimore, Mich., about how easy it is to cut steel with a circular hand saw, and he’ll tell you there are few other ways to do it quickly and inexpensively.

Since 1961, Oakland Welding Industries has been a family-owned business specializing in custom fabrication of incinerators, parts washers, heat-treat furnaces, conveyors and loading systems. Four generations have worked for the company, and the third generation currently owns it.

The company has a 25,000-sq.-ft. facility, where it offers shearing, rolling, bending, and forming processes for plate and structural fabrications.

"We have the expertise to provide quality fabrications from basic forms to the most complex turnkey systems," says Prudhomme. "Our versatile company has built custom staircases, platforms, walkways, machines and guards. We even have our own patented product called a Metering Parts Loader."

SteelMax’s magnetic base drills offer a heavy-duty, lightweight platform for drilling holes using an annular bit rather than a drill bit that easily dulls. Oakland Welding ended up buying two of these drills for the construction of various fabrications.

"These drills are convenient and fast, and you don’t need a big drill press for long beams," says Prudhomme. "The annular cutter that’s used is nice because it’s small and efficient. It doesn’t get as hot as a drill and has a long life. It allows us to skip the resharpening of drill bits."

Prudhomme says the success of the drills led the company to consider a new product introduced by Gerry Zack, SteelMax’s vice preisdent of marketing and product development: a steel-cutting saw along the lines of one used for cutting wood.

"He demonstrated it by cutting some steel, and everybody’s jaws dropped," says Prudhomme. "This was a much better way to cut steel because a lot of times, when using heat to cut metal, it deforms. This saw generates little heat in the material, so there’s no warping that can cause problems. In fact, it’s cool to the touch. This saw produces a clean, burr-free cut, and any chips are primarily caught in the saw’s internal chip-collection system.

"We ended up buying two of them and use the SteelMax saw for walkway gratings that are sometimes 1/4 in. thick," he continues. "These walkway gratings are often custom layouts for a particular machine. So we have to figure out how to cut them easily and efficiently."

Prudhomme also says using the SteelMax saw helps eliminate other processes, such as plasma and torch cutting, thereby saving time and energy.

"It also does any angle that you need, so it’s fantastic," he says. 'We use it about 80 percent of the time for steel gratings used for machine walkways, steps for equipment, stair treads and mezzanines."

For another job, Oakland Welding used the SteelMax s14 dry-cutting metal saw that’s table-mounted and similar to a chop saw but uses a carbide-tipped circular blade. The company had to cut and weld 6,000 pieces of angle iron for a fabrication.

Prudhomme says the SteelMax saw paid for itself quickly by reducing a 100-man-hour band sawing job to just 33 hours. Pre-weld grinding was eliminated, and floor space for new production was freed. The company experienced about 1,400 cuts per blade on 1.5-in.-by-1.5-in. angle iron. With a shop rate of $55 per hour, the SteelMax saw saved about $3,600 in man-hours in one week.

Sailboat mast
One particularly unusual and tough job with the SteelMax saw was producing a mold for a 110-ft.-long sailboat mast.

"We’re a custom job shop, so we’ll try anything once," says Prudhomme. "We’ve built some pretty exotic stuff from large metal sculptures that were made from boxed aluminum pieces to entire turnkey machines. A company called Offshore Spars USA [Chesterfield, Mich.] asked if we could build them the long mast from aluminum extrusions. These extrusions had to be fabricated together to produce a solid one-piece mast. Each section was approximately 20 ft. long. We had to have eight aluminum extruded pieces that were placed together to form the oval shape of the mast, making one section. But we also had to cut these extrusions linearly, somewhat ripping their length to make them the proper overall width for the oval shape. So there was a lot of cutting. We ended up using the SteelMax saw, and it worked perfectly. Ours has a laser guidance system that keeps it perfectly on track.

"This finished aluminum mast was actually used as a mold to make a finished carbon-fiber mast," he continues. "The carbon fiber was laid over the aluminum, cooked in an oven, and then the aluminum was pushed out of the carbon fiber to produce the finished mast."

Taking stock
SteelMax makes two metal-cutting circular hand saws: one that uses a 7.5-in. carbide-tipped blade and one with a 9-in. blade, with motors ranging from 13 amps to 15 amps. Each has an internal chip-collection system that catches most hot chips. They also have an additional vented cover included for cutting wood, aluminum and other materials. The s7 saw will cut mild steel up to 5/16 in. thick with a depth of cut of 2.25 in. The s9 will cut 1/2-in.-thick steel with a depth of cut of 3.25 in.

SteelMax also makes a dry cutting saw, the s14, similar to an abrasive chop saw that’s mounted to a base. It uses a 14-in. blade and will cut 1-in.-thick steel with a capacity of up to a 4.75-in.-diameter tube. The saws are quite versatile. They can cut profiles for angles, channels, box tubing, square tubing, pipe, round tubing and small solids. FFJ

Sources

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AIR FILTRATION

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Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

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Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

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Mazak Optonics Corp.

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Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc.

STAMPING/PRESSES

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MTS Sensors

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AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group

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Mate Precision Tooling

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Burghardt + Schmidt Group Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. Rolleri USA Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss UFP Industrial

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Red Bud Industries

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AMADA AMERICA, INC. BLM Group
Tishken Advanced Gauging Technologies Automec Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

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MC Machinery Systems Inc.

WATERJET

Mayfran International Cincinnati Inc. SafanDarley Barton International

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LVD Strippit

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Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation Scotchman Industries Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Trilogy Machinery Inc.

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WELDING

Osborn

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Behringer Saws Inc. American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Cosen Saws Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers MetalForming Inc. DoALL Sawing T. J. Snow Company

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HE&M Saw

 

Beckwood Press Co. Titan Tool Supply Inc. Savage Saws

 

Triform

 

 

 


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