Plasma Technology

Double duty

By Lisa Rummler

September 2009 - Greg Lynch was at the FabTech International & AWS Welding Show in Chicago the first time he saw the Vicon Monarch from Plasma Automation Inc., Bohemia, N.Y. The vice president of engineering at Almet Inc., New Haven, Ind., walked away impressed--and with a souvenir.

"[It was] the whole application: the way it was burning, the speed and how clean of a cut it was," he says. "They were burning 1/4 -in. material, and they were burning out these little martini glasses, which were fairly intricate, and they had a little olive in the middle, like on a toothpick. I’ve still got one of those burnouts today."

Almet purchased its own Monarch about three years ago, which concluded its search for a high-definition burn table.

Lynch says the machine has a great deal of application potential, and Almet uses the Monarch to burn many products it would’ve sheared before, which has revolutionized the company’s processes. "If it was a simple rectangle with a series of holes in it, we have switched over to using a burn table in lieu of shearing the plate and then laying out the holes for that and then punching the holes," he says. "Now, we can do all of that on the burn table as a finished product."

Upping the ante
Almet is a structural and miscellaneous steel fabricator that works with mild steel, stainless and aluminum. The company also manufactures material handling equipment and portable and stationary asphalt plants, and it does a lot of plate work.

Lynch says Almet uses the Monarch for many products, including connection plates for structural steel. The machine also enables the company to burn irregular shapes and cones, among other things.

"We’ve even used it for some thinner base plates because it has the capability of going up to 11/4 in.," he says. "We’ll get a pretty high-quality cut up to 11/4 in."

Additionally, because the Monarch has increased Almet’s productivity and minimized its layout time, the company uses the machine whenever it can.

"Maybe we have a flange that’s 3/8 in. thick, and it has a 2-ft. ID, a 2-ft.-6-in. OD and 11/16-in. holes that are every 9 in. or so," says Lynch. "With the old table, all we would do is burn the inside and the outside. And then, after that, we would lay out all those hole locations, then punch those, and then you’d have your finished product.

"Now, all those holes are applied in that plate, so it’s a finished product when it comes off the table," he says. "When you do have plates that require burning, we can also lay the holes out confidently, and it applies a nice hole in the proper location."

Further, thanks to technological advancements, Almet can use a direct link to download data from its CAD drawings to the Monarch.

"The operator can pull that information up, and he can take a plate that’s 96 in. wide and 20 ft. long, and he can lay that on the table, and he can nest a series [of parts]," says Lynch. "And you have 10 parts like this and 18 parts like that and 55 parts like this and 12 parts like that--you can take all of those and nest them onto that plate. It’ll do it on auto nesting and compact everything efficiently into that area and then burn all the particular parts."

The Monarch’s size is also a boon to Almet. Lynch says this was an initial draw to the machine for the company.

"Its geometry is different," he says. "It’s a compact machine, so it doesn’t take up as much room as some of the other burn tables do."

Running the gamut
Typically, the Monarch traverses at 2,000 ipm, enabling the gantry to move rapidly across the table, resulting in increased processing time. In addition, it has a built-in zoned exhaust system designed to maximize the extraction of fumes.

According to Matt Walsh, vice president of Plasma Automation, another feature that differentiates the machine is its removable slat design.

"The [Monarch’s] slats are built in 3-ft.-long-by-6-in.-wide sections for easy removal," he says. "If you can lift 5 lbs., you can easily remove the slats."

In most cases, these types of heavy-duty plasma cutting machines are used for cutting thick, flat plate, which can be heavy to load onto the table and can require loading by crane, according to Walsh.

"Sometimes, the crane hooks are placed underneath the plate and may get in the way," he says. "In such cases, removing some of the slats gives access room for the hooks of the crane. The slats also allow for easy removal for preloading and cutting of irregular-shaped parts. The customer can then fixture irregular-shaped parts in between the slat holders."

The removable slats can also simplify certain loading processes and can accommodate nonstandard shapes, according to Walsh. They also enable the Monarch to easily modify H-beams or I-beams, which helps allow operators to do design work on the structural supports.

Another feature is the precision gantry, the type used on high-definition plasma cutting systems, which Walsh says underscores the Monarch’s versatility.

"Even though the machine would primarily be used as a heavy-duty general fabricating cutting machine, it can also be used as a high-precision plasma cutting machine through the use of various high-density torches," says Walsh. "The machine fits well into general fab shops that process steel for cabinetwork, truck parts, trailer parts, farm equipment and other types of job-shop work. The Monarch has also been sold to shops for such applications as the manufacture of armored plating for military applications, as well as parts for boats. Structural steel shops, however, such as Almet, benefit most from a machine such as the Monarch."

Saving time
The Monarch is built using a one-piece frame, enabling quick and easy installation.

"Most competitive machines of this size are built as rail-style machines," says Walsh. "Basically, rail-style machines are built with stanchions that have to be erected. Often, a foundation has to be poured for the stanchions, and rails are run off of [them]. The rails then have to be aligned and the gantry placed on the rails before running power, gases and ductwork to the machine. The Monarch is factory-aligned and tested for accuracy and performance before it is shipped out to a customer’s facility.

"Since the Monarch is built in one piece, the customer just needs to place it into location and level it and run the power, gases and ductwork," he continues. "[It’s] then ready to go, and training can commence. At the end of the third day of training, the customer is producing parts."

In addition to building the machine, Plasma Automation also writes the software that drives the Monarch, says Walsh.

"Our Vicon technicians provide support and service not only for the machine but [also] for the software," he says. "One call is all it takes for any issue to be resolved."

And the machine isn’t limited to using only Plasma Automation’s software.

"The Monarch can accept data from third-party software," says Walsh. "In some cases, customers already have software in place that they want to continue to use, and they can definitely do that." FFJ

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  • Almet Inc.
    New Haven, Ind.
    phone: 260/493-1556
    fax: 260/493-1299

  • Plasma Automation Inc.
    Bohemia, N.Y.
    phone: 631/563-7234
    fax: 631/563-7239


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