Taking the edge off

By Lisa Rummler

July/August 2010 - GH Metal Solutions, Fort Payne, Ala., has evolved a great deal since 1958, the year it opened its doors. Back then, the company was known as The Gas House, and it operated as a heating and air-conditioning business with a small amount of metal fabrication.

"In 1979, the company began producing an attic vent, which marked the beginning of [its] transition from heating and air conditioning to manufacturing," according to GH Metal Solutions’ website. "In 1982, heating and air conditioning was dropped to concentrate the company’s resources on manufacturing metal parts for a growing customer base."

Today, GH Metal Solutions is strictly a metal fabricator, mainly working with mild steel. The company also does a little bit of stainless steel and aluminum work, says Don Stout, board chairman.

GH Metal Solutions does a great deal of business with various long-term customers, including Siemens, Heil, Kubota, and the Hyster and Yale lift truck divisions of NACCO.

"And if somebody comes in with any kind of metal project, we’ll take a look at it," says Stout. "We run lasers, press brakes, punch presses, robotics welders, saws, machining centers and a paint line providing e-coat and powdercoat finishes."

Automated rounding and deburring
GH Metal Solutions operates two machines from Lissmac Corp., Watertown, N.Y. One is the SBM-S rounding and deburring machine, which GH Metal Solutions purchased in 2008.

"A lot of the work we do is with thin sheet metal, and if you’re not careful, you can either have a burr on it, or you can have a sharp corner or edge where a person can be cut," says Stout. "So what you try to do is condition the edge of the metal, such that there’s not a sharp knife edge. And by doing that, you knock the burr off of it, if there’s a burr, or you round the edges."

The SBM-S yields safer in-house operations at GH Metal Solutions, and it benefits the company’s customers, he says.

"We’re a job shop, so a lot of our new product is used [by] Kubota or Hyster or somebody like that, where they make it part of their product," says Stout. "They use components from us and other folks to build their tractors and lift trucks and backhoes and things of that sort. And, of course, you don’t want your part--and they don’t want our part--to cause an injury to somebody who is operating their machinery."

Importance of innovation
The SBM-S can process a variety of metals, including stainless steel, black steel, mild steel, galvanized steel, titanium, copper and aluminum. Additionally, it can process coated materials.

"According to the needs of each individual customer, the machine can be set to just take the sharpness off the edge, or it can provide a very rounded radius of the edge," says Thomas Weinfurtner, vice president of Lissmac Corp. "Basically, we can offer a solution to any job shop or manufacturer who has a problem with sharp edges."

A unique operating method enables the SBM-S to process both sides of sheet metal parts--top and bottom, all inside and outside edges--simultaneously and in a single pass, he says.

"Two sets of grinding belts work from the top, and two sets of grinding belts work from the bottom," says Weinfurtner. "The belts run perpendicular to the feed direction of the sheet metal parts that are processed, which allows for consistent and slow wear of all grinding blocks, no matter where on the conveyor the work material is placed.

"The parts are fed into the machine via a conveyor, and once inside the machine, they travel over a roller system with the grinding belts positioned in between the pinch rollers. This way, [we] can process the top and bottom side of the part at the same time and in one single pass."

The machine has individual grinding blocks made of sandpaper and Scotch-Brite mounted on the belts, and they can be replaced on an as-needed basis, he says.

"Only these grinding blocks touch the work material during processing--there is no wear to the belts themselves, conveyors, rollers or feed system," Weinfurtner says. "The adjustment of the grinding belts and the feed speed determine the deburring radius achieved on your parts."

The SBM-S uses a dry process, and it requires a wet or dry vacuum system, depending on what material the end user needs to process. It is possible to connect to two different vacuum systems, depending on the work materials.

Size, shape and usage
In terms of feed speed, the SBM-S runs at 2 ft. to 12 ft. per minute, and it handles material up to 0.75 in. thick because it processes only the edges.

"The minimal length of the material is 6 in., and the maximum length is not an issue [because] for longer material, we have conveyor belts available," says Weinfurtner. "We also offer curve conveyors to bring the material back to the machine operator."

The SBM-S is available in 40-in. and 60-in. working widths, and both models have a small footprint. The dimensions are 100 in. by 60 in. by 60 in. and 120 in. by 60 in. by 60 in., respectively.

"The machine is compact, and you can move it around if you need to," says Stout. "It’s also very reliable, and it’s easy to operate."

Additionally, he says the SBM-S has allowed GH Metal Solutions to eliminate manual deburring and edge-finishing work. The desire to do so helped drive the company’s decision to purchase the machine. "We finally got to the point where we said, ‘Let’s not put any more labor into this. Let’s see if we can buy a machine that will do it for us,’" says Stout. "You could take a piece of material and hand-grind the edges, but you have a lot of labor there. And if you just run it through the machine, it’s finished."

Lessons learned
Lissmac provides customers with training on safety, operation and maintenance. The company can hold training sessions at the customer’s facility after delivery and installation of the machine or at its own showroom.

"Typically, we provide in-depth training for all operators and service personnel that then enables the customer to properly operate the machine and perform routine service work in-house," says Weinfurtner. "We encourage customers to bring in their own sample parts for test processing. We compile a processing report, including a time/piece analysis outlining the number of parts per hour and processing cost per piece."

GH Metal Solutions chose to have its training done at its own facility, and it was a positive experience, Stout says. This underscores the way the company regards the SBM-S.

"It’s done a good job for us," he says. "It’s stood up to the usage we’ve given it. It’s saved us money on the [deburring]. We don’t have to do it manually." FFJ

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  • GH Metal Solutions
    Fort Payne, Ala.
    phone: 256/845-0842
    fax: 256/845-0848

  • Lissmac Corp.
    Waterford, N.Y.
    phone: 518/326-9094
    fax: 518/326-9098

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