You are only as good as your tools

Dec. 1, 2006
PRODUCING today's truck bodies and trailers is a competitive business, and the right fabrication equipment is one way to gain a competitive advantage.
PRODUCING today's truck bodies and trailers is a competitive business, and the right fabrication equipment is one way to gain a competitive advantage.

Not surprisingly, commercial truck body and trailer manufacturers were among the more than 21,000 who viewed the latest machine tools displayed at the most recent Fabtech International and AWS Welding Show held October 31-November 2 in Atlanta.

The event, a showcase of metal forming, fabricating, and welding equipment, was held in the South for the first time. A total number of 873 companies exhibited, taking over 300,000 net square feet of exhibit space. This represents a more than six percent increase in the total number of exhibiting companies over the 2005 Fabtech International & AWS Welding Show in Chicago, Illinois.

“We are very pleased with the turnout in Atlanta, which far exceeded our expectations,” said John Catalano, SME show manager.

Next year, the Fabtech International & AWS Welding Show returns to McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. The show is scheduled for November 11-14, 2007. More than 90% of the available exhibit space for 2007 has already been sold. Over 900 exhibiting companies and nearly 30,000 attendees are expected.

The FABTECH International & AWS Welding Show is cosponsored by the American Welding Society (AWS), the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA), and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).

Here are some of the highlights from the 2006 event:

Hybrid laser welding provides welds not previously feasible. ESAB's Jeff Hoffart displays an example of what the system can produce — a thin-gauge truss initially designed for military applications. The laser can pierce the outer skin and bond the material beneath. The process does not distort the material and can be produced with a 30-50% reduction in labor content. ESAB touts the HLx Series as the first commercially available mechanized laser-welding system utilizing laser only, laser with cold wire fill, or hybrid laser arc welding in a two-dimensional gantry, three-dimensional robotic, or custom mechanized solution with closed-loop weld process control.

Hybrid laser arc welding (HLAW) combines the deep weld penetration and low heat input associated of laser welding with the power efficiency and gap tolerance of GMAW. The lower heat input reduces distortion, but it faces limitations when having to weld parts that contain wide gaps. Adding GMAW in tandem with the laser (with the addition of a modest amount of filler metal) creates a wider weld bead capable of bridging much larger weld gaps. Adding GMAW to the welding mix also enhances a finished part's metallurgical stability. With GMAW's slower cooling rates, the process produces welds with greater strength and less brittleness. ESAB Cutting Systems, Florence SC.

16 holes per second is one way to measure the cutting speed of the Syncrono laser by Prima Laser Tools, Chicopee MA. Another way is to say that the laser can produce 2,702 piercings in six minutes in 1 mm mild steel — which is how long it took to produce this part shown by Prima's Pieter Schwarzenbach.

Korean-built laser cuts mild steel up to an inch thick. It comes with a 120" × 60" cutting table, with a 0.004" positioning accuracy and 0.001“ repeatability. It is produced by Han Kwang Co Ltd, Hwa Sung-City, South Korea.

New solution for welding aluminum. Lincoln Electric has introduced a systems approach for improved aluminum welding that includes the welding processes, along with revised equipment and consumables. The company calls the approach TotAL S2F (Start 2 Finish). The equipment portion of TotAL S2F includes recommended Lincoln Ready-Pak pre-configured packages optimized for aluminum welding using the company's Power Wave 355M, Power Wave 455M, and Power MIG 350 MP power sources that deliver waveforms that have been optimized for aluminum welding. Welding processes have been designed to provide consistent starting, reduce spatter, offer more consistent crater filling, and a synchronized pulse at the end of the weld that eliminates the large ball at the end of the welding wire. Lincoln also offers SuperGlaze aluminum MIG wire designed to feed smoothly and consistently.

Turret punch press lineup from Finn-Power International, Schaumburg IL, has been expanded with the addition of the C6 model to the company's C Series. The 33-ton press has a 20-station turret and can process 60" × 120" sheets.

Little feet. The new Bystronic ByVention 3015 is designed for manufacturing plants where floor space is at a premium. The footprint of this laser cutter is only 20' × 20'. Automatic screen prompts and touch-screen programming help reduce training and programming time. It comes with a new material flow concept that continuously and automatically moves the material from the cutting area, making the cut parts immediately accessible. Bystronic Inc, North America is headquartered in Hauppauge NY.

Mini Hornet cutting system has a 5' × 10' cutting area. It is equipped with Hypertherm Automation Edge Ti CNC controller, torch height control, and Powermax 1250 plasma system, along with an oxy-fuel cutting torch and basic gas manifold. The 250-watt digital servo drive motors and amplifiers provide a 1,000-inch per minute transverse speed. The Mini Hornet is a product of Retro Systems, Valley Center KS.

New laser from Mazak Optonics Corp, Schaumburg IL, has been designed from the bottom up for high-speed cutting of 2-D parts up to an inch thick in steel. The HTX laser system is built atop the company's Takumi (the Japanese term for craftsmanship) frame. Unlike cast beds with open areas that reduce stiffness, the Takumi frame is an enclosed box-frame design throughout. Moreover, the Takumi principal of tabbed laser-cut sides and cross-members, connected with a series of tie rods, substantially dampens vibration from internal and external sources. Hyper Turbo-X can process a wide range of materials and thicknesses with no operator intervention. Optimum cutting parameters are maintained through the use of Mazak's six-torch changer magazine combined with a 10-nozzle changer to automatically re-configure the setup via part program.

More mettle is available in the revised MetalMastger Plus cutting machine from MG Systems & Welding, Menomonee Falls WI. The unitized table and gantry cutting machine utilizes conventional and precision plasma processes up to 260 amps. Machine motion accuracy is +/- 0.002" over any 6' × 10' area. The new video camera feature can be used by the operator as both an alignment tool and to monitor the cutting process. Turn the crosshair “on” and capture 2, 3 or 5 points along the edge of the plate to align the part program to the same angle as the plate. Turn the crosshair “off” for an unobstructed, glare-free view of the cutting process. The image is displayed on the 15“ TFT color screen.

Let the robot handle it. Strippit/LVD, Akron NY, demonstrated its robotic Pick-Sort system at Fabtech. Parts are produced by its 20-ton CNC turret punch press, featuring large sheet processing capability, a 30-station turret with auto-index capability, and GE Fanuc CNC control. The robotic system handles punched part dimensions up to 39" × 78", with an unload time of 12 seconds per part. The Pick-Sort system uses four independent sheet holders that are lowered to hold or retract the sheet according to the shape of the punched part and its position on the sheet. A sensor detects whether the part is separated from the sheet. Two external independent vacuum cups are available to unload larger punched parts.

No need to flip. The UpDownBend sheet metal folding system performs complex bends without the need to flip the part. It can process material up to 126" long, up to nine-gauge mild steel. The new gauging system automatically adjusts as required to make the bends. It is available from RAS Systems LLC, Peachtree City GA.

High-speed folding of sheet metal without the cost of roll-forming equipment or a high-end press brake is the goal of the Bradbury folder. Available in lengths of 21-40 feet, Bradbury folders can bend 30-11-gauge cold rolled steel, stainless, or aluminum to +/- 1/2° accuracy. The design of the machine will allow open or closed hems and teardrop folds. Bradbury Group, Moundridge KS.

CNC miter saw can cut 60° miters in 5.9" round stock and 5.5" square material. Length, quantity, and miter settings can each be programmed using the touch screen. KKS 401 NA miter saw is available from Kaltenbach Inc, Columbus IN.

Dedicated coper/notcher is now available from Edwards Manufacturing, Albert Lea MN. The 60-ton machine features a new hydraulic system, and it comes with free electric stroke control.

Plenty of punch. The new Hydracrop 220 ironworker packs 240 tons of punch. It can shear a 20"-wide plate of 1" steel or 8" × 3/4" angle. Its dual cylinders, dual operation capability enables two operators to use the ironworker at the same time, according to Don Letourneau, John Sobczak, and Todd Glotfelty with Comeq Inc, White Marsh MD.

Prototype ironworker has a 120-ton capacity that enables it to shear 1" × 12" steel. It is equipped with an automatic feed system that can be programmed to cut up to 99 different lengths. Mike Albrecht demonstrates the ironworker for Scotchman Industries,

Look, no track. Koike Aronson introduced an oxy-fuel beveling machine that performs single and double V-groove cuts on plate edges without the need for a track or rail. The company's new Edge Cut machine can produce the bevels required for full penetration of submerged-arc welds up to 45°. The device can be used with extendable track for more conventional cutting if needed. It also can be adapted to cut circles while beveling. Koike also displayed its Wel-Handy multi-stitch, another automated welder that does not require a track, this time to produce fillet welds. Koike Aronson Inc is based in Arcade NY.

Marvel Series 8 Mark III saw offers 60° mitering left and right. The saw, with its 5-hp drive, can cut through an 18" × 22" bundle. It is a product of Marvel Manufacturing Co, Oshkosh WI.

Sub-arc tractor from Bug-O-Systems has mechanical rollers that hold the torch against the joint. Two beads can be welded simultaneously, and the tractor can accommodate either straight or tapered beams. A cantilevered design enables the torch to be positioned without lifting it over the workpiece. The support structure required for the tractor can be fabricated readily by most companies with a need for such a product, and manual programming further reduces the purchase price. All common types of torches and wire feeders can be used, and maximum beam length that can be welded is limited only by the length of the cables. Frank Jeff Nelson demonstrates for Bug-O-Systems, Pittsburgh PA.

A better blast. David Pless demonstrates the Wheelabrator Ezefit wheel, which can be mounted on blast equipment produced by Wheelabrator or other manufacturers. The bearing unit bolts on the same mounting adapter as the direct drive motor, allowing for easy conversion. With the Ezefit, the wheel can be upgraded without replacing the motor. It is available from the Wheelabrator Group, LaGrange GA.

Multi-process power source. The new Shopmate 300 DX welder combines multi-process welding capabilities and easy-to-understand controls. With the convenience of single-phase power (208/230 VAC or 230/460/575 VAC) for stick, TIG, or MIG welding. The Shopmate 300 DX has a range of 5 to 400 amps (250 amps at 60 percent duty cycle) and easy-to-use but powerful weld controls previously only available on more expensive, three-phase machines. It is a product of Miller Electric Mfg, Appleton WI.

Multiple processing. The Tipo A32 CNC working center is more than a cutting table. It also performs CNC drilling and other processes such as tapping and milling in one operation. Designed particularly for heavier steel plate, the Tipo A32 is equipped with a double tool change system, two independent drilling heads that move transversely and longitudinally, and Hypertherm's HT 4400 plasma. Infeed and outfeed rollers can accommodate steel plate six meters (19.6 feet), pulled by a CNC-controlled pincher system that holds the material against the datum line. It is a product of FICEP Corp, Forest Hill MD.

Making adjustments. The Accurpress 523512 press brake is equipped SBCS — spring-back compensation system — which measures the amount of spring-back and adjusts for it on the fly. The system compensates for grain direction and for changes in material thickness. It is available from Accurpress America, Rapid City SD.