Fast Action

A precision parts manufacturer implements automated bandsaw technology and ends production bottlenecks

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It’s easy to get tied to the status quo in a job shop. After all, maintaining daily routines is the comfort zone for most shops where operators know the machines like the back of their hands.

Take a bandsaw for example. A highly skilled operator can simply listen while the saw processes material to detect when things are going smoothly or when something needs to be adjusted. But, if bottlenecks become an unfortunate norm, even the most skilled operator recognizes the need to move up to new and improved technology.

That was the case for Ricky Tatum, materials manager at Hi-Tec Machining Center, a Georgia-based company founded in 1984. Tatum is a skilled saw operator, but feeding the various CNC machines in the shop with material straight off the bandsaw became the source of a production slowdown. Tatum and Carey Strickland, vice president at HiTec, did what most metal fabrication professionals do when they want to invest in new technology – they attended trade shows to find a solution to their problem.

Making the Move

Hi-Tec was founded as a two-person job shop, but has grown substantially to a 20-person operation serving regional customers with products made primarily by CNC milling and turning machines. Customers come from the food, paper and packaging industries. Most of the parts from Hi-Tec are derived from stainless steel rounds (303, 304, 316, 400) up to 9.5 in. in diameter, but the company also handles 20-ft. lengths of hot-rolled steel on occasion.

The Cosen G320 dual-column automatic bandsaw has the strength to automatically process 20-ft. sections of hot-rolled steel.

The bandsaw Hi-Tec used for many years was an older scissor-style machine, so when Tatum and Strickland laid eyes on the G320 dual-column automatic bandsaw from Cosen Saws and witnessed it in action, they knew they were on to something special. But with all the bells and whistles of an automated saw, was it more than they needed or could handle?

Strickland admits making that initial jump to an automatic bandsaw was a bit intimidating.

“Our other bandsaw didn’t have all the control features,” he says, “so we were pleasantly surprised once we got into it – it was very user-friendly.”

Tatum agrees, adding that the training they received from Cosen made the process go “smoothly,” and that the bandsaw was “easy to understand and operate.

Strickland says the dual-column design of the G320 delivers far more advanced technology than the older bandsaw and that the new bandsaw is also equipped with enough material handling power to pull 20-ft. lengths of hot-rolled steel into the cutting area, something the previous bandsaw couldn’t muster

“The scissor bandsaw was just so much slower,” Strickland says. “It’s an older saw, so it’s kind of like going from a single-engine plane to a jet.”

Accuracy First

Vibration is a saw blade killer and can negatively impact cut finish quality if not controlled. The best bandsaws are built with a solid foundation, which helps to dampen vibration. The design team at Cosen made the G320 with a “massive base” sturdy saw frame as well as an “extremely heavy duty” gear box, providing excellent quality cuts. To extend blade life even more, Cosen offers the “save a blade” function, which involves a shuttle vise that automatically retracts the material ever so slightly after cut-off. This prevents the blade abrasions with material.

Despite its high-tech, automated functionality, the G320 bandsaw is easy to operate and includes a user-friendly interface.

To attain even more accuracy and practically remove all user error, Cosen also offers its Smart NC-100 technology on the G320, which allows users to program up to 100 different jobs, including the quantity and length of cut, which Cosen markets as “multiple indexing and automatic kerf compensation.” The kerf compensation automatically accounts for material loss, which means the operator doesn’t have to manually account for it and lengths are always spot on.

Watch the video to learn about the advanced features of the G320 dualcolumn automatic bandsaw and see it in action.

Strickland also touts Cosen’s V_Drive technology, which is software that works in tandem with PLC software to detect dense areas of material as the blade is making its way through metal, making automatic adjustments to the saw’s amperage for more efficient cuts.

“The V_Drive technology is everything it’s advertised to be,” Strickland says.

“Basically, the software takes care of the cutting speeds and makes the adjustments. Obviously, we never had that [on the old saw], and it has helped reduce the number of blades we break.”

Despite its high-tech, automated functionality, the G320 bandsaw is easy to operate and includes a user-friendly interface.

Standard features on the automatic bandsaw include a 5.7-in. HMI touch screen and Mitsubishi PLC controller, error feedback system, double retracting vises, full stroke hydraulic cylinder, split front vise, blade height decoder and hydraulic chip conveyor. Optional accessories include a hydraulic top clamp, vise pressure regulator, blade deviation detector and heavy-duty roller table.

Production Improvements

Raw material makes many stops on several machines before it is honed into a finished part, but a job shop’s bandsaw is stop No 1. The accurate cut in that first stop impacts every move that follows. That is definitely the case at Hi-Tec, and it’s where they encountered problems with the old saw.

Hi-Tec Machining Center’s Ricky Tatum (left) and Carey Strickland sought out new bandsaw technology at area trade shows and were impressed by the G320 bandsaw.

“In the past, we saw a lot of bottlenecks in the saw area,” Strickland says, “and that’s not a reflection on Ricky – that’s just what he had to work with. Now, we don’t have to wait on the saw. Ricky can keep all the production lines fed.”

Since implementing the bandsaw last fall, Strickland says it’s been easier to achieve production deadline goals and that they’ve experienced far better results than they had envisioned.

“Looking back on this side of it now, it’s an absolute no-brainer,” he says. “Everything I worried about regarding the purchase on the front side was eliminated very quickly. We learned to run it and operate it quickly and efficiently. As a matter of fact, we wonder why we didn’t do this 10 years ago.”

Cosen Saws

HI-TEC Machining Center

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