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Low-Cost Productivity

February 2012

Fast and inexpensive, there’s one piece of equipment for fabricators that can notch, punch, drill and shear at amazing speeds.

That equipment is an ironworker, and it’s versatility to work with metals that are 0.125 in. thick and thicker can truly add more productivity to a fab shop.

“Typically an ironworker will allow someone to punch a hole eight times faster than drilling one and to shear a piece of metal eight times faster than sawing it,” says Jerry Kroetch, president of Scotchman.

Don Letourneau, GEKA product manager, says that an ironworker is a single, multi-purpose machine for punching, shearing, notching and coping metals.

This equipment comes in two hydraulically powered designs: One is a single-hydraulic-cylinder machine that often has three or four work stations that are initiated using a foot pedal to operate all stations.

These single-cylinder machines have stations for punching, angle cutting and plate shearing. Some machines also have a coper/notcher station.

The second type is the dual-hydraulic-cylinder machine where two cylinders operate the tools instead of one cylinder. This equipment is more versatile for production. It usually has five working stations: punch, angle shear, shear for flat plate or flat bar, a shear for round and square bars that can be changed to channel or beam, and a notcher and/or coper station. Punch and shear stations operate independently of each other, and two operators can use the machine concurrently.

“This equipment can easily be justified by any structural-plate fabricator, maintenance shop, farm-equipment manufacturer, truck-body builder, ornamental-metal fabricator, or small-to-large welding shop for either high- or low-work volumes,” says Letourneau.

Although many ironworkers are manual machines, GEKA has added a CNC punch positioning table and a CNC measuring and shearing system for their equipment’s plate-shear station.

GEKA’s Semi-Paxy Model has an X-Y coordinate punching table with a programmable CNC Windows touch-screen control. This table can be fitted to any GEKA hydraulic dual-cylinder deep-throat ironworker, or any GEKA single-station punch. GEKA has five different models with tonnages ranging from 60 to 240 and capacities of up to 1.5 in. thick for mild steel.

GEKA’s model ALRS is a CNC-flat-bar feeding and shearing system that can be mounted on a GEKA hydraulic, 80-ton and larger, dual-cylinder ironworker that can shear flat bar into programmed lengths and quantities. In combination with the Semi-Paxy table, the ALRS allows operators to position base plates, connection plates or brackets without laying out a single part after the plate has been sheared.

Trilogy Machinery/SUNRISE Fluid Power

SUNRISE Fluid Power has been producing ironworkers for over 23 years. They include single-end punches, dual-cylinder ironworkers, CNC ironworkers with automatic backstops and semi-automatic backstops along with a range of hydraulic-horizontal bending machines. The hydraulic cylinders for the company’s ironworkers are built in-house.

Many of the SUNRISE ironworkers feature a standard dual-cylinder design, mentions Beej Flamholz, Sales Technician for Trilogy Machinery, the U.S. distributor for these ironworkers. “The dual-cylinder ironworker is the most popular model that we sell and ranges in size for the punch from 66 to 180 tons. All the company’s dual-cylinder ironworkers have a dual-operator design with a standalone punch as well as a shearing station to cut structural steel and flat-bar stock. SUNRISE also has a rectangular coper/notcher with the option to add a multitude of additional accessories and components.”

Standard features on these machines include an electric back gauge, magnetic work light, gauge tables, a starter set of punches and dies and a hydraulic oil filter. Accessories that can be placed on the machine include press brake attachments, pipe notchers and punches and an 8-in. oversized punch capacity.

“The most important aspect of an ironworker is its versatility,” says Flamholz. “It’s a fact that it’s not limited to doing one thing. This is especially true on our dual-cylinder machines. They can perform a wide variety of functions whether punching holes in angle, plate or structural steel; or creating base plates with prick punches and full holes; or shearing angles, channels and flat bars to length.”

“The smallest dual-cylinder SUNRISE Ironworker, model IW-66S can shear up to 5-in.-by-5-in.-by-½ in. angle while our largest machine can handle an 8-in.-by-8-in.-by-0.75 in. angle. The speed is drastically improved over a saw, and to make the cut only requires a few seconds.”

“Since the punch end moves directly up and down, guided by a bronze bushing, it enables the operator to attach a wide variety of accessories on the ironworker without limiting themselves to just shearing capabilities. For instance, we have a lot of customers that might be shearing flat plate in our largest machine that can handle a 30-in.-by-0.75-in.-thick plate while also using the punch end with our 28-in. press brake attachment and bending the sheared plate or punching out up to an 8-in. round hole with another attachment,” he says.

“Really an ironworker should be the foundation of any job shop or machine shop because of the versatility that it gives the user,” he adds.

Some shops are also adding CNC-controlled ironworkers that simplify the part layout by allowing the CNC to do the work mentions Flamholz. “With our CNC-controlled ironworkers, you can load in an AutoCAD or DXF file, and import this information into the ironworker’s control, giving you the ability to have all your holes already laid out. The operator just puts in the piece of plate or angle and the coordinates for the holes are already preprogrammed into the machine. This saves a dramatic amount of time, along with labor and workpiece handling. So the soapstone lines, the chalk and a tape measure are gone. The SUNRISE Ironworkers are available in a variety of table sizes from 16 in. by 40 in. to the new 20-in.-by-20-ft. system including touch-screen controls, hydraulic hold-downs and much more.

Trilogy ironworkers range in price from the company’s smallest single cylinder non-CNC machine at $7,950 to the largest dual-cylinder ironworker at $47,500.

Peddinghaus

“We have three different sizes of ironworkers that have a wide array of standard features,” says Nick Hajewski, marketing manager at Peddinghaus. “They typically have a notching and punching stations and shearing capabilities for flat bar, angle, and a variety of bar stock (round or square).

They also have various options that offer limitless flexibility in modern day fab shops. We have a base machine, but the options are unlimited. One important option is our triple-tool punching block. Typically you would have one punch station with only one punch. We offer an option that allows a cassette to be loaded that has three different punches and dies. To change punch sizes you just slide over the cassette. There’s no tool reloading,” he says.

Peddinghaus ironworkers come standard with an automatic length stop. As an option the company offers this same length stop with an NC control notes Hajewski. Customers can also buy an additional conveyor to support material as it’s processed. Then as they’re feeding material through the ironworker, they can program the NC control for any sequence of lengths and the machine will automatically adjust for them.

“We offer custom solutions as well,” says Hajewski. If a customer has a specific application that there is nothing in existence for on the market, they simply have to tell us what they need, and we’ll customize an ironworker to suit their specific desire – from beam shears to specialized tooling we’ve done it all.”

Some of the company’s optional equipment that can be added onto several models include a CNC gauging table with a CNC touch-screen control. The table moves for each hole or layout mark as called out by the program.

The operator can seamlessly import a part program into the control using an USB drive, or manually program parts on the fly. The machine will move material using an automatically adjusting X and Y datum for the specified pattern of holes. Therefore, hole patterns are done with higher levels of accuracy, repeatability and efficiency.

Peddinghaus ironworkers range from the largest, the Peddimax, at 140 tons, to their smallest, the Peddicat, at 55 tons. The company’s smallest-tonnage ironworker comes with an optional bending attachment, so the operator can bend flat bar with ease.

“For our company, the ironworker was the first step into the structural steel industry, as our metalworking tools evolved from anvils and hammers. Some of our ironworkers that are 50 years old are still being used today. This is why Peddinghaus ironworkers are known for their strength and longevity,” Hajewski remarks.

Scotchman

“The beauty of an ironworker is that we sell it to the one-man shop, as well as, to Fortune 500 companies,” says Kroetch. You might use one in a production capacity or in the maintenance department. Anybody that works with steel needs an ironworker. They are a very useful tool.

“We have more versatility with our equipment,” he notes. “Our machines are designed with what we call a tool table, which allows an operator to remove the angle shear and mount in a press brake or a channel shear for shearing channel iron, or a rod shear for shearing square or round solid. You can add a pipe notcher to notch the ends of tubing that allows you to saddle one piece of tubing onto another piece of round tubing. These are all standard off-the-shelf tools that we offer,” he remarks.

Kroetch also says that Scotchman’s special tooling department can build a tool to work in any ironworker to do whatever function a customer needs.

Scotchman Ironworkers sell from $6000 up to $35,000. Kroetch says most customers buy an ironworker with a tonnage between 45 to 90 tons. They will spend about $9000 for a 50 ton machine and up to $20,000 for a 90 ton one.

Users can change a punch and die from one size to the next in a matter of minutes he mentions. “Our most popular machine is the 50 ton with a three-station turret. I can put in a round, square, or oval slot or three different sizes of round punches. This machine can be designed with a tool set for whatever the customer uses most, to help his production; and it takes only two to three seconds to go from one size punch to another,” remarks Kroetch.

Megafab

Megafab makes the Piranha line of ironworkers that offers excellent versatility says Al Julian, marketing manager.

They have unique quality- and productivity-enhancing features such as urethane stripping, automatic shear hold-downs, and low rake-angle blades (for keeping finished parts flat); along with quick-change tooling, and six standard work stations (for high productivity and flexibility). They also offer an ergonomic design and clear
lines of sight to all tools, including shear blades, notes the company’s website.

Piranha has both single- and dual-cylinder hydraulic equipment with many attachments to expand its ironworkers’ capabilities. These attachments include: pipe/tube notchers, channel-die blocks, tools for bending and punching, press brake tooling holders, quickset gauging tables, channel shear, bar bender, mechanical backgauges, electric backgauge, a 1.5 in. oversize punch and roller feed tables.

If you’re looking to increase your productivity in heavier materials, an ironworker could be a perfect machine for you. There are also a number of other manufacturers available for this equipment.

Comeq Inc./GEKA
Megafab
Peddinghaus
Scotchman Industries Inc.
Trilogy Machinery