Spencer Dick ran a furniture making business for many years before starting TigerStop LLC. An inventor and engineer at heart, Dick noticed something that really bothered him during his years in business – he would watch employees on the shop room floor laboriously set manual stops for every different size part that required a cut.
“It was just the most frustrating thing to watch,” says Dick of the inefficient work process. “So I set out to build my own machine to solve the problem.”
Dick began the project in his garage, TigerStop’s first home, and brought on a couple of key team members
to help him build a prototype for an automated stop. He refers to it as a “digital tape measure” that would allow operators to make accurate cuts at something in the area ±0.004 in., day in and day out.
“We got that (prototype) to run for 15 minutes before I had to pack it up and take it to a trade show in Atlanta,” Dick explains.
Dick told his wife they needed to sell five units at the tradeshow or he’d have to get a new job and leave his pet project behind. He’d already made significant investments
into the project and was about to become unglued when day three of the four-day show rolled around and he’d not sold a single unit.
“My wife sent me off to lunch and said, ‘you’re doing no good here,’” he remembers.
By the time he got back, she had sold five units. By the end of the show, they had sold 17 units, paid in full, and another 17 were on order.
“That was 22 years ago and it’s just been growing ever since,” Dick says.
“Fast and Accurate Every Time.” Those words on TigerStop’s website paint a fairly clear picture of what the company’s products do. Setting manual stops is slow and tedious. It also leaves you prone to errors and inaccuracies even with the most experienced operator.
TigerStop is an automated stop. The operator simply punches in the cut list and the TigerStop moves to position. This saves a lot on labor because it is far faster than measuring and setting a manual stop. It also saves on material because it is far more accurate than a tape measure.
In fact, Dick says for every tape measure on a shop room floor, a company can expect to pay a lot in losses due to inaccurate measurements that result in poorly cut parts in need of rework.
“The best place for a tape measure is in your pocket,” Dick says smiling.
Enter the 2000
With more than 30,000 systems in use in manufacturing environments around the world, TigerStop has grown to include a family of add-on automation products that can stop, pull, push or position material for multiple applications including sawing, punching, drilling and boring.
Mike Anderson, systems product manager at TigerStop, says the company has grown from its add-on automation products to include some fully automated saw stations, the latest of which is the TigerSaw 2000.
The TigerSaw 2000 is an automated saw station for cutting non-ferrous metals such as aluminum. It comes with the company’s proprietary Dynamic Optimization software that achieves maximum yield by nesting parts. That means it compares the cut list to the material length to determine which parts to cut in which order to provide the least amount of waste.
Anderson says the automation in the TigerSaw 2000 is all about accuracy and efficiency. In fact, TigerStop customers have shared that when TigerStop equipment enters the work area, turnover and job satisfaction for the person doing the cut-to-length jobs improves drastically.
“Believe it or not,” Anderson says, “in this day and age, a lot of employees can’t read a tape measure.”
Operators simply enter the length of raw material being processed, the number and length of finished parts, and the system automatically determines how to make those cuts with the least amount of scrap.
Dick says many companies in the metalworking industry look at scrap as a profit center, thus giving them little incentive to cut back on the amount of miscut parts being produced. However, aluminum scrap for example, is sold for about six times less than purchase price.
“It’s an uphill battle in terms of how people think in the metals industry,” Dick says of the situation, “but it’s beginning to flow in that direction.”
Looking for defects
Defects can occur when the bulk material, such as long lengths of aluminum, are strapped down and shipped. The pressure from the straps, shipping damage and forklift stabs, for example, deform areas of the aluminum, which then become unusable.
Because those defects are hard to eliminate, TigerStop has a solution to keep them from finding their way onto a part or product. Called Crayon Marking, an operator simply marks a defect with a crayon and the software scans the crayon marks, cutting around defects and optimizing the cuts between based on the cut list to make more efficient use of the material.
Simon Spykerman, director of marketing at TigerStop, says the industry is evolving and that it takes innovative minds to stay out in front of competitors. The software has gotten more sophisticated and TigerStop has become more than just a company that produces stops. With Dynamic Optimization, coupled with the accounting of defects, Spykerman says they’re giving clients the ability to get the most yield out of their materials, including non-ferrous metals, wood and plastics.
“Even with the defects,” Spykerman explains, “you can optimize your yield without having to do all the math.”
TigerSaw 2000 comes with an adjustable cutting envelope that allows for a variety of profiles from bundles to single pieces. It can be fitted with various blade sizes and the saw arbor can be adjusted forward and backward to provide a larger cutting envelope for the given saw blade diameter.
Clamping options include both horizontal and vertical pneumatic clamping to allow proper clamping of most profiles. Ink Jet Printing for up to five fields on each finished piece allows the operator to batch jobs of the same profile and easily sort the parts on the back end.
Furthermore, the TigerSaw 2000 can be outfitted with a TigerStop, TigerTurbo or HeavyDuty 2 automation system.
- The TigerStop allows operators to push up to 120 lbs. and the maximum length of material is 30 ft. It has a 32-mm reinforced belt drive and uses a DC servomotor with optical encoder.
- The TigerTurbo can be fitted to the solution for heavier material. It has a weight capacity of 840 lbs. with roller tables and 350 lbs. without rollers and works with materials up to 40 ft. long. It is outfitted with an AC servomotor with optical encoder.
- The HeavyDuty 2 has a push capacity of 2,100 lbs. with roller tables and 490 lbs. without. It can work with materials up to 108 ft. long. It has a rack-and-pinion drive and an AC servomotor with optical encoder.
Spykerman notes that one of the most unique features on the automated system is the patent-pending lubricating mister, which actually follows the saw blade as it moves through the cut. Most saw systems apply lubricant all over the blade, hoping some gets to the cutting point. “But by delivering directly at the cut point you get an amazingly smooth and powerful cut, but it also extends blade life and generates dry chips so there is no messy cleanup or swarf,” Spykerman says.
Listening to the industry
Job shops throughout the country are experiencing issues associated with the skilled labor shortage. Because of the skills gap, TigerStop has listened to what industry leaders are saying and is doing its part making automation easier by using hardware and software that is simple and familiar.
Most Americans are accustomed to using touchscreens, which is why TigerStop developed the TigerTouch in 2015. It’s a touch-screen workstation running on Surface Pro 3 – something that many operators are familiar with.
TigerTouch means operators can put away crammed clipboards and manage everything from the machine. It’s an add-on that allows users to store thousands of cut lists, view dynamic optimization as it is happening and store easy-to-access profiles.
The Tigerstop ethos
TigerStop operates out of a 30,000-sq.-ft. facility in Vancouver, Wash., and has expanded to the European market with a facility in Holland. Dick says the company carries no debt and will continue to innovate solutions.
“We keep it simple,” Dick explains about their approach. “Otherwise, you’re not going to get good results. That has been our theory from day one; take out the fussiness and the things people dislike doing.”