Cutting Tool Engineering
March 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 3

Right tool for the job

By CTE Staff

Whether it’s fixing a bicycle or producing a steel building, having the right tool for the job—and knowing how to use it—is critical to achieving success. Behlen Industries LP understands that importance. The Brandon, Manitoba-based producer of steel buildings and components serves the industrial, institutional, commercial and agricultural markets, selling and installing products throughout North America and parts of Europe.

The company consumes more than 9 million pounds of steel annually and uses a plasma cutter to machine the steel for welding. Behlen runs multiple shifts and its MG Messer Titan II plasma cutting machine was highly reliable during the vast majority of the machine’s 10-year stint, according to Doug Riddoch, who was Behlen’s production manager before transferring to sister company Sakundiak Equipment Ltd., Regina, Saskatchewan. However, the machine builder no longer services or supports the Titan II, making replacement parts difficult to procure, he noted.

Courtesy of Hypertherm

Behlen Industries’ plasma/oxy-fuel cutting machine is equipped with Hypertherm’s HyPerformance HPR260XD plasma cutting system. The machine is used to produce steel building components (top).

“The maintenance throughout the years was adequate but could have been much better through a structured preventive maintenance program, which Behlen is in the process of implementing,” Riddoch said. “Maintenance is a major factor in machinery life, and Behlen is quickly transitioning from reactive to preventive maintenance.”

Having reached the end of the machine’s reliable service life, Behlen researched available machines to determine which ones met the company’s needs. “The machine has to perform under high demand for many years to justify the expense,” Riddoch said. “Trouble-free operation is what we were looking for because the plasma system dictates work flow, with 40 welders waiting for cut parts.”

Behlen selected the Versagraph Millennium plasma/oxy-fuel cutting machine from Koike Aronson Inc./Ransome, Arcade, N.Y., and purchased it from distributor Linde Canada Ltd., Mississauga, Ontario, the building producer’s supplier for industrial consumables and gas. “The final factor that helped us decide was the amount of support we received during this research period not only from Linde’s salesperson but from Mike Trupp, who installed the machine and handled our service requirements. We’re confident Mike and Linde will continue to help us meet our future needs,” Riddoch said.

The new machine is equipped with integrated plasma cutting products from Hypertherm Inc., Hanover, N.H., including a HyPerformance HPR260XD plasma cutting system with Autogas, an Edge Pro CNC, a Sensor torch height control and ProNest 2010 nesting and process optimization software.

Making sure all machine components are operational is the responsibility of Linde’s Trupp, a technical sales and automation specialist. “I have to be a one-stop shop to our customers, as much as possible,” he said. “The relationship I have with Hypertherm makes that easier for me. I only need to make one call to Hypertherm or the machine manufacturer and I get the answers I need instead of one component supplier blaming the other’s component.”

The new machine not only delivered the desired results but changed the way Behlen operates. The Hypertherm-equipped machine eliminated outsourcing plasma cutting when the old machine broke down. In addition, the new machine lets Behlen perform additional contract work that would have been difficult to do on the old, lower-quality machine.

The higher quality cut of the new machine means the kerf angle, or edge taper, is reduced, which improves I-beam weld fit-up and welding productivity.

“We struggled with kerf angle on thicker plates, which affected our weld processes,” Riddoch said, noting that sheets from 3⁄16 " to ½ " are generally plasma cut and sheets up to 1½ " thicker can be cut with oxy-fuel torches. “I-beams are now consistently fabricated to tighter tolerances, which helps our installers by reducing costly in-field rework.”

Also, the use of ProNest automatic nesting software to program cutting jobs achieves high levels of material utilization without programmer intervention, according to Behlen. Collision avoidance is applied automatically to each nest, yielding optimized toolpaths, lead styles and positioning. The resulting toolpath improves productivity and cut-to-cut cycle time.

“All in all, the new machine’s capability has alleviated production bottlenecks and reduced work in process,” Riddoch said.

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