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Return to: 2001 Feature Stories


AUGUST 2001: Modern Metals


Service center customers share the productivity and quality benefits when EMJ crank up two CNC-controlled cutting machines. Company president comments on California energy crisis, steel import problem, future of e-business.

"We were starting to get backlogged, and it was taking us longer to cut materials for customers," said Rick Kramer, district manager at the Hayward, California, branch of Earle M. Jorgensen, (EMJ). "We needed to find a band saw that was faster and could provide the tighter tolerances our customers require," he explained.

As it turned out, the new Amada cutting machine ordered by Kramer and his associates delivered so efficiently that a second Amada saw soon joined it at the EMJ service center in Hayward, about 25 miles southeast of San Francisco.

EMJ is one of the largest independent nationwide metal distributors. The company's 1900 employees deliver metals and processing services to more than 45,000 customers from its 29 service centers. The company ships a full range of metals to a customer base ranging from aerospace, computer and electronic industries to manufacturers of automobiles, military equipment, medical instruments, and machinery and equipment.

According to Clay Richey, EMJ's manager of plant operations, Hayward's diverse customer roster is loaded with manufacturers in the computer and electronics industries in Silicon Valley, as well as food processing plants in the San Joaquin Valley, and petro-related industries in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties east of San Francisco Bay.

Found: productive saw

Together with Mel Smith, assistant manager of plant operations, Rich Kramer was researching suppliers of band saw equipment, and eventually contacted Sandy Young at Saw Service of America, a national dealer for Amada Cutting Technologies. Young recommended that EMJ try Amada's CTB-400 CNC-controlled band saw.

Specially groomed for high-volume production, the CTB-400 easily processes aerospace alloys, including tough guys like titanium, according to Young. It routinely achieves cutting rates three to five times that of other machines and produces surface finishes of 80 RMS or better, he said.

Positioned side-by-side in an 80,000-sq. ft. warehouse at Hayward, the two saws are served by a new Amada automatic conveyor system. "With that conveyor, we can load two different jobs at one time," said Clay Richey. "If we have an order for X number of bars, for example, we simply load the conveyor, and feed and cut, problem-free.

"Previously, if we sent a second bar through, we had to load it manually and take the bar off a crane. Now, I don't have to have a guy standing there. We literally doubled our productivity with this automatic conveyor system."

The two band saws are busily cutting bars of 300 and 400 series stainless steel, carbon steel, alloy steel and aluminum into lengths ranging from 3 to 13 in. Production proceeds in two shifts, from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., Monday through Friday.

Computer control's benefits

Amada bills the CTB-400 as "the world's first CNC band saw" with the world's first optimal cutting control. The operator inputs material type, shape and size, and the computer automatically selects the best cutting parameters. CNC control allows unattended operation, according to Amada.

Among the machine's other features are: A patented band deviation detector; variable blade speed; anti-vibration guide roller arm (patented); chip conveyor; automatic guide arm positioning; front and rear vise indexing; a motion detector; plasma display; direct blade drive; material separation at end of cut; recirculating coolant; safety interlocks; full stroke vises; and self diagnostic CNC control. Workers at Hayward say the CTB-400 is user friendly in that the CNC control panel is easily programmed and dependable. Blade speed and head feed pressure decrease on entry and exit of the cut (ramping up or down like a CNC lathe or mill).

"We can store cutting speeds and feeds for all types and grades of materials in the computer and those parameters can be recalled at any time for future orders of the same material," said Mel Smith, assistant manager of plant operations.

Throughput up; scrap down

He also explained that accidental drops of material are minimized because the index vises hold material securely, and the outboard vise works in unison with the index vise to move the cut part and the raw material away from the blade when the saw band is retracted.

Customers are very pleased with the tolerances on cut lengths, and some have commented that "the machining has already been done," Rich Kramer reported. "With surface finishes in the range of 80 RMS, customers don't have to do as much machining-the cuts are flat and more parallel," he noted.

"We can now handle special aluminum jobs such as a recent project for a NASCAR hub manufacturer," he added. "Saw tolerances were about three times better than what we were able to accomplish previously. We are participating in a broader market now because the CTB-400 cuts so much faster and more accurately."

Scrap is reduced, according to Clay Richey. "With 11-in. round stainless, for example, once we got down to 5-in. lengths, we had to cut them out. Now, we can go down almost to 2 in. before we go out of balance. And, with tighter tolerances, we have reduced customer machine time, which translates to savings and higher productivity for them."

Return to: 2001 Feature Stories