Forming, grooving, perforating, piercing, drilling, tapping, beveling, grinding, welding, no matter what you want to do with the pipe to make it ready for delivery to the customer, the first operation may be the cutting process . Although many cutting methods have been available for decades, many of the machines in use today are much more advanced than those of just a few years ago. With the diversification of pipe materials and the challenge of competitive pressure, the functions of software, sensors and control systems are becoming more and more powerful. result? Equipment suppliers have more choices in hardware and software, allowing them to develop faster, more accurate, more versatile, and more automated machines than ever before to help steel pipe manufacturers meet increasingly demanding cutting applications.

The continuous development of technology brings improved or brand-new products to the market, and in many cases, these products are made of improved materials. In the metal industry, the main driving force for the development of alloys is the automotive industry, which uses materials that are stronger and lighter than conventional metals to achieve lower emissions targets and higher fuel efficiency targets. Although car manufacturers use a variety of materials (such as aluminum and magnesium), a significant portion of each car is still made of steel. Another driving factor is the petroleum industry, which relies on steel chemicals. With drilling deeper than ever before, petrochemicals can withstand the harsh conditions of the offshore environment.

Steel progress.

 In response to these demands, the steel industry continues to supply new materials to the market. According to the World Steel Association, there are 3,500 grades of steel to choose from.

Advanced high-strength steel alloys, high-strength/low-alloy materials, dual-phase steels and phase transformation induced plasticity steels have little contribution to materials science. The latest materials are much stronger than ordinary low-carbon steels, such as SAE 1010, which has an ultimate tensile strength of about 42,000 pounds per square inch (PSI).

“Ten years ago, the average tensile strength of the automotive forging industry was 750 Newtons per square millimeter (109,000 PSI), and the maximum blade speed of many saws was about 130 to 140 meters per minute (MPM) [445 feet per minute (FPM) ]”, said Daniel Johns, Director of Business Development at Kinkelder, USA.

At that time, the demand for saw blades was huge, but in just a few years, it has undergone great changes. Some of the latest materials have increased their strength by 30% to 980 N/mm2 (142,000 PSI), and saws run faster, usually exceeding 200 MPM (656 FPM).

Johns said: “Fifteen years ago, we sold more general-purpose blades.” “Today, there is an increasing need for blades made for specific applications on the market.” He said, for example, only five years ago, ceramic metal (metal (Ceramic) blades meet about 80% of the requirements for bar applications, and today, about 80% of applications require the use of coated carbide.

He said: “Coated carbide inserts have higher tip strength and higher heat resistance, so they can withstand cutting harder materials at higher speeds.”

In addition to coatings that can help withstand heat up to 900 degrees Celsius (1,600 degrees Fahrenheit), another strategy includes optimizing the geometry of the teeth, changing the cutting angle to match the steel grade, and changing the spacing to cope with faster blade speeds.

This is not to say that cermets have been eliminated. He said: “They have a long blade life, so when the material is not so hard and the blade does not run too fast, it is still a good product.”

Johns said that cutting is not necessarily a single process. In some cases, heating caused by friction will increase the deformation component during the cutting process. Before the tooth pulls out the chips, the material heats up, softens and deforms. Certain applications, such as sawing duplex steel and nickel grades, require positive geometries, where cutting is mainly a shearing action. Understanding this difference and many other factors is the key to choosing a blade. Kinkelder staff found that replacing the blade would seriously affect the life of the blade.

Johns said: “One of our customers is cutting 17-4 stainless steel, and each blade can cut about 7,400 blades.” “We proposed to change other geometric shapes to resolve very strict burr tolerances. Now, the customer Approximately five times the service life can be obtained, and each blade can cut approximately 37,000 times.”

That is an extreme situation.

 If the blade is not the best blade for the application, it is likely to increase by 20%. Regardless of the actual amount of improvement, Johns’ company sees itself as a cutting consultant, followed by the blade manufacturer. This sounds counterintuitive: the company’s revenue is based on selling more blades, not fewer blades. However, this is not over yet. Like all other suppliers of products, the company has a place in the success of its customers, so it will use its sawing knowledge to benefit customers.

The company also conducted some research with sawmill manufacturer Rattunde Corp. The two companies have collaborated to improve the functions of the cutting system, such as cutting rectangularity. One benefit of the Kinkelder is that it uses a Rattunde saw, which can track the rotation of the saw blade. Rattunde’s system tracks the position of each tooth so closely that it can ensure that the initial contact with the workpiece is evenly distributed across all the teeth when making a large number of cuts to test the durability of the saw blade.

Cutting technology continues to evolve to cope with harder materials and stricter quality requirements

Quality improvement.

 Jon Hisey, Director of Business Development at Rattunde Corp., said: “Cutting quality has always been a demand, but in recent years, it has really begun to spread. The last dimple 20 or 30 years ago is acceptable., ” He said. “Nowadays, more and more users require clean, 90-degree, burr-free incisions.” Hisey suspects this is related to downstream automation.

He said: “Manufacturers are using more robotics, and robot welders are not good at dealing with inconsistencies.” “If the gap is too large or the changes are large, the robot will be powerless. It just depends on the way it is programmed over and over again. Do the same thing.”

Hisey said that although many manufacturers still seem to be vigilant about automation, for many automation manufacturers, automation has become inevitable.

He explained: “Many manufacturers still rely on manual labor to remove the pipes from the Cutting Machine and stack them.” “If you have three guys doing this and making a phone call when you get sick, you lose a third of your labor. In this regard.” Automating several steps that are usually performed after cutting (for example, measurement, etching, and packaging) can free manufacturers from this dilemma, not only today, but every day.

Saving space is always a concern, and Rattunde responded to this when he introduced a small-sized machine to the market in 2019.

“Until recently, our smallest machine was a 2-meter long machine,” Hisey said, referring to the longest length it can cut. “We have some customers using that machine to make 2-inch product parts. Our latest product is a 1-m machine, which is more practical for small parts than a 2m machine, achieving faster cycle times and reducing floor space. ”

Improvements in plumbing. 

For a long time, welding has been the core connection process in the plumbing industry, but it has gradually been replaced by crimping. Crimping does not require adhesives, solder and heat. The cost of making crimped joints is higher than that of soldered joints (the cost of crimping parts is higher than the cost of a small amount of solder and certain fluxes), but this is a faster process, so it can increase labor costs. The main caveat is that crimping requires that the tube end is very straight and free of burrs. The production line produced by the equipment manufacturer Reika GmbH is used for uncoiling and straightening copper pipes, and for cutting straight and burr-free, regardless of whether the material is thin-walled or thick-walled copper.

Joseph Kemple, president of Reika’s US representative Heiko Machine, said: “For thin-wall copper, the system uses a chipless process.” For thick-wall applications, the production line uses the company’s patented ring saw. The saw blade of the ring saw is round, but unlike most circular saw blades, it is driven along the outer diameter and the teeth are located on the inner diameter. The teeth are ready-made carbide inserts with four cutting surfaces and are installed on the machined valve seat with a set screw. When a surface becomes blunt, the operator removes the tooth, rotates it 90 degrees, and reinstalls it.

The unique function of the saw is the movement of the saw blade. In addition to rotating, the blade also moves eccentrically. When the blade swings around the workpiece, this causes the blade to gradually approach the workpiece. The combination of the shape of the cutting teeth and the movement of the blade aims to make the OD without burrs and the ID without negligible burrs.

Kemple said: “It will not leave a long list of waste, few burrs and very small debris.” He added: “These small debris fall out of the machine harmlessly, will not interfere with the operation, and Very easy to handle.”

One or two cuts

Shears, known for their speed and chipless cutting, have been used for high-volume/low-mix applications, but today they are also suitable for many small-batch/high-mix applications. The machine has not changed; the difference lies in the addition of a modern control system and necessary software.

For processing plants that rely on one or two saws, scissors may not be a viable option. However, a manufacturer who pushes several saws hard throughout the day may save considerable floor space and materials by switching to a shearing machine.

Haven Manufacturing Corp. president Steve Thiry said: “The high-speed shears can achieve the output of three to six saws.” Another advantage is that the shears have no slits, so no small part is wasted. The amount of material cut each time.

Like all other decisions, choosing the best cutting machine requires weighing several factors, one of which is the size of the part. For pipe manufacturers that only need to perform less than 50,000 straight cuts per year, saws are definitely more likely to meet production and return on investment goals than shears. If the volume exceeds 50,000, the shears will become more and more attractive.

Thiry said: “If a manufacturer needs to cut 60,000 to 70,000 in various lengths and diameters every year, then a shear can be used.”

Haven is known for designing and manufacturing two distinct types of shears: a supported shear, which uses a mandrel to prevent deformation due to shear blades cutting and splitting the tube; a double shear, which uses a lateral direction The knife penetrates the shearing machine. The wall of the pipe and a pair of scissors are used to cut. The initial cut will damage the integrity of the tube wall, so the shearing action can be performed without sinking in the tube.

Cut the long and short parts. 

The company’s machines range from 0.25 to 5 inches in diameter. Most of the machines it manufactures have outer diameters ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 inches. Lengths of 12 to 18 inches are the most common length-the length used to make shock absorbers, which is the main application-the company’s machines are often used to cut lengths of 0.5 inches to 10 feet. They can achieve a length accuracy of ±0.002 in.

A Haven machine in use is cutting thin-walled pipes with a length of only 3/8 inches to make hose clamps. The machine cuts 7,000 times per hour without deformation or material loss. Saws can make parts, but they cannot be made at this speed, and the kerf wastes a considerable amount of material, which accounts for a percentage of each cut. The laser can also perform non-destructive cutting. Although the cycle time is very short, thousands of straight cuts per hour cannot take full advantage of the biggest advantage of the laser machine: versatility.

Committed to lean production. Shearing machines are also a good choice for low-volume/high-mix applications because the way it is used has changed for decades. Known for providing dizzying output (up to 40 million parts per year in some cases), it helped mass production decades ago. Today’s shears are still dizzying and messy, but when equipped with With modern control systems, the same machine can help lean production and help lean production. One-piece flow animal lens.

“A few years ago, these machines were dedicated and could quickly manufacture individual parts for several hours. Those were the days of manual conversion,” Tiri said. Today, one of its customers uses a double shear system to make dog kennels. The tubular component of the kennel consists of five sections, which are cut into three lengths. Modern hardware and software enable manufacturers to cut various lengths in the order they are needed. The pipe cutting operation will produce a five-part kit that can be used for the next operation. Fast, accurate and lean.

Haven also uses its design expertise to develop customized material handling systems for the feed side and can create entire integrated cutting units.

Laser cutting update for manufacturing and construction

There are many types of lasers for processing pipes and structural elements. One of the most common machines is to clamp long pipes with chucks and handle the most common pipe and pipe sizes, with a maximum outer diameter of 4 in. Large machines include BLM GROUP’s LT24, which can cut diameters up to 24 inches. Bystronic’s M4 series, including FL400 and FL600, their maximum diameter can also be reduced to 24 inches. Mazak’s Fabri Gear 400 II can handle diameters up to 16 inches. And TRUMPF TruLaser Tube 7000, its maximum cutting diameter is 10 inches.

Other machines for cutting short-length tubes have also been manufactured, such as curved tubular components, hydroformed tubular components and other 3D shapes. Two such machines are Mazak’s VCL-T100, BLM GROUP’s LT-Free and TRUMPF’s TruLaser Cell series machines.

Cutting of the tube. In the early days of laser cutting sheet materials, sheet products were usually not flat enough to optimize the process. When the torch moves on a standard-size paper surface from one end to the other, the distance from the torch to the working surface changes too much. The steel industry adapted to the commercial standards for flatness of steel plates, and soon afterwards raised the commercial standards to accommodate laser cutting.

Tube is a different product, manufactured in different ways, and used in different industries. The tolerances are also different.

John Quigley, vice president of marketing for LVD Strippit, said: “The industry specifications for pipes are not as strict as sheet sizes.” “Tube manufacturers need laser systems that can handle all kinds of changes.”

The cutting procedure is based on the ideal size, but pipes and pipe products are rarely straight, and non-circular products usually show a certain degree of distortion. In order to cut accurately and prevent collisions between the laser head and the workpiece, the machine must determine the actual shape of the lamp tube and its position relative to the cutting head, and then compare it with the expected shape to compensate for dimensional changes. The LVD Strippit machine uses an onboard laser measurement system to measure the bow shape, and then compares the chuck position to a stable stationary position to determine the twist. In order to optimize the direction of the tube relative to the weld seam, the company’s laser machine uses an optical system based on two camera inputs.

The LVD Strippit machine has the groundbreaking versatility of the loading system. It is the first machine equipped with two loaders on one machine, one for strapping and the other with a seven-position tool magazine. For loading a single tube. Equipped with an automatic bagging machine on one side of the machine and a cartoning machine with a binding machine on the other side, so that the operator can take the best of both worlds. When using the beam loader for production operation, he can interrupt the work and load several pipes one by one to complete the emergency work, and then continue to perform the first work.

Similarly, Bystronic has designed a loading and unloading strategy to speed up processing. Its machine uses four chucks, but the processing tube does not need to use four chucks all the time.

Bystronic Inc. Laser and Automation Product Manager Brendon DiVincenzo said: “Although the laser head uses the first two chucks to process the final features on one tube, the second tube uses the last two chucks to be loaded into the machine.” The floating mandrel enables the machine to adapt to the bending and twisting of a single workpiece, while at the same time, the stress on the chuck is small and the accuracy of the cutting area is improved.

TRUMPF’s TruLaser Tube 7000 also provides some additional functions to expand the possibilities of processing tubes. Other tools can provide tapping for holes in thick-walled pipes and friction drilling and tapping for thin-walled pipes. It also has an optional mandrel that can be slid into the workpiece to protect the ID from splashes during the cutting process.

Large diameter, thick wall. Mazak Optonics Inc. estimates that in the five years from 2018 to 2023, the use of structural steel is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.3%. The driving force it cited was the federal government and the construction industry. The former involves infrastructure, and the latter involves residential and non-residential buildings. In such applications, the two factors that facilitate laser cutting of steel pipes are recyclability and construction speed. Approximately 90% of the metal is recycled, and precise laser cutting facilitates fast bonding.

The precision of the laser machine in manufacturing counterbores for fasteners, bevel cuts for connection, and beveled ends for welding preparation, makes site assembly and welding faster than traditional processes.

For this type of application, Mazak’s machine provides six control axes and four self-centering chucks to deal with the inconsistency of pipes and profiles, such as hollow structural sections, I-beams, H-beams and angles. According to Mazak, compared with fiber lasers, the company’s direct diode laser technology is 45% more energy efficient than CO2 lasers, and its power density is 40% higher than fiber lasers.

In order to adapt to different workpiece geometries, TRUMPF machines use self-centering collet chucks to prevent tube damage. The clamping system combined with the sensor can provide continuous monitoring to make necessary changes to the path of the laser head to prevent collisions.

The American BLM Group recently launched the LT8.20, which has 3D functions and can handle almost any shape. It is designed to handle complex cutting patterns, hard-to-reach locations, and welding preparation cuts on thick-walled pipes. It uses three functions in the company’s Active series: Active Tilt, which is used to quickly process small functions; active welding, which is designed to optimize the separation of waste in large welds; and Active Focus, which can handle changes in material and thickness.

By installing a chain loader on the front to configure the system, the system footprint can be reduced by 20% and allows loading and unloading operations from the same side. This makes the system more effective for small batch production and small batch production.

CO2 cutting or solid cutting? In the field of lasers, CO2 lasers have given way to solid-state technology. In most cases, this means fiber lasers, but TRUMPF has its proprietary TruDisk, while Mazak has direct diode lasers. Solid-state lasers are known for their simplified beam delivery and much lower maintenance requirements than CO 2 varieties. It provides more uptime and lower maintenance costs. But this does not mean that CO2 lasers are about to come out.

DiVincenzo said: “The market demand for fiber lasers is growing, but CO 2 lasers still have a place in manufacturing, not the dominant position in the past.” This is not just a question of replacing the resonator. The frequency of the fiber laser makes the design of the machine very different from the design of the CO2 resonator. Fiber lasers require a completely enclosed cutting area, which makes the loading and unloading of materials more complicated. The recognized performance advantages of fiber technology are only not applicable when cutting very large workpieces.

He said: “The logistics of material handling is better for CO2 lasers.”

data collection

The manufacturing industry has been thriving in data, whether it is measuring the uptime of a machine, timing the cycle time of a specific part, making measurements to find substandard components, or thousands of other data points used by manufacturers to measure and improve operations Collect information in.

In the past few years, the capacity and volume of data collection has increased by several orders of magnitude. The fusion of many technologies: sensors on machines that generate digital data, RFID tags on parts or parts boxes that generate tracking data, easy-to-scan QR codes containing various information, Wi-Fi systems that move data from place to place, and Software that organizes all functions-allows manufacturers to install systems that were unheard of a few years ago.

Collecting data from key points in the manufacturing process, digitizing it, and converting it into a useful stream of information, which is constantly updated and readily available, can not only eliminate paper or provide real-time snapshots of manufacturing activities. The data can be integrated with the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to modify production plans, report exhausted raw material inventory levels to trigger purchase actions, and inform customers about the status of orders so that they can notify their customers and update their plans . This information has a lot of meaning in the upstream and downstream of the value chain: manufacturers may voluntarily embark on the journey of implementing Industry 4.0 technology for their own benefit, or manufacturers may follow this path to meet customer needs.

This trend is playing a role in the construction industry. Today, architects do more than just draw up blueprints. They use building information modeling (BIM) software, which is a very complex CAD version that contains certain elements of ERP. It provides so many details with such high precision that contractors can present supplies such as ducts, pipes and ducts on the job site, which are cut to appropriate lengths and even assembled into components , So every component can be installed at any time. They do more work in their stores, but much less work on the job site, and as the construction progresses, each contractor will provide updates.

Carroll Stokes, sales manager of T-Drill Industries Inc., said: “Each installer can update the model to trigger the next material order, which triggers the next production order, and so on.”

The requirements of the mechanical contractor a few years ago clarified the possibilities of T-Drill. The contractor wanted a fully automatic machine that could cut dozens of unique pipe components (straight parts and branch connections), print and paste labels (or two labels, for longer parts, two on each end) , A label), and use the shunt table to classify them.

Initially, T-Drill employees were a mystery. Why does a plumbing shop need a machine that sounds like a good fit for the manufacturer? Later, when employees understand the full scope of BIM, they understand how automated machines support this kind of work. Access to the model helps everyone from the owner of the building to the smallest contractor understand the status of each step of the project, no matter how big the project is.

The hardware is also constantly being updated. Stokes said that inserting the tube into the machine, positioning it for cutting, making the cut, advancing and retracting the collar tool-these actions are accurate, fully controllable, and not expensive when the actuator is a servo motor.

He said: “We have 27 servers on one machine.” “In the early 1990s, the cost of each axis of the server was about 5,000 US dollars. Today, the price of each axis is between 1,500 and 2,000 US dollars.” The output contains two main servo attributes, namely speed and accuracy. He said: “We can accurately manufacture 3,000 products within an hour.”

He said that the pneumatic actuator is equally fast and accurate, but the servo system can control the entire movement process to optimize the feed and cutting stroke. This is not to say that the cutting and loop functions of the machine are more critical than connectivity. Both go hand in hand.

Stokes said: “As far as I know, bidding on any municipal building requires BIM. This has been a requirement for the past six to eight years.” The connection point is not difficult. For companies engaged in the construction industry, the interface with BIM has become more and more important. Therefore, for their suppliers, investment in equipment with digital connectivity has been becoming more and more important.

“It’s not just for construction,” Stokes added. “It is also used in the shipbuilding industry, and it has similar considerations-structure and hydraulics, pneumatics, electrical, water, fire extinguishing and sewage systems.”

TRUMPF established a fully networked manufacturing plant in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, to demonstrate these technologies. Although it is not a tube-oriented operation, at least not yet. It illustrates the capabilities of digitization for all functions that are critical to the manufacturing process.

When summoned according to work instructions, the automatically guided vehicle will retrieve the necessary plates and segment them, thereby starting a process in which the material is cut, stamped and bent from one machine to another. In most cases, machine maintenance and material handling are automated. Transparency is an important part of the technology used in smart factories.

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