Takes care of your material preparation before CNC machining.
For a busy manufacturer there can be fewer harder challenges to productivity in your machine shop than cutting to length hollow bar or tube in carbon steels, alloy steels or chrome, particularly when you do not have the equipment to do so. The costs and the possibility of scrap are high.
Special Steels was established just under 20 years ago in 2002 by William Ferguson and Owen Philpott as a specialist cut-to-length company with an emphasis on imported bar and tube. The company was subsequently restructured and Fergusson became the sole owner. Ferguson’s untimely passing in 2007 saw his son Byron hit the road running with the speciality steels business, focussing in on service and speed of delivery so that he could stand out amongst the rest.
“With a banking and investing background and working experience my technical knowledge about the metal industry was very limited. I soon realised that, although time and service are an important aspect of the manufacturing industry and contribute to the profits, if you could add more value-added and niche operations to your existing setup without competing against your customers, it would be beneficial to both parties,” explained Ferguson.
“We had already introduced carbon steels, alloy steels, hydraulic tubing and chrome plated steel bars to our product range. All our product has always been imported from international mills. There are specifically two areas of the business. One is for more competitively priced product that comes in from China and Eastern Europe and the other is for product that is of a higher quality and specification. These products are imported from Europe, Japan and the Ukraine. But all product is supplied to DIN standards,” said Ferguson.
One of the most time-consuming operations in a machining or fabrication shop is material preparation. The most recent machine that Special Steels have acquired is a Hirscheider V9-400 CNC end machining lathe. They can now do facing, centring and chuck preparation of round bar from 20mm to 375mm diameter
“However, with our philosophy to transcend the essential ‘buy-cut-sell’ process, offered by many, we decided to rather explore the possibility of offering value-added services and minimising downtime over and above the required cut-to-size requirements. These benefits include machining preparation work to be done on the steel, reducing machine setup times, minimising material wastage and offering consistent dimensional tolerances for high-volume production. These processes would ultimately free up valuable time on our clients high-end machinery and allow them to perform the more complex machining operations that would add value to their manufacturing capabilities.”
“We decided to develop and invest in the tailor-made solutions and this has now resulted in Special Steels offering CNC machining services such as normal and deep-hole drilling, facing and centring, normal and robotic welding, tapping and bevelling as well as hardness testing, ultrasonic testing, heat treatment, lab services and logistics.”
“This is over and above the bandsaw, laser, plasma and oxyfuel cutting services that are necessary in our business.”
“We are not wanting to be a manufacturing or fabrication setup so there is not much in terms of added on value that we can derive from the components and products that our customers offer.”
“The days of opening a traditional service centre and making a good living by using the conventional business model are long gone. 30 years ago it wasn’t too difficult to buy large shipments of steel at mill prices, break the bands, and sell small quantities to local manufacturers at slightly marked-up prices, making a little profit on each transaction.”
Material preparation for more effective CNC machining
“One of the most time-consuming operations in a machining or fabrication shop is material preparation. Programming rough machining operations for efficient removal of material is crucial when preparing a workpiece for finished machining or fabrication. Ultimately it can lead to large losses of material especially if the material has to be scrapped because of incompetency. Additionally, these more mundane and less cost-effective operations occupy expensive equipment that should rather be performing the tasks that require micron precision,” explained Ferguson.
The Hirscheider V9-400 CNC end machining lathe has 4 000mm between centres, XY travels of 230mm by 230mm and the machine does have the capacity of machining a round bar up to 25 tons although on average the largest that is machined is 4 tons
“Rough machining is generally an aggressive cutting action and can require longer cycle times with far greater tip wear. This all soaks up costly machine and operator time. Preparing the workpiece for machining ensures efficient usage of a clients most valuable assets, thereby optimising the return on those assets.”
“There is also the possibility that customers don’t have the required size of machinery to perform these tasks. Then they would have to outsource. So why not outsource to the company that already has your material because they have purchased it from them and are cutting-it-to-size for them.”
“We have been investing in equipment that will perform these material preparation tasks for our customers.”
Hirscheider – CNC facing, centring and chuck preparation of round bar up to 4 000mm
“The most recent machine that we have acquired is a Hirscheider V9-400 CNC end machining lathe. We can now do facing, centring and chuck preparation of round bar from 20mm to 375mm diameter.”
Chuck preparation, neck turning, facing and centring are processes that Special Steels are offering clients as well as deep-hole drilling, normal and robotic welding, drilling, tapping and bevelling as well as laser cutting and oxyfuel cutting
“The machine has been specially modified by the German manufacturer Hirscheider to suite our needs. Sourced in Sweden the machine has been retrofitted and extended from 2 000mm between centres to 4 000mm between centres. The XY travels are 230mm by 230mm and even though the round bar we generally machine will only be up to four tons the machine does have the capacity of machining a round bar up to 25 tons.”
Drill and tap
“Additionally, the machine has the ability to drill and tap thread sizes of M12, M16, M20, M24 and M30.”
“With this investment and previous investments in equipment that perform deep-hole drilling, normal and robotic welding, drilling, tapping and bevelling as well as laser cutting and oxyfuel cutting we have made sure that we can eliminate material preparation to simplify processes so that operators can load, lock and go.”
“Benefits include reduced setup time, better inventory management and fewer bottlenecks,” concluded Ferguson.
For further details contact Special Steels on TEL: 011 865 4939 or visit www.specialsteels.co.za