Rarely does a fabricator make one type of cut. Rather, most shops cut metal at a variety of angles. While some cut lists are going to have multiple cuts at one specific angle or at 90 degrees,
and perhaps even an entire day of them, at some point, they’re going to need the saw to do something different. Even for upcut saws, which are high-speed and high-production workhorses, manufacturers aren’t settling on one that functions as a one trick pony.
At Scotchman Industries, the sawing professionals listen carefully to the demands in the marketplace and regularly respond. The company sold a semi-automatic upcut saw for about a decade, and then offered a fully automatic version in 2016 – a saw that was built to cut only at 90 degrees. But with a recently developed program called Auto 90, which is compatible with Scotchman’s SUP 600 AngleMaster, operators have the option to run semi-automatically on mitered cuts or full automatic on 90 degree cuts.
Mike Albrecht, national sales manager at Scotchman, says by partnering with RazorGage, a company that produces state-of-the-art automated material positioning systems, they were able to take a semi-automatic sawing solution, mainly for cutting aluminum, and automate various aspects of it, namely, the material positioning. He explains that most customers of the upcut saw don’t exclusively make angled cuts, nor are they exclusively making 90-degree cuts – it’s almost always a mixture of the two, often in the same day’s cut list.
“When the customer needs to do both, the Auto-90 software allows them to do just that,” Albrecht says of the value of the new addition to the SUP 600 AngleMaster sawing system. “The program looks for any cut lengths in the program that happen to be a straight 90-degree cut. If it sees a 90-degree cut list, it’ll prompt the operator and ask: ‘Do you want to run this automatically?’”
Albrecht has been around the sawing industry long enough to know that today’s cut lists are often quite complex and if handled manually it would take a “calculus major” to configure. He also knows machine operators who are “extremely good,” know their saws “extremely well” and can get through a cut list with relative ease. But those operators are few and far between, especially today as the workforce’s skills gap has pushed sawing technology engineers toward more automated features and ease of use. To that end, the SUP 600 AngleMaster with the Auto 90 program includes a 21-in. touchscreen controller that makes it easy for novice operators to use.
“The software does the math for you – it figures the length and positioning in a way that’s easy to manage,” Albrecht says. “Operators have to simply run the saw versus thinking about where to pull a tape measure and where to place the cut.”
Another step toward ease of use is automating the material handling portion of the process, which is what Scotchman did to make the SUP 600 AngleMaster compatible with the Auto 90 program. This included adding stroke control and other hardware to the saw. These new automated features will be of particular interest to manufacturers making storefront parts, which includes door and window frames, or the aluminum that frames the glass facades on the front of buildings.
“Larger architectural profiles is where that market is trending,” Albrecht says. Because the SUP 600 AngleMaster has a blade 100 mm larger than the SUP 500, it’s large capacity is able to keep up with the demands of architects designing larger storefronts, modern lighting systems and many other construction elements that push smaller saws to their limits.
“We’ve also sold saws used to cut beams for truck frames and tractor trailers,” he adds. “There are many products that are making the transition from steel to aluminum so demand for large capacity aluminum cutting saws is growing.”
While the goal might often be to go fully automated in the sawing process, it may not always produce the desired outcome, especially on non-ferrous materials like aluminum. And that’s
part of the reason Scotchman includes the Auto-90 program on the SUP 600 AngleMaster – it gives the operator the option to choose what’s best for the job at hand.
Upcut saws are known for producing clean edges, which is part of the reason users invest in upcut saws – they appreciate the fact that they are saving time by not needing to do secondary work on the cut ends. But it’s not just the edges that have to come out of the process unmarred. Albrecht says that making angled cuts on extrusion material, which is expensive and often includes a highly polished or painted surface, is a delicate procedure that requires a scratch-free finish.
Even with the best vacuum system directed at the cutting edge of the saw and material, chips can be left behind, which could mar the surface of the material. In these cases, the operator will often choose a semi-automatic mode for angled aluminum cuts.
“If the operator rotate the turntable with that material clamped up against the fence,” Albrecht explains, “chips will grind underneath it, and you’re probably going to scratch and ruin that material.”
The Scotchman approach to the problem, however, is to leave the clamps loose as the turntable moves, so that the material floats and is not under any undo force. At that point, it’s up to the operator to watch as the angle goes from one direction to the other in order to ensure the material is back up against the fence before clamping to make the next cut.
“It gives the operator a chance to clean off the table, if needed, and make sure there are no chips underneath,” Albrecht says, “From there, all the operator has to do is flip a button to activate the clamps and make the cut. As soon as that cut is done, you release the clamps, which activates the controller to say okay, now everything’s free, the operator can move the material to the next location or turn the turntable to the next desired angle in the cut list.”
When the SUP 600 AngleMaster was rolled out at Fabtech in 2016, Albrecht says it was in response to customers who wanted to take the labor out of the hands of the saw operators to increase efficiency and reduce error/costs. The recent upgrade with the Auto 90 program accomplishes much the same in 2020.
Manufacturers need every advantage they can get when working with a soft metal like aluminum. As anyone in the metals manufacturing industry can attest, just because it’s soft doesn’t mean it’s easy to cut. Even companies invested in laser cutting technology have had to develop customized technology to cut aluminum efficiently.
For the sawing industry, a bandsaw is not the most efficient tool for cutting aluminum. Rather, a fast and powerful circular sawing solution is often the best answer for reaching quality results.
“Aluminum can get gummy and that makes it harder to cut,” Albrecht says. Fortunately, with the AngleMaster’s 3,000-rpm motor and a 24-in.-dia. blade, “I can cut through a 6-in. square of extruded aluminum in a matter of seconds with a burr-free finish where a bandsaw is going to take double that time and usually require a secondary process to remove burrs.”