Aluminum, copper and steel are by far the most commonly used metals in manufacturing, but when a harder, more durable material is required, the exotic alloys, such as titanium, nickel
and tungsten become high-demand materials. For Pre-Tech Precision Machining, exotic alloys are an integral part of the daily work schedule, necessitating the introduction of new technology to handle the complexity of working with such alloys.
“We’re manufacturing more exotic alloy parts than ever,” says Shane Simino, director of engineering at Pre-Tech Precision Machining, “such as high-nickel exotics, exotic plastics and coppers. We’re also seeing a demand for Inconel, titanium, Vespel, copper nickel and many other corrosive or heat-resistant materials.”
Pre-Tech Precision Machining has manufacturing facilities in New York and Vermont and serves the aerospace, medical, military and commercial industries, which explains the uptick in exotic alloy use. Looking to find more efficiencies, the company turned to Cosen, not just for a new automatic bandsaw, but for a solution that makes cutting exotic alloys more effective.
One of the first applications used in turning a piece of raw exotic metal into a high-end part for aerospace customers like Space X or Raytheon (two of Pre-Tech Precision Machining’s customers) is the bandsaw. After the material hits the unloading dock, the next move is to the bandsaw. Prior to investing in a new Cosen C3 bandsaw in October of last year, however, the sawing process took so much time that it was often the source of a bottleneck in production.
“We used a saw at each of our production sites and they were busy a lot of the time,” Simino says. “Sometimes, they were even backed up.”
A recent order on a stainless steel job that required 700 pieces would have taken the old saws between two and three days to complete. The Cosen C3 saw handled the job in less than four hours. Allen Goddu, Cosen’s regional manager, helped complete the process development for Pre-Tech Precision Machining.
“Production has increased up to 800 percent,” Simino says. “Keep in mind, our old saw technology was probably 30 years old and extremely unreliable. The ability to reliably gang bars and the cut speed has made tremendous increases in output, not to mention the cut and size quality.”
New sawing abilities
The C3 saw is a fully automatic, enclosed, horizontal dual-post machine that has plenty of the most modern advancements in bandsawing. Among them are the adjustable flood coolant
system, an inverter blade drive system that allows variable blade speeds, a high-precision linear guideway design and a gearbox designed to accept high lateral pressure. Also, Cosen has developed a solution called V_Drive, which is specifically for handling exotic alloys.
Yu-Hsien Ho, director of channel sales and marketing at Cosen, says V_Drive technology, which is built into the C3 and other Cosen saws, is designed for bandsaws to cut difficult-to-machine materials, such as nickel-based alloys, titanium and other exotic alloys.
“V_Drive calculates the amperage load of the blade as it’s cutting through material,” Ho says, “and the software can sense when a work-hardened zone is being created by the blade cutting the material.”
The work-hardened zone Ho refers to is created when the blade generates heat in a specific area of the material being cut, causing it to harden and thereby damaging the blade, increasing cut time and reducing cut quality.
Ho says V_Drive was developed to sense when the blade would enter an area of the material that could potentially harden and automatically provide more load to the blade motor so that it can push through the hardened area, thereby reducing the friction/resistance against the blade.
Ho explains that by eliminating the usual pressures created by the work-hardened zone, there is reduced vibration, which is something all saw operators try to avoid. Vibration can have a negative impact on everything from blade life to cut time and cut quality.
Carbide-tipped bandsaw blades are far more expensive than standard or bi-metal blades but are often a necessity when cutting exotic alloys, due mostly to the fact that carbide has the ability to cut harder materials more efficiently. However, Ho says that with a saw equipped with V_Drive, users don’t necessarily have to default to carbide blades when cutting exotic alloys.
Ho says that as long as the blade is able to push through the material before it reaches a work-hardened state, the life of a bi-metal blade, for example, will be maintained even when cutting hard material.
“When a bi-metal blade without V_Drive encounters hard material,” Ho says, “it encounters a lot more resistance that causes the blade to wear much faster. The customer has the option to equip their saw with a much more expensive carbide blade, which is designed to cut harder materials, but the cost of carbide blade could be five times the cost of a bi-metal blade. If we can get a bi-metal blade to perform at near carbide levels and maintain the same blade life, it really saves the customers a significant amount of money on tooling cost.”
While Simino says they enjoy the flexibility to use bi-metal blades, which they sometimes do, given the parts they’re producing and the expectations of the customers, the bulk of their exotic alloy cutting is done with carbide blades, as they prefer the “speed and versatility of carbide.”
Since bringing in the Cosen C3 automatic bandsaw equipped with V_Drive in October of last year, Simino says that aside from spending less time in the sawing phase due to the speed and efficiency of the automated cutting, there is a noticeable improvement in quality.
“Cut quality is incredible,” he says. “Lengths are extremely accurate and there’s no blade wander. Cuts are perpendicular and clean.”