Scenes from Europe
Product introductions, innovations at TUBE
Editor Eric Lundin recounts some of the product introductions and innovations seen at the TUBE expo in Düsseldorf, April 12-16, 2010.
If you take a ride on the London Eye and dare to look down, you’ll get a view of the Thames and central London from an altitude of nearly 450 feet. If that’s not your cup of tea, a lateral look will give you a glimpse at the material, mainly steel cable and tubular sections, that went into constructing it. Casual observers would be impressed to learn that 1,870 tons of steel went into the world’s tallest cantilevered Ferris wheel; tubers would probably wonder how many saddles, bevels, and chamfers were needed at the tube ends. One company got the contract to profile all of the tubing. That company, HGG Cutting Services Division, is part of HGG, a Dutch equipment manufacturer that displayed several of its SPC series plasma profiling machines at the TUBE 2010 expo in Düsseldorf (April 12-16).
Backed up by Tekla software and Kjellberg power sources, the machines are designed for industries such as construction, processing, shipbuilding, and offshore oil and gas extraction. Construction contractors, shipbuilders, and offshore rig builders don’t have any control over material prices, of course, but getting their hands on the right equipment can help them with other costs.
“Fitting and welding are two of the biggest costs” in projects like these, said HGG Sales Engineer Edwin Van der Ham. Accurate cutting for fit-up, which helps fitters and welders work as efficiently as possible, is enhanced by careful measurements.
“The machine measures the wall thickness at four points,” Van der Ham explained. “When it finds any wall thickness deviations, it changes the cutting parameters to compensate.”
Sorting through hundreds of tons of tube to find the right one for the next step in a project might sound like a daunting task, but that’s not necessarily the case. Plasma machines can mark the tube as well.
“The marks ensure that the fitter assembles the structure correctly,” he said. Van der Ham added that the machines are capable of using oxyfuel for cutting heavy sections.
Another cutting machine, the Rasacut MXS saw manufactured by RSA Entgrat- u. Trenn-Systeme, cuts single tubes or three-tube bundles. It handles singles from 5/16 to 1.75 in. dia. or bundles of three in diameters from 0.25 to 0.75. Add-on modules are available for deburring, chamfering, cleaning, stacking, and length control. Part handling before, during, and after the sawing process is precise enough to achieve cut length accuracy of ±0.080 in. Depending on tube dimensions, it has an output of 11,000 pieces per hour.
According to the manufacturer, part handling is careful enough that the finished pieces comply with many industry visual requirements, such as those for automotive interior components; after sawing, the pieces are ready for chrome plating.
Another cutting innovation is Reika’s RingSaw, which cuts tube, pipe, bar, and profile. It handles tube and pipe diameters from 0.40 to 24 in. and wall thicknesses from 0.040 to 5.9 in. An electromechanical machine, it has no hydraulic components or subsystems.
The machine design is unique; its circular blade uses the ID to cut the workpiece.
“After the cutting process starts, the machine moves the blade in an oscillating motion on the X and Y axis to make the cut,” said Rich Marando, president of Graebener Group Technologies Inc., Reika’s parent company.
Purchasing specialized replacement blades isn’t necessary. “The cutting surfaces are off-the-shelf carbide inserts,” Marando added. It is designed to cut dry, but it has two coolant options, spray or immersion.
Orbitalum’s Scorp series hand-held circular saws cut pipe up to 14 in. dia. Blade choices include TCT for steel, copper, and plastic; diamond for cast iron; and cermet for stainless steel. Developed for pipe fitters, the series includes the 170e model, which is equipped with a speed regulator intended to optimize cutting and preserve the tool’s life.
Tube and pipe bending machine manufacturers continue to develop all-electric machines. Herber Engineering AB developed models 1100/2100S and 4600/6300S, mandrel-type tube and pipe benders that don’t rely on hydraulics. They bend tube from 1/16 to 6 5/8 in. OD.
According to Herber, hydraulic benders tend to have two advantages over all-electric bending machines: speed and force. “Herber uses high-speed electric motors to close the gap between hydraulic bending speeds and electric bending speeds,” said Brian Julien, North American sales manager for Herber’s U.S. distributor, Innovative Tube Equipment Corp.
“These machines have two motors that build the clamp force and the pressure die containment force,” he continued. “The second motor activates a toggle lock that generates enough pressure to crush the tube, but it has a sensor that prevents that. Also, the drive system that develops the bending pressure uses high-point gears, like the ones used in an automobile’s differential, to develop 11,000 newtons [2,475 lbs.] of bending force.”
Herber’s offerings don’t end with benders. The company joined forces with other manufacturers to create a fabrication cell, comprising a BORS E21 nick-and-shear cutoff machine, a BORS E60 twin electric forming machine for tube end expansion and reduction, and a KUKA KR 60-3 robot to load and unload the machines.
Advances in bend measurement have helped improve variable-radius bending (also called multiradius, free-radius, and free-form bending). Demand for this sort of bend, which has come mainly from manufacturers in the furniture industry, has been spreading to other industries.Measuring bends made on draw bending machines, then using those measurements for bend correction, is nothing new. However,applying such a concept to variable-radius bends is much more complex, according to bender manufacturer Wafios and its partner, optical inspection equipment manufacturer Aicon. Whereas draw bender correction consists of making changes in LRA values, a variable-radius bender uses a different process, push bending, and requires a multitude of corrections. Reducing the time spent and scrap generated during the correction process were two areas of interest, according to Aicon. As reported in the March 2010 issue of TPJ-The Tube & Pipe Journal®, p. 14, a TubeInspect HD machine can provide the necessary measurements and feedback to a Wafios BMZ series bender. The measurement machine also is compatible with a Wafios B10.
Wafios also has responded to the auto industry’s continuous push for increased strength and decreased weight. The company’s SBM 12 was designed specifically to bend automobile sway bars made from thin-wall, high-tensile-strength material, which conventionally is bent cold in several stages or formed hot in a press. Wafios engineers used an existing bender as a starting point, then reinforced the housing, installed stronger drive spindles, and added a mounting to the guide bar. They also reinforced the bending head. The machine is capable of left-, right-hand, and free-form bending.
Equipment for Tube and Pipe Production
Many companies that make consumables and equipment for tube and pipe producers displayed new and innovative products at TUBE as well.
Etna Products Inc. introduced two lubricants intended specifically for drawing copper, cupronickel, and brass tubing products: MASTERDRAW® EBE 110 and EBE 115. Intended for the mandrel and dies, respectively, these lubricants are a departure from conventional drawing lubricants, said Etna President Ike Tripp.
The traditional lubricant has graphite and mineral oil. Although graphite provides excellent lubricity, two drawbacks concern removing it from the tube and workplace health and safety.
“People are looking for less residue on the finished tube,” Tripp said. Although graphite provides excellent lubricity at high temperatures, it is a very tenacious lubricant, Tripp explained.
“Graphite impinges into the matrix of the metal, so the process leaves behind a residue that remains even after the tube is finished and annealed,” he said.
“Another problem is that the heat generated by the drawing process generates quite a bit of smoke from the lubricant,” Tripp said. “The oil base, which is the carrier for the graphite, flashes from the heat of the mandrel, and the particulate graphite is in that smoke.”
EBE compounds contain no solids or particulates, so they are easy to remove from the tube after it is drawn, Tripp said. Also, they don’t pollute the shop’s air, so the working environment is cleaner.
Another safety aspect concerns how the product is applied. Because the EBE series lubricants are water-based, they can be sprayed onto the mandrel and dies. Tripp found that CanAm Extrusion Solutions manufactures a spray system that works with the lubricants. This allows workers to remain a safe distance from the equipment—they don’t need to enter the press area to swab the lubricant onto the tooling. Although they are new on the market, Tripp added that these products have a track record. They have been in use by a limited number of customers for more than a year.
SMS Meer continues to develop its Premium Quality Finishing (PQF®) rolling process. Used for producing seamless products from ½ to 18 in. dia. and 0.080 to 1.18 in. wall thicknesses, PQF lines use a three-roll arrangement, one more than a conventional seamless line, to reduce tolerance deviations and lower material strains, the company states.
As they strive to reduce inventories, tube and pipe manufacturers produce smaller lots and have more frequent changeovers. SMS developed lateral changeover (LCO), which allows each stand to be changed from the side of the mill, decreasing the changeover time and making shorter production runs more economical.
Manufacturers of welded tube and pipe might be interested in Rofin’s Profile Welding System. Suitable for tube, pipe, and profiles, it uses laser welding to make products with a narrow weld seam and therefore a narrow heat-affected zone (HAZ). Gap position and seam tracking sensors keep the laser aligned with the seam. The company’s newest tracking device, the Weld Sensor, developed for CO2 and solid-state lasers, allows the operator to watch the weld while the device corrects the position automatically. The company also manufactures beam switch boxes and beam splitters that allow simultaneous operation on several systems at once.
Ernst Blissenbach addressed a common problem for tube and pipe producers: a chipped or broken ID scarfing tool. Competitive pressures put downward prices on tube and pipe, and manufacturers dread the thought of making so much as a foot of defective tubing. Blissenbach makes a scarfing unit that removes the weld bead from the ID and has a second tool that contacts the ID and rotates to monitor the seam mechanically. A seam monitoring system transforms the information into digital signals and displays it so that operators can determine current ID scarfing conditions. This allows the tube production staff to replace a worn or damaged scarfing tool shortly after a problem crops up, instead of finding the problem after producing a large amount of scrap.
The Tube & Pipe Journal
The Tube & Pipe Journal became the first magazine dedicated to serving the metal tube and pipe industry in 1990. Today, it remains the only North American publication devoted to this industry and it has become the most trusted source of information for tube and pipe professionals.