Tube talk

October 12, 2007
By: Dan Davis

I visited MG Products of Elkhart, Ind., on Wednesday and had a chance to chat with Mark George, the company"s founder and president. We talked about his company"s business and how the BLM Adige LT712D laser tube cutter it purchased in 2004 has helped to
transform its machine shop into a fabrication shop.

When I asked what was the biggest lesson he and his team have learned since the laser tube cutting machine"s installation, George thought for a moment and grinned slightly. I figured he was going through a slide show in his brain of all the small hiccups that occur while getting used to a new piece of capital equipment.

But that wasn"t the case at all. In fact, George said the maintenance and operation of the laser is not that much
different from the many other turning, milling, and machining centers that he has.

He responded that his company had to be more vigilant about material delivered to its door.

You have this highly capable machine, but do you have the material to make it shine? he asked rhetorically.

In general, the 3-D world is a lot more complicated than 2-D cutting. In sheet metal fabricating, your worries pretty much are limited to thickness and flatness. George said tube cutting involves much more, such as corner radii, straightness, and twist.

The machine can help with some aspects of quality control, he added. For example, when a length of tube is loaded for cutting, the machine will probe a section of the tube for any signs of twist, extrapolate that section over the entire tube length, and make adjustments during the cutting. However, if the tube has so much twist that when it is placed into the machine that it can"t even sit correctly in the holders, the machine will crash even before the probing takes place.

In addition, the tube material may not be what the fabricator expects. George said that ASTM specs exist for tube production, but he doubts that most tube mills have the quality programs in place to turn out tube that consistently meets these industry standards. Unlike in the 2-D world, where fabricators can order laser-quality sheets and generally accept that the material will meet the required specs, MG Products doesn"t have that luxury.

So the company has had to learn through trial and error. George knows what type of tube sizes and profiles to order from specific suppliers. He also spends times visiting and working with the suppliers to pass along his concerns and learn their business.

There"s room for improvement in any supply chain, and the relationship between metal suppliers and fabricators is no different. Let"s hope that both parties can learn from each other so that a shop such as MG Products can be more competitive when lining up against the shop down the street or across the ocean.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281