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Precision Blanking Line Three Times Faster, Quicker to Set Up

By: Brad Kuvin

Friday, January 01, 2010
 
The U.S. freight-car industry has felt the economic meltdown as much or more than any other industry, watching new-car orders fall from 60,000 in 2008 to an estimated 18,000 in 2009. That trend has supplier Morton Manufacturing Co., Libertyville, IL, a provider of anti-slip walking surfaces to railroad-car
New precision blanking line
Converting nearly 100,000 lb. of steel coil per day into blanks at Morton Mfg. falls on the shoulders of this new precision blanking line, a 0.135-in.-capacity line from Red Bud Industries. Morton installed the line in August 2008 to replace a 1974-vintage Red Bud blanking line.
builders since 1903, eyeing the freight-car repair market for opportunities to provide its manufactured products—running boards, brake steps, end platforms and intermodal platforms. The company, which occupies a 200,000-sq.-ft. facility that takes in two to three truckloads of steel per day, processes coils as wide as 48 in. that weigh as much as 30,000 lb. Most of what Morton processes is 11- to 14-gauge hot-rolled and pre-galvanized steel; it also yields 500,000 lb. of aluminum stock each year, and a bit of stainless steel as well.

The overwhelming majority (80 percent) of the material processed at Morton runs through its seven blank-fed stamping presses, rated 400 to 800-ton capacity; one Minster press processes coil stock. The newest addition to the firm’s pressroom is an 800-ton Clearing added in 2007. Additional value-added processing of the firm’s safety grating products—including products for the industrial market such as work platforms, stair treads, ladder rungs and walkways—occurs at its three Amada turret presses, a Whitney plasma-punch machine, 25 press brakes, and welding and finishing lines.

High-Speed Precision Blanking

Converting nearly 100,000 lb. of steel coil per day into blanks at Morton Mfg. falls on the shoulders of its new precision blanking line, a 0.135-in.-capacity line from Red Bud Industries, Red Bud, IL. Morton installed the line in August 2008 to replace a 1974-vintage Red Bud blanking line that, while continued to run well, simply could not keep up with Morton’s work load.

“At that time,” recalls Morton Mfg. president Michael Ogden, harking back to late 2007 and early into 2008, “our blanking line was running three shifts a day, all week long, and it still could not meet our demand for blanks. We were forced to outsource some of our preprocessed blanking needs, and so decided to upgrade our blanking operation with a new and much more productive Red Bud line. Our new machine runs three times faster (120 to 150 ft./min.) than did the old one, and setup times are much quicker as well.”

The new line literally hit the floor running, and Morton managed to have it up to full speed in less than two weeks’ time. “We expected to have to keep the old machine running for at least 2 to 3 months,” says Ogden, “while we learned the ins and outs of the new Red Bud. But our crew really had it up and running almost immediately, allowing us to decommission the old line, which we sold on the used market.”

Nearly Twice the Feed Length

Included with Morton Mfg.’s new line is a coil lift, peeler breaker, straightener, support ramp, edge-trim station where strip is trimmed

Seven blank-fed stamping press
The overwhelming majority (80 percent) of the material processed at Morton runs through its seven blank-fed stamping presses, rated 400 to 800-ton capacity. The firm manufactures anti-slip walking surfaces for railroad-car builders, including running boards, brake steps, end platforms and intermodal platforms.
to the proper width, automatic self-threading scrap chopper, hands-free threading system, dual-motor grip feed, shear, drop stacker and automatically lowering stack table. The 2008-vintage Red Bud not only runs faster than its older brother, but it also boasts a longer feed length, 84 in. compared to 48 in. This allows the line to process longer blanks with fewer feed strokes (with capacity to 14 ft.), and longer blanks are preferred by Morton’s customers to minimize the number of seams in the walking surfaces.

Reducing setup time also has become critical for Morton, as it has for so many manufacturers today. Where once the firm used to run an entire coil using the same setup for edge trimming and feed length, now it’s faced with performing as many as five or six setups per coil, as order size has shrunk. “Thanks to having all of the controls for the blanking line in one operator location,” says Ogden, “we can change over the line in 5 min., nearly three times faster than before.”

The Need for Speed

As the sayings go, “You can’t teach speed,” and, “There’s no substitute for speed,” and when you’re processing blanks by the hundreds of thousands, both sayings ring true. “Not only is the new line fast,” says Morton chief draftsman Alex LeBaron, “but it can run at rated speed even when we’re performing edge trimming as specified by our customers. With the older machine, we had to reduce the line speed for edge trimming, so it could keep up with scrap chopping. We no longer face that restriction, and as a result the new line runs at about a three-to-one productivity improvement. We no longer need to outsource any of our blanking, and in fact we have plenty of excess capacity on the line to handle future growth when the railcar industry once again flourishes.” MF

 

See also: Red Bud Industries, Inc.

Related Enterprise Zones: Coil Handling, Materials/Coatings


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