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blade selection

Choosing the Right Blade for Your Fabrication Shop’s Band Saw Operations

March 10, 2016 / , , , , , , ,


In band-sawing, fabricators and other industrial metal-cutting companies typically rely on two types of blades—bi-metal and carbide-tipped blades. Both blade technologies offer more performance and life expectancy than carbon steel blades, and choosing between the two types used to be fairly straightforward. However, advancements in both technologies have made it a little more difficult for companies to make the best blade choice for their operations.

For example, bi-metal band saw blades have been traditionally used for easier-to-cut metals such as aluminum and non-ferrous metals, carbon and structural steels, and some alloy steels. However, as featured here in Modern Metals, a new carbide-tipped band saw blade has been introduced by LENOX that has been designed specifically to cut aluminum and non-ferrous alloys. The new blade has a range of features that optimize it for aluminum cutting applications, including a specialized grade of carbide on the tip, a multi-chip tooth pattern, and a high rake angle.

To help metal fabricators make the best decision about the “right” blade type for their band-sawing operations, below is a brief overview on both blade types from the white paper, Selecting the Right Cutting Tools for the Job.

Bi-Metal Blades
Bi-metal blades are a common choice for most metal-cutting applications, especially since they are more affordable than carbide-tipped blades.

Generally speaking, bi-metal blades are sub-divided as either general-purpose blades or production-sawing blades:

Carbide-Tipped Blades
Although carbide-tipped blades are more expensive, machine shops may elect to trade up to a carbide-tipped blade for three key reasons:

The various choices of carbide-tipped blades will cover the machinability spectrum, but they are most often used for hard-to-cut materials like super alloys. High-performance carbide-tipped blades work especially well with hard tool steel that needs to be cut fast. Some high-performance carbide-tipped blades—especially coated versions—can offer extreme cutting rates, while others can perform exceptionally well when cutting super alloys.

Making the Right Choice
Of course, there are instances when the “right” blade choice won’t be clear cut and will require managers to strategically choose between a “good,” “better” and “best” option. For example, as this article from Canadian Industrial Machinery (CIM) explains, bi-metal blades can be used to cut superalloys. However, cutting speeds will need to be slower and blades will wear out faster than when using carbide blades. “An experienced operator can adjust parameters to cut the occasional superalloy with a bimetal blade, but carbide is the choice to cost-effectively cut large quantities of hard materials,” the article states. “Blade choice comes down to a cost-per-cut situation and what fits with a shop’s operation.”

Blade selection also needs to take into account the total operational costs of running the blade, including maintenance costs and equipment requirements. Case in point: While carbide-tipped blades are more advanced in the right application, they do not perform well with a lot of vibration. Therefore, they can only be used with certain saws. Metal-cutting operations using carbide-tipped blades need to make sure they are using a saw that can run the blade speeds that are required. In other words, the saw must have a motor that can push the blade fast enough and one that has a more rigid construction with better vibration dampening to accommodate these types of blades.

In the end, the “right” blade choice requires fabricators to weigh the following:

By understanding some of the basic features of each blade type and then strategically assessing operational needs and goals, managers can make informed purchasing decisions that will help their metal-cutting operations reach their full potential and, ultimately, achieve market success.

blade selection

Optimizing Your Metal Service Center with Cost per Cut Improvements

March 5, 2016 / , , , , , , , , ,


For any manufacturing company, cost reduction has always been—and will likely always be—a top priority. However, like many other business strategies, managers are starting to look at cost management holistically. Instead of simply looking at price tags and cost reduction, today’s managers are looking at long-term return on investment and optimization.

This type of “holistic” approach to cost management is being adopted by several large manufacturers, including food giant General Mills, but it can also be applied on the shop floor of any industrial metal-cutting operation. One specific way metal service centers can apply this concept is by measuring “cost per cut.”

Instead of simply looking at the cost of a blade or even how many cuts a blade performs,  “cost per cut” measures the total cost it takes for a shop to perform a cut, including raw material, blade, machine and operator costs. This metric gives service centers a better indication of overall production profitability.

A good analysis of cost per cut should include the following:

Of course, the question for many companies is not how to measure cost per cut, but rather, how they can reduce their cost per cut. Tools like the spreadsheet calculator, “ROI Analysis of Making Improvements to Cost Per Cut,” can be helpful in making that determination. The tool takes into consideration all equipment and factors beyond mechanics that can improve cost per cut rates and a shop’s bottom line.

Another optimization tool, SAWCALC, may also be helpful. The free, web-based software program recommends the correct band saw blade and sawing parameters based on material composition, size, shape and machine model, feed speed, as well as blade and tooth specifications that can streamline sawing processes and extend blade life.

One practical way service centers can reduce cost per cut is to consider investing in a coated saw blade. According to an article from Canadian Industrial Machinery, coating can extend blade life by 100 percent or more and slice cutting time in half, depending on the blade material, coating, and the material being cut.

Although coatings can add a premium of 30 to 50 percent to the cost of a blade, there are instances when the upfront cost can pay off. “You need a reason like a challenging material, a need for extra performance, or a machine that is creating a bottleneck and needs to produce more parts,” Daniel Fernandes, brand manager for band saw blades at LENOX, explains in the CIM article. “Upgrade to a coated blade and you can pump more jobs through the same equipment. You’ll get more out of your overhead costs and your labor.”

Another service center, featured here in a case study, was able to improve its cost per cut by re-adjusting its sawing parameters, increasing its operator training, and upgrading some of its blades. In one instance, the service center was able to reduce cut time by 40 percent.

Is a new, upgraded blade always the answer? Of course not, but optimization should always be the goal. This is why metrics like cost per cut are so important. By focusing more on reducing the true cost of each cut—and not just the price tag of a blade—managers can optimize their metal-cutting operations and, hopefully, see the results in the bottom line.

How has your service center improved cost per cut? What tools have helped you optimize your operations?

blade selection

Tips for Preventing Premature Band Saw Blade Failure in Your Forging Operation

January 25, 2016 / , , , , , , , , , , ,


For any metal-cutting operation, blade life is critical. Premature blade failure not only results in increased tooling costs, it can also increase downtime, rework, and scrap—all of which eat into the bottom line.

For forges that cut and process metal, however, blade life is even more crucial. The scale that forms on forged metal pieces can quickly deteriorate blade life, which makes blade selection extremely important. In most cases, forges require aggressive bandsaw blades with varied tooth geometries that can get underneath any scale buildup (i.e., carbide-tipped blades).

While choosing the right blade is a good start, blade life also relies on a variety of other variables, including proper cutting speeds, feed rates, blade tension, lubrication, and break-in procedures. As an article form Fabricating & Metalworking explains, “Saws are very much like the people who use them: they don’t react well to heat, shock, abrasion, stress, and tension.” Far too often, managers and operators ignore these critical factors and, as a result, experience premature blade failure and end up going through far more blades than necessary.

To help forges extend the life of their band saw blades, below are a few troubleshooting tips from the reference guide, “User Error or Machine Error?”, from the LENOX Institute of Technology. By understanding some common blade issues and their root causes, operators can reduce and, hopefully, eliminate premature blade failure.

Issue #1: Heavy Even Wear On Tips and Corners Of Teeth
The wear on teeth is smooth across the tips and the corners of set teeth have become rounded.

Probable Cause:

Issue #2: Wear On Both Sides Of Teeth
The side of teeth on both sides of band have heavy wear markings.

Probable Cause:

Issue #3: Wear On One Side Of Teeth
Only one side of teeth has heavy wear markings.

Probable Cause:

Issue #4: Chipped Or Broken Teeth
A scattered type of tooth breakage on tips and corners of the teeth.

Probable Cause:

Issue #5: Body Breakage Or Cracks From Back Edge
The fracture originates from the back edge of band. The origin of the fracture is indicated by a flat area on the fracture surface.

Probable Cause:

For more information on extending blade life, download the full reference guide, “User Error or Machine Error?” here, or check out The LENOX Guide to Band Sawing.

blade selection

Making the Right Band Saw Blade Choice in Your Machine Shop

December 20, 2015 / , , , , , , , , ,


For decades, machine shops and other industrial metal-cutting companies have mostly relied on two types of band saw blades—bi-metal and carbide-tipped blades. Both blade technologies offer more performance and life expectancy than carbon steel blades, and choosing between the two types used to be fairly straightforward. However, advancements in both technologies have made it a little more difficult for companies to make the “right” blade choice.

For example, bi-metal band saw blades have been traditionally used for easier-to-cut metals such as aluminum and non-ferrous metals, carbon and structural steels, and some alloy steels. However, as featured here in Modern Metals, a new carbide-tipped band saw blade has been introduced by LENOX that has been designed specifically to cut aluminum and nonferrous alloys. The new blade has a range of features that optimize it for aluminum cutting applications, including a specialized grade of carbide on the tip, a multi-chip tooth pattern, and a high rake angle.

As this archived article from Production Machining notes, next-generation coatings and more complex tooth designs in both bi-metal and carbide blades have given metal-cutting companies more high-performance cutting options. Although this is certainly a good thing for end users, it can also make it more difficult for managers trying to decide between a “good” and “best” blade choice.

To help machines shops make the best decision about the “right” blade type for their band-sawing operations, below is a brief overview on both blade types from the white paper, Selecting the Right Cutting Tools for the Job.

Bi-Metal Blades
Bi-metal blades are a common choice for most metal-cutting applications, especially since they are more affordable than carbide-tipped blades.

Generally speaking, bi-metal blades are sub-divided as either general-purpose blades or production-sawing blades:

Carbide-Tipped Blades
Although carbide-tipped blades are more expensive, machine shops may elect to trade up to a carbide-tipped blade for three key reasons:

The various choices of carbide-tipped blades will cover the machinability spectrum, but they are most often used for hard-to-cut materials like super alloys. High-performance carbide-tipped blades work especially well with hard tool steel that needs to be cut fast.

While these blades cost more upfront, they are designed to take more bite and more chip load, which allows for faster cutting and typically save costs in the long run. Some high-performance carbide-tipped blades—especially coated versions—can offer extreme cutting rates, while others can perform exceptionally well when cutting super alloys.

Balancing Cost with Productivity
In some cases, the decision between bi-metal and carbide-tipped blades may not be crystal clear and will require some strategic choices. Ultimately, to make the best saw blade selection, operation managers need to weigh the following:

This may mean that a shop will have to spend a little more upfront to save money in the long run. Like any equipment and tooling investment, blade selection should be about more than the initial price tag. By understanding some of the basic features of each blade type and then strategically assessing operational needs and goals, managers can make informed purchasing decisions that will help their metal-cutting operations reach their full potential and, ultimately, achieve market success.

blade selection

Benefits of Choosing Carbide Blade Technology for Your Metal Service Center

December 5, 2015 / , , , , , ,


Any metal-cutting expert knows that having the right blade for the job is critical. Although it may seem like a small operational detail, blade performance impacts several key business areas, including productivity, maintenance, quality, and tooling costs.

Like any purchasing decision, blade selection needs to be strategic, taking into consideration a host of variables—business goals, material type, equipment, and operator skill level, to name just a few. Blade performance is also based on several variables—the cutting application, blade specification, number of teeth per inch, tooth set, etc. Put simply, not every blade is created equal, and choosing the wrong blade can result in poor quality cutting and higher operational costs.

The problem is that many of today’s service centers don’t even realize they are using the “wrong” blade. In many cases, companies settle for “good” instead of “great.” Managers and operators become content with the blade technology they’ve been using for years and end up missing out on the benefits a new blade technology could bring to their operation.

This is a common occurrence in band sawing. For example, many service centers have used bi-metal band saw blades over the years and have had decent results. And in many cases, bi-metal blades are a good choice. However, there are applications in which carbide blade technology would be the better choice.

Many companies are finding that making the switch to carbide blade technology can provide savings and productivity gains they would never have achieved with bi-metal blades. This was the case for Aerodyne Alloys, a metal service center featured here in Today’s Energy Solutions. For years, the company’s Greenville, South Carolina facility used bi-metal blades to cut its toughest metals, including stainless steel, nickel alloy, and super-alloys like Inconel 718 and Hastelloy.

To gain more performance out of its band saws, Aerodyne decided to upgrade to carbide blades. Carbide-tipped band saw blades use strong, durable materials to provide high performance, faster cutting, and prolonged blade life. The blade tooth has carbide tips welded to a high-strength alloy backing, allowing the metal service center to take on hard, nickel-based alloys, as well as stainless steel, tool steel, and titanium.

In addition to tackling hard-to-cut metals, carbide-tipped band saw blades offer longer blade life and faster cutting. The white paper, Characteristics of a Carbide-Friendly Band Saw Machine, further elaborates the benefits of the carbide technology by providing a real-life comparison between a bi-metal blade and a carbide-tipped blade. The test produced the following results:

Ultimately, the higher speed and feed rate of the carbide blade enabled it to make the cut 13 minutes faster, translating into 160 more parts produced during an 8-hour shift than its bi-metal counterpart.

Carbide-tipped band saw blades can also deliver benefits to a metalworking operation by producing an improved surface finish. In many cases, a cut part will require additional processing steps downstream in order to refine the finish. By having a smoother finish, the carbide blade can reduce the number of secondary processes, which saves both time and money.

A good example of this is LENOX’s new carbide blade technology, which was featured in the latest issue of Modern Metals. Developed to cut aluminum and nonferrous alloys, the carbide-tipped band saw blade is able to make straight cuts at high speeds without sacrificing surface finish. As stated in the article, the blade tip’s particular grade of carbide wears very slowly, which is ideal for cutting aluminum. A multi-chip tooth pattern balances the chip load and reduces cutting forces, and sharp-edged teeth and high rake angles penetrate material more easily. The cutting tool is said to be the latest blade designed specifically to cut aluminum and nonferrous parts often used in today’s aerospace and automotive applications.

As carbide blade technology continues to advance, the more options service centers have to optimize and grow their operations. Whether the goal is to take on a harder material, improve performance, or increase quality, carbide-tipped blades are an investment worth considering. While the upfront product cost may be higher than other blade types, benefits like improved productivity, lower operational costs, and higher customer satisfaction will pay off in the long run.

For more information on the benefits of carbide blade technology, click here to download the white paper, “Leveraging Carbide Blade Technology to Increase the Productivity of Your Sawing Operation.”

blade selection

Key Considerations When Forging and Cutting Aluminum

November 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , ,


Anyone working in the metals industry knows that use of aluminum is growing. Even with fluctuating prices, aluminum demand is still much stronger compared to other metals, including steel and copper.

Thanks to rapid growth in the transportation and construction industries, aluminum’s upward trend is expected to continue over the next several years. According to one market report, the worldwide market for aluminum alloys is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8 percent through 2020, with market revenue rising in the U.S. from $91.2 billion in 2013 to $126.5 billon in 2020. Another report states that in the global automotive industry alone, aluminum use is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.4 percent over 2015-2020.

As key suppliers to the automotive and other aluminum-consuming industries, forges need to ensure their skills and equipment line up with market demand. Like any material, aluminum’s unique properties require manufacturers to be equipped with the right metalworking tools and techniques.

Out of all of the various groups of alloys, aluminum alloys are the most readily forged into precise, intricate shapes. As explained by the Forging Industry Association, this is because aluminum alloys are:

While these properties certainly make aluminum alloys ideal for forging, they also have different requirements compared to other forged materials. For example, as an archived article from Forging magazine explains, temperature controls and furnace construction for aluminum are different from those used with ferrous materials. Specifically, indirect-fired or electric resistance-type furnaces equipped with internal fans are often preferred for aluminum. In most cases, the article states, this usually means new furnaces for the steel forger contemplating forging aluminum.

Other forging processes such as trimming, heat treatment, and quality inspection also need to take aluminum’s distinctive attributes into consideration, as described here in the Forging article. The same holds true when sawing aluminum. Forges that cut and process metal need to make sure they understand what is needed to cost-effectively and efficiently cut aluminum.

While aluminum is a softer material, it is also abrasive, which can present some machining challenges. According to a recent article published in Canadian Industrial Machinery (CIM) magazine, aluminum’s abrasive property can wreak havoc on a saw blade, accelerating tooth wear and diminishing blade life. This not only increases blade costs and downtime due to constant blade changes, it can also affect cut quality and overall productivity. However, smart blade choices can help overcome this common cutting challenge.

To combat aluminum’s abrasive quality, most manufacturers recommend carbide-tipped band saw blades over bi-metal blades. This is because carbides are harder, tougher, and more durable, Matt Lacroix of LENOX  explains in the CIM article. “Carbide tips are slower to wear and better suited to handle the high machining speeds,” Lacroix writes. Other blade factors, such as backing steel and tooth geometry, can also help improve the efficiency of sawing aluminum, he adds.

As the use of aluminum grows, it is more critical than ever for forges to fully understand the material’s unique characteristics and machining requirements. For more information on how to cut aluminum, you can read the full CIM article, “Taking the Hard out of Cutting Soft,” here. The Aluminum Association also provides a brief overview on aluminum forging here.

blade selection

Reducing Metal Scrap and Rework in Your Machine Shop

September 20, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


In any manufacturing operation, a small amount of scrap is inevitable. However, reducing material waste should still be a top goal for machine shops that cut and process metal. Like all other forms of waste, scrap can negatively affect profitability, especially if it is generated as a result of an error.

The truth is that any amount of scrap or rework you’re experiencing in your operations provides an opportunity for improvement. Taking the time to reduce scrap often leads to better productivity and higher quality cuts. As this manufacturing.net article points out, eliminating scrap and waste also contributes to your company’s environmental efforts, which may be important to some customers.

How can you keep your scrap and rework costs low? While there are several ways to accomplish scrap reduction, below are a few simple strategies any machine shop can implement:

 

blade selection

Solving the Six Common Cutting Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face

August 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , ,


Like most high-production operations, ball and roller bearing manufacturers are running on tight schedules and can’t afford unexpected downtime or tooling issues. This means that every step of the manufacturing process must be optimized, starting with the first operation—circular sawing.

While precision circular sawing may seem like a simple operation, any metal-cutting expert can confirm that proper cutting depends on several variables. As this article from Canadian Metalworking points out, the overall performance of your cutting tool depends on speed, feed, depth of cut, and the material being cut. Knowing how to balance these variables is critical to cutting success.

For example, according to the white paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal-Cutting, increasing the speed of a saw to get more cuts per minute without considering the feed setting or the demands of the material will result in premature blade failure and increased tooling costs. This, in turn, can lead to unplanned downtime for blade change-out, which directly impacts productivity.

Understanding how these different variables affect the cutting process can also help operators quickly and properly resolve any cutting challenges that arise. In many cases, this knowledge can make or break a production schedule.

To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers keep their circular sawing operations running at optimal levels, the LENOX Institute of Technology offers the followings tips for solving six of the most common problems operators may face:

Problem #1: Excessive vibration or noise
Potential solutions:

Problem #2: Crooked cutting
Potential Solutions:

Problem #3: Wavy cutting
Potential Solution:

Problem #4: Chips are too hot or glowing
Potential Solutions:

Problem #5: Poor finish/Excessive stripping
Potential Solutions:

Problem #6: Heavy burr
Potential Solutions:

For more information on optimizing your precision circular sawing operation, including best practices, white papers, and case studies, check out LIT’s resource center here.

blade selection

Guidelines for Cutting Structural Tube in Your Fabrication Shop

August 10, 2015 / , , , , , , , ,


As reported in our recent Metal-Cutting Industry Report on Non-Residential Construction, the use of industrial and structural steel tube and pipe is growing. According to a market tracker from Metal Bulletin Research (MBR), the category is growing at the fastest rate since the recession, mostly due to economic growth and falling oil prices.

“Construction demand for structural tubing is now growing at a steady pace in most regions of the USA,” the MBR report states. “There has been some concern among market participants that the drop in oil prices and the associated hit to the local energy-centered economies would be detrimental to their construction outlook, especially since these were some of the initial drivers of growth in the recovery. So far, construction continues unabated, as contracts, financing and permitting have already been settled.”

Industry players are also optimistic. HGG, a supplier of tube-processing machinery, told MetalForming magazine it expects the category to grow by about 15 percent in North America alone. (You can read the full MetalForming article here.)

This is good news for fabricators that serve the industrial and commercial construction industries or that cut structural tube for other applications. In either case, most shops are working with hollow structural steel (HSS) tube specified to ASTM A500 (the standard specification for cold-formed welded and seamless carbon steel structural tubing in round, square and rectangular shapes). Although most shops wouldn’t categorize HSS as difficult to cut, it does have some unique characteristics operators need to understand to ensure proper cutting.

Unlike solid tubing, which only requires one cut, HSS tube requires the blade to cut through two thin solids with a space in between. These types of cuts—known as interrupted cuts—are best suited for bi-metal band saw blades because they are designed to withstand the vibration. Carbide band saw blades, on the other hand, have strong, durable teeth, but they are not shock resistant. Therefore, bi-metal blades that reduce harmonics are the best choice.

HSS tubes also aren’t ideal for bundle cutting. While cutting tubing in bundles can allow shops to increase the number of parts per shift, it can substantially reduce blade life. In fact, some experts say that any increased part volume efficiency is offset by a 20 to 25 percent reduction in band life.

A recent article from thefabricator.com highlights several other best practices for sawing structural tube. The following are a few of the industry publication’s tips:

For more guidelines on cutting HSS tube, including a discussion on circular saw blade options, you can read the full thefabricator.com article here.

blade selection

Tips for Cutting Superalloys in Your Metal Service Center

August 5, 2015 / , , , , , , , , ,


Over the next few years, experts anticipate growth in the use of high performance alloys or “superalloy” materials such as Inconel and Hastelloy. The high-performance metals, which are known for their outstanding corrosion and high temperature resistance, continue to find uses in aerospace and aircraft applications, and more recently, are expanding into the oil and gas industries.

“Growing corrosion as a cost concern in exploration and production in offshore drilling rigs is expected to propel use of high performance alloys such as superalloys in oil and gas applications,” states one study from Grand View Research, Inc. “Non-ferrous alloys such as nickel and titanium are also expected to witness above average growth due to their high mechanical strength coupled with increased use in aerospace, oil & gas and gas turbine applications,” the study continues. Specifically, Grand View Research forecasts that superalloy demand will experience an annual compound growth rate of more than 3.0 percent from 2014 to 2020.

While there is certainly a science to cutting any metal material, tackling tough-to-cut materials like superalloys can be even more challenging as managers try to balance cutting speed, finish quality, and blade life. However, with the right tools and know-how, service centers can efficiently and cost-effectively handle tough-to-cut materials without compromising quality.

The following are three key tips for service centers that want to cut superalloy materials:

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