Toward Perfect Metal Parts
On a Mission
We are on a mission to offer perfect sheet metal parts. To-date, we've added new equipment and adjusted our processes to help protect materials during handling, tightened quality standards, and set up weekly all-hands reviews to discuss quality, shipping, and other issues affecting customer experience. Last year, we acquired a 32-series Timesaver to add deburring and edge rolling services.
While our Timesaver improved quality, it had some limitations:
It had only four edge rollers that produced limited edge-rolling in a single pass
It had only a single wide belt for deburring, and no second belt for a finishing pass
The vacuum table had limited suction, failing to hold small parts during edge rolling
The Timesaver's HMI (human-machine interface) was slow and clunky, complicating changeover when switching materials and thicknesses
Some Timesaver design elements caused frequent down-time (broken drive chains, etc.)
To solve these problems, last week we replaced our Timesaver with a new Arku EdgeBreaker 6000. The new machine sports a 51" wide belt, supporting larger parts. It also has twice the number of edge-rolling brushes, at 8 instead of 4, with over twice the processing length on the conveyor. The EdgeBreaker also has a finishing belt on the output to put a better finish on sheet metal parts, much closer (and often indistinguishable) from the #4 finish from the mill. Finally, the new machine's HMI allows for faster and more precise changeover, calibration, and adjustment compared to the Timesaver, which will increase operational efficiency.
So far, we are very pleased with the Arku's design compared to the Timesaver. Timesavers is sort of the "Kleenex" of flat finishing machines, so that it's common to call this class of machine a "Timesaver" even if it's produced by a different company, like Arku. Our impression is that Timesavers has rested on its success and brand name and failed to innovate, while Arku has worked hard to solve workflow issues affecting their metal finishing machines. The HMI is better, the design is more "buttoned up," calibration processes are easier and more consistent, and finishing performance is better.
In fairness, the Arku is a different class of machine, and Timesavers might have other comparable options that are better-designed and more performant.
So where does this put our quality? First and foremost, the new fine finishing belt will put a much better linear finish on aluminum and stainless steel parts, nearly matching a #4 cosmetic finish from the mill. Edge rolling will be a little more pronounced, with the increased number of deburring rollers and longer processing time. The new machine will also be able to support bigger parts, and possibly smaller parts as well.
This represents a big step toward our goal of offering perfect parts, but we aren't there yet! The machine won't support certain classes of parts: very small parts, heavy parts, parts with fine cutouts, or parts that are warped due to heat buildup or residual coil memory, will all continue to ship as cut. Parts may also contain faint cosmetic scratching even after going through the finishing machine.
We'll need to add new equipment and services to continue moving the needle on part quality: automation to reduce risk during part handling, processes to minimize or eliminate "splash-up" defects during laser cutting, tumbling to support smaller parts, part leveling to eliminate heat and coil-related warping, a more expansive set of finishing equipment to handle more edge cases, protective urethane on brake dies to eliminate or minimize witness marks from bending, finishing options like powder coating and anodizing, and (possibly!) even custom-applied plastic film on finished parts to protect them during shipping. We continue to chip away at the list, one step at a time.