More productive sawing and unmanned sorting

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In order to increase its production throughput, Schmolz + Bickenbach Stahlcenter AG in the St. Gallen city of Wil has placed its trust in a fully automatic bandsaw from Kasto. The Kastotec FC 4 replaces two obsolete saws which could no longer cope with the continuously increasing number of cut parts. With the new solution, the Swiss metals trading company is able to work more productively and more flexibly and optimise its sawing operations.

Schmolz + Bickenbach is located in the eastern Swiss Canton of St. Gallen, in an industrial area of Wil. The company is one of the leading steel and aluminium trading companies for the Swiss machine industry and has an extensive material store with modern high-bay warehouses, an efficient range of machinery and a fully automatic sawing centre. Here, around 100 employees sell, process and fabricate numerous materials on a floor area of 25,000 sq. metres. More than 20,000 tonnes of material are accommodated in the warehouses. Staff pack the completed orders and then deliver them to customers in Switzerland and Liechtenstein using the company’s own lorry fleet – "just in time".

High demands on sawing equipment

More than 10,000 cut parts a day – equivalent to approximately 2.5 million per year – are sawn on more than 30 machines in Wil. The orders include large batches of more than 10,000 as well as single items.. As a result of staggered working times, a working day at Schmolz + Bickenbach is around 10 hours. This means that the machines are highly utilised – some of them even run throughout the night. “The demands on our saws are enormous. We therefore need machines which process workpieces with different diameters quickly, cleanly and economically and, above all, which work reliably and without errors,” says works manager Robert Schönenberger.

The trading company has three saws made by Kasto in operation for processing steel, cast iron and aluminium bars. The latest is the Kastotec FC 4. The fully automatic high-performance bandsaw has been in operation for over a year and is suitable for cutting round, square and flat material as well as tubes and profiles. At that time, those responsible decided to replace two existing machines. “The demand on us for ready-cut blanks has been continuously increasing in recent years and the capacity of the two existing saws was no longer sufficient,” explains Schönenberger. Schmolz + Bickenbach therefore invested in the new automatic machine, which copes easily with the growing demands. “We already had two KASTO models in service and were very satisfied with them. This made the decision for a further machine from this supplier very easy,” he recalls.

The control system’s graphical interface clearly displays all options and enables intuitive operation (Photo Kasto)

The Kastotec FC 4 is suitable for difficult-to-machine materials such as corrosion-resistant steel or tool steel. The cutting range is 430 x 430 mm and the smallest dimension that can be cut is 10 x 10 m. Fitted with Performance Cutting, the bandsaw is also predestined for the use of carbide saw blades, which have particularly long service lives. “The Kastotec FC 4 has a precision of up to ±0.1 mm per 100 m cut length. At the same time, the cutting speed is up to 180 metres per minute,” explains Michael Maurath, the Kasto sales engineer responsible for the project. Schmolz + Bickenbach also benefits from these advantages. “With the Kastotec FC 4, we can saw different materials and diameters extremely economically. The minimum remnant piece length in automatic mode is only about 35 mm. This enables us to use our material efficiently,” says Kurt Thoma, sawmill group leader, describing the added value of the new saw.

The new bandsaw is loaded by means of a magazine with space for several bars. A magnet system delivers material from the store to the machine. Items which are kept in the high bay warehouse in the adjacent hall are brought in by crane. The saw also has an automatic system for sorting cut parts. This separates and collects the sawn parts arranged by purchase order – either on a stacking table or in one of several waiting containers. This feature also enables the Kastotec FC 4 to operate unmanned over an extended period. “Our staff fill the magazine with the appropriate material in the evening before they go home, and programme the saw accordingly to the customer’s requirements,” says Schönenberger. “The changeover between two orders takes place automatically. The saw runs overnight, and on the following morning the items are ready cut and, thanks to the cut part sorting system, arranged ready for unloading. This has enabled us to significantly improve our performance.”

The Kastotec FC 4 uses the EasyControl saw controller. In particular, Thoma values the new graphical interface. “This makes everything clear. You can get to the required option intuitively, which considerably simplifies day-to-day working.” If a process should ever fail to go as required or if there are problems with the machine, the Kasto experts are immediately available. “Thanks to remote maintenance, we can connect to the system at any time and intervene immediately. This enables us to make minor adjustments and optimise the saws to meet our customer’s requirements – without having to be on site in person,” says Maurath.

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