Precision plasma, rotary cutting, and programming software makes manufacturing more efficient for Natural Structures
When new business opportunities require tighter tolerances and more productivity, an upgrade in cutting and design capabilities is required. Natural Structures, Baker City, Ore., did just that with an investment in new plasma cutting system.
Who says that metal fabricating isn’t fun? Natural Structures, Baker City, Ore., has built a business around that concept.
The business specializes in the design, engineering, and fabrication of pavilions and shelters found in parks and campgrounds; water slides and water play structures found in pools and splash pads; and amenities such as tables, benches, and bike racks that might be found at those facilities. It also has gotten into the business of fabricating stainless steel slides that are finding homes in the headquarters of major financial institutions and Silicon Valley companies.
“What’s happening at these businesses is that they are hiring a lot of these millennials, and they want to retain these employees,” said Jodie Hausotter, one of the company owners. “To do that, they are installing slides and other items to create an atmosphere of fun and games.”
Who can say “no” to a slide? Apparently not a lot of people.
New Plasma Cutting Performance
After more than six months of searching, the Hausotters purchased and installed an AKS Cutting Systems dura-kut CNC plasma cutting table with a 6- by 12-ft. table for 2-D cutting and rotary axis tube cutting capability. The new table incorporates Hypertherm’s EDGE® Connect CNC and HyPerformance® HPR400XD® plasma system and is programmed with Hypertherm CAM software using ProNest® for plate nesting.
The HPR400XD uses Hypertherm’s HyDefinition® technology that aligns and focuses the plasma arc for a more precise cut on plate. Company officials report that a fabricator can get a dross-free cut in most instances when cutting mild steel in thicknesses up to 1.5 in. It has a maximum cutting capacity of 3.2 in. In stainless steel, the technology is designed to deliver consistent and high-tolerance cutting in material from 12 gauge to 0.25 in.
The cutting table also has AKS Cutting Systems’ tube-kut option, which is powered by Hypertherm’s Rotary Tube Pro™ software. A headstock, four-jaw chuck rotates as the plasma torch cuts the tube wall. Ted said that Natural Structures is cutting up to 14-in.-diameter tube on the new equipment.
He also noted that the new equipment delivered in terms of meeting the high tolerances required of its jobs.
“It’s saved us hours in our stainless steel slide line,” Ted said. “It took a bit for us to learn how to cut accurately on 12-gauge stainless. There is a lot of heat movement with the material during cutting.
“Once we solved the heat issues and got an understanding of how to cut, we are now able get down to three-thousandths of an inch in terms of tolerance,” he added. “When we were off a little more than sixteenth of an inch with the old plasma system, that would cause problems. When you would put 10 pieces together that are off by a sixteenth of an inch to make an entry elbow, that would add up quickly and become a major problem.”
Also with the precision cutting, fabricators don’t have to worry about cleaning up holes and excessive dross. The speed and accuracy of the new plasma cutting system are keeping fabricators focused on finalizing orders, not rework.
Additionally, fabricators don’t have to worry about weld prepping plate coming off the table either. The new plasma torch is capable of cutting A, V, K, X, top Y, and bottom Y bevel cuts; countersinks, and chamfers.
Efficiency is not only being found on the cutting table, but also in programming the unit. Willits said that the perfect example to illustrate the time savings is in holemaking. With the older software, he said he had to painstakingly focus on lead-ins and lead-outs of holes to ensure that they might be usable. The latest version of the ProNest software makes all of those calculations automatically. Using Hypertherm’s True Hole® technology adjusts gas flow, amperage, piercing methodology, lead-in/lead-out technique, and cutting speed in accordance with the material and size of the hole being cut.