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Steel fabricator makes intelligent upgrade

Zalk Josephs Fabricators is a structural steel fabricator that specializes in the commercial market in the upper Midwest of the USA. It uses CNC systems for sawing, drilling and plate processing. It wanted to move to a more integrated and automated approach.

Chris Simonson, president of Zalk Josephs Fabricators, says: “Ficep was able to assist in this process by going through numerous plant layouts where the Ficep software was used to simulate past jobs showing real time productivity and exposing material handling bottlenecks.

“As we were going from stand-alone machines to combined drill/saw and drilling/coping, we needed to be convinced that we could achieve the throughput required to feed our fit up area.”

When asked why he selected Ficep, Simonson states, “Ficep was the only partner that had the proven technology of systems and material handling automation with comprehensive integrated software experience that we needed to make this bold step.”

Their automation extends to the Ficep shot blast system were multiple sections are automatically spaced on the in-feed to maximize the blasting efficiency.

“At the coping robot, for example, we knew we needed speed for thermal cutting and the flexibility of the Ficep robot with both oxy/fuel and plasma plus an automated laser scanning routine, which eliminates the need to mechanically probe all surfaces, was essential to give us the needed throughput.

“At the drilling level we were convinced that we would not purchase CNC drilling without having fully independent spindle sub axis as this was needed to give us the needed speed for drilling and scribing to reduce our labor cost by an additional 30 per cent.”

Simonson went on to say that the most pleasant surprise with the system has been the scribing productivity of the drills with their independent axis so all four sides are scribed simultaneously.

“When we finalized the layout, we made a provision for a stand-alone CNC scribing system in case we needed additional capacity. In the end, the Ficep simulation was correct as the scribing in the drills with their sub axis gave us more than enough capacity.”

In discussion with both Simonson and David Sailing, vice president of operations, they both summed up the investment in Intelligent Steel Fabrication as it represents a huge step from just CNC fabrication to a higher level of productivity through software integration and enhanced automation.

“We now load raw material on one end and take off finished sections for fitting at the other end of the system. This is after it has been shot blasted, cut, scribed for subsequent fitting, drilled, and coped. This is accomplished without any operator input to manage the material handling system and determine the correct material path for optimum efficiency. It just doesn’t get much better than this!”

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