New Steel Processing Equipment Helps Build Australian Warships
Inventive steel processing companies provide the backbone for infrastructure, transport, shipping and consumer goods sectors. One such company, Ferrocut Australia, was called on by the Royal Australian Navy’s Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Shipbuilder program, to provide steel plate cutting services and support for the life of the warship-building project.
Ferrocut, a South Australian plate profiling business, specializes in offering oxy, plasma and laser cutting, and bending services, for a variety of industrial sectors including defense, mining and construction and specialist fabrication.
Employing over 50 people, the business operates out of a purpose-built, 11,250-square-meter warehouse office complex on a 2.24-hectare site within the Techport Australia Supplier Precinct – a world-class shipbuilding, defense and industry precinct developed by the Government of South Australia.
To deliver the cut steel plate for the AWD contract, Ferrocut turned to Australian Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) gas and plasma cutters manufacturer, Profile Cutting Systems (PCS), based in Victoria, to deliver a 400-amp Plasma Bevel Head.
“It played an integral part in cutting plate for AWD, with its ability to bevel cut and etch plates in the one process. The large bed allows for multiple plates to be loaded at one time, increasing machine efficiency,” said Ferrocut Australia general manager, Shawn Rowle.
The patent-protected Plasma Bevel Head – PCS’s first zero offset plasma machine – is fully-programmable to cut parts with bevel and straight cuts, cutting steel and performing the weld preparation at the same time, in order to eliminate doublehandling of material and parts.
The system is able to be retrofitted on to existing cutting machines, and performs 95-degree side-to-side and forward-back motions, and 360-degree full rotations, without twisting any cables or hoses.
Arc voltage automatic height control provides accurate bevel tolerance, while the lightweight yet robust design and stainless steel construction make it suitable for heavy industrial environments, with consistent and reliable bevel quality for holes and edges.
The system incorporates a fixed tool center point to eliminate kinematic adjustments, and the plasma torch movement is provided by SERCOS digital drive amplifiers and servo motors for all axis (tilt, rotation and vertical height).
According to Mr. Rowle, it is important for Ferrocut to remain at the cutting-edge of technology adoption. “We consider ourselves the market leader in plate profiling and it is important to maintain that position,” he said.
“Ferrocut has a long-standing relationship with PSC which goes back approximately 16 years. Our relationship goes above and beyond the normal supplier/customer relationship.”
The company now operates a number of PCS machines alongside the 400-amp Bevel Head Plasma, including three oxy cutting machines, one bevel head oxy machine with machine beds ranging from 13-25 meters long, two conventional plasma cutting machines, and the team’s latest purchase: a BHB Series integrated plate processing system, the PCS6000HPB.
This latest unit allows combination profile cutting and drilling, tapping and general steel processing of plate product. It incorporates a drill machine with bevel head plasma, allowing drilling and beveling in the one operations, and two oxy torches, allowing a full range of plate thicknesses to be processed without the need for separate machinery.
Mr. Rowle said Ferrocut purchased the machine in October/November 2012 due to its ability to drill precision and counter sunk holes, which would consequently allow the company to access new markets.
“Drilled holes are becoming an important part of the profiling cutting requirements due to accuracy,” Mr. Rowle explained.
“Drilled holes reduce the requirement for parts to be cleaned after cutting, reducing processing time. They also give us access to structural markets demanding precision holes in plate.
“The machine has enabled us to produce a new product for the mining market. Also, we have engineers now specifying drilled holes for structural applications. Drilling small holes into thick plate is also a niche market very few are capable of.”
PCS is an Australian manufacturer of combined drilling and profile cutting machines, and offers sales and support across Australia, Europe, Asia, South East Asia and America, from its base in Campbellfield. Since its inception in 1989, the company has installed over 500 systems across the globe.
The BHB Series is PCS’s largest and most powerful unit to date, designed for large steel processing companies and service centers. The team at PCS spent 18 months planning and developing the new series of machines before Ferrocut placed its order, such is the caliber of the technology built into the unit. The supplier can now custom-build BHB Series models to suit varying customer specifications.
“The machine has a massive 60hp spindle motor capable of drilling 50mm Dia. through 100mm plate in 30 seconds, allowing you to drill perfectly round parallel holes faster than you could cut them,” said PCS director and founder, Leon Cottee.
But it’s not just the top-notch steel processing capabilities that set the new BHB Series apart: the team at PCS prides itself on after-sales machine service and customer support, both of which have played key roles in the company’s development since its inception over 20 years ago.
Cottee began his career as a service technician for CIG (Commonwealth Industrial Gases, now known as BOC), repairing and servicing profile cutting machines and welding equipment. In 1986, he founded a service-based company called Promig – the name deriving from PROfile cutting machines and MIG welders – and three years later developed PCS with the help of two additional directors, Dennis Phillips and John Buccella (both ex-CIG engineers).
“We watched the steel fabrication industry grow and change, largely due to the mining boom. Fabrication companies were demanding drilled holes in processed plate more often, so we realized there was a need to provide a machine that was capable of doing this work quickly and, of course, reliably. The design of both the machine frame and control circuitry is 100% PCS, here in Melbourne,” Cottee said.
“Our key strengths are system and product knowledge, and a deep desire to provide equipment that exceeds our customers’ expectations. Of course we enjoy the reputation of providing the very best after sales service in Australia: I put that down to our service-based roots.
“We continue to use our Promig service company and our loyal service agents around Australia and internationally. We back up all our machines with a huge range of spare parts that we keep in stock; we can dispatch almost any part the same day we receive the request.”
According to Cottee, operator training is also a cinch: “The CNC controls we use are very easy to learn. After every install, we provide comprehensive training. All PCS machine customers are given free phone assistance for the life of the machine – no matter how long that may be, regardless of warranty or not. And, all our machines come with on-line support.”