PythonX or Peddinghaus? Beam Drill Line Equipment Considerations

Structural steel fabrication technology has changed very little over the past several years. That is until now. Learn how new robotic plasma cutting machinery is changing the basis of competition in this industry.
By: Maurice Maynard
Jan. 19, 2010 - PRLog -- Structural steel fabrication is the means of shaping heavy metal pieces - I-beams, hollow structural tubes and the like into the shape needed in buildingconstruction where significant height and loads are involved. These days, those considering acquiring new structural steel fabricating equipment face an never before seen dichotomy in their "technology platform" selection that didn't exist when they previously had to make such a choice: the accepted "drill, punch and saw" technique or the new "flame cutting" technology. It isn't always easy or obvious technology philosophy will best serve the company . . . but the one ultimately selected can make an important difference in the company's competitiveness.  See

There are many companies supplying fabrication machinery to structural steel shops, but of these, the oldest and largest is Peddinghaus. The Peddinghaus credo has been specialization - breaking the numerous different operations that must be performed in a fab shop into distinct groups and then configuring equipment that addresses the different groups. Peddinghaus has developed a catalog of production machinery that fabricates beams and channel, plate, angle, HSS according to the neded operations of cutting, drilling holes and making variable shapes of different sizes. This manner of thinking results in features such as high spindle speed, workpiece indexing, specialized clamping, and others that make an individual machine highly efficient at the tasks it was designed to accomplish. The allocating of tasks among different machines gets all the jobs done, but with the price that any specific piece of steel probably has to be processed on many machines (sawing, drilling, torch cutting on different machines), which lengthens the overall time to complete the jobs and adds transfers of the workpiece between machines.  See

The "new kid on the block" in structural steel fabrication, relatively speaking, is automated flame cutting. This flame torch cutting has been employed for decades, but as an automated, as opposed to a handheld manual process, it is in its infancy. In this case, the "flame" is the familiar plasma arc - customarily used to cut flat plate - rather than an oxy fuel torch or laser cutting. The plasma cutter is in the grip of sophisticated industrial robot, which decides what and how to cut based on a cutting sequence made by sophisticated software. The new system, PythonX, is the first in what appears will be an increasingly popular format of structural fabrication machines. This software-guided, robot-driven approach offers the versatility to accumulate the tasks which Peddinghaus disperses over multiple machines and consolidate them all into this single machine.

The PythonX approach inverts the Peddinghaus philosophy on its head, in that it uses one plasma cutting machine to perform the work of four "metal versus metal" machines plus a manual torch setup. The net effect is less capital investment and less floorspace to host the combined structural fabrication capability of those five machines. In addition, many believe the biggest benefit of the PythonX system to be the dramatic reduction in material handling that is otherwise needed to transfer workpieces between the various specialized machines needed in the Peddinghaus scheme of structural fabrication. This slashing of material handling saves labor, lowers added capital expense (Peddinghaus sells material transfer systems to move workpieces between it machines) and raises the turns on raw material inventory.

So which way is the better path to follow? The traditional path of deploying multiple fabrication machines, each optimized to be very fast and efficient at a few limited tasks? Or the new versatile "torch cutting based" system that has the ability to perform all the required fabrication functions on one machine? In several cases, there is likely to be a place for each technology approach. Situations that involve a large number of bolt holes drilled into steel beams do not require anything more than a beam drill line and bandsaw. Situations that involve more complex steel sections - copes, notches, flange flush cuts, piecemarks - will be quickly and completely produced on a single PythonX system. As the industry adopts and adapts to the new flame-based fabrication systems the structural steel fabrication market will ultimately choose the preferred platform. Chances are, it will conclude that there's a place for both of these technology philosophies, the "fit" being based on the needs and goals of the individual fabrication operation.

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Burlington Automation is a designer/builder of custom industrial machinery located in Hamilton, Ontario CANADA.
Source:Maurice Maynard
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Tags:Steel Fabrication, Structural Steel, Peddinghaus, Machine Tools, Plasma Cutting
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Page Updated Last on: Jan 20, 2010

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