Case Study: More Productive Sawing and Unmanned Sorting

Fully automatic KASTOtec FC 4 high-performance bandsaw improves sawing operations and increases productivity and flexibility in the SCHMOBI factory.

In order to increase its production throughput and to invest sustainably in the future, 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 steel trading company is able to work more productively and more flexibly and optimize its sawing operations.

SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Stahlcenter AG – or SCHMOBI for short – is located barely half an hour from Lake Constance, in the eastern Swiss Canton of St. Gallen, in an industrial area of Wil. The company, established in Wil in 1959, is one of the leading steel trading companies for the Swiss machine industry. SCHMOBI also 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 square metres. The range extends from bright steel, stainless structural steel, steel tube, tool steel and castings via corrosion-resistant stainless steel and stainless steel tube to aluminium. 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. "Our orders include large batches of more than 10,000 as well as single items," explains Thomas Plüss, Communications Officer at SCHMOBI. As a result of staggered working times, a working day at the steel trading company is around 10 hours. This means that the machines are highly utilized – 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.

SCHMOBI has three saws made by KASTO Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG 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. SCHMOBI 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," recalls Schönenberger.

Economic sawing of difficult-to-machine materials

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 millimetres and the smallest dimension that can be cut is 10 x 10 millimetres. Fitted with KASTO Performance Cutting (KPC), 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 millimetres per 100 millimetres 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. SCHMOBI 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 millimetres. This enables us to use our material efficiently," says Kurt Thoma, sawmill group leader at SCHMOBI, describing the added value of the new saw.

The KASTOtec FC 4 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," explains 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."

Impressive product quality and service

The KASTOtec FC 4 uses the EasyControl saw controller. "After just a short time, everything was running as if on its own," sums up Thoma. In particular, he 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 optimize the saws to meet our customer's requirements – without having to be on site in person," says Maurath.

Robert Schönenberger is more than satisfied with the new bandsaw: "We can rely on the cutting performance and high quality of the KASTOtec FC 4 at all times." And the Works Manager has only positive things to say about the cooperation. "Everything has worked outstandingly from planning to commissioning. With KASTO we have a partner to call on who has not only provided us with the right solution but who also offers impressive service."

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