Fabrication has come a long way since the first iron was smelted into ornaments and ceremonial weapons somewhere between the Caucasus and the Middle East almost four thousand years ago. It is both humbling and awe-inspiring to know that not even the iron dagger that accompanied Tutankhamen to the grave could hold a candle to even the most basic commands of the sophisticated machinery of today.
Let us take a look at the far-reaching legacy of those first iron-smelters. At the machines that are still almost unbelievable in their worldliness today:
1. Swiftcut Pro-XP CNC Plasma table (with Hypertherm Max-Pro 200 power source)
Even the title of this machine would be incomprehensible to most until the early twentieth century — a sign that shows just how much science and technology has snowballed in recent decades.
It is hard to decide what aspects of the Swiftcut Pro-XP CNC Plasma table would be most impressive to the Ancients: that it utilises advanced Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technologies for complex, multi-axis precision cuts, or that the cut itself is made with a blast of plasma not unfamiliar to the core of the Sun.
- One of the most mind-blowing features of the Swiftcut Plasma table is that, for a stunningly complex machine, it is easy to operate. Anyone with even a basic understanding of computers will be able to operate the computer-console accompanying the machine.
- It can cut virtually any ferrous or non-ferrous metal of any thickness: notable examples being aluminium, copper, and stainless steel.
- It wouldn’t be fair to say that the Swiftcut Plasma table was capable of only making intricate and decorative engravings: the machine is an artisan in itself. From simple name inscriptions to the most complex and ornate designs.
- This machine is often used to cut and shape products and parts including base plates, cleats, square hollow sections, box sections, and the components of gates, railings, and staircases.
2. Morgan Rushworth HSP125 CNC Triple head punch
The past century has witnessed the rise of traditional stamping-press machines and their development into turret punch presses; with incredible technological leaps from mechanical to hydraulic to electromechanical and to now, computer automated. It really is staggering to think of the improvements in efficiently, accuracy, and complexity that has been achieved.
The Morgan Rushworth HSP125 CNC triple head punch is, in many ways, the perfect poster child for the punch-press revolutions. With it, punching flat steel material is almost literally effortless. The CNC system renders plate marking obsolete, and its effortless operation drastically saves time and money. It is ideal for any 2 – 30mm thick ferrous plate or merchant bar.
- The computer-console is a breeze; simply type in the X and Y coordinates to determine the positions where the holes will need punching, and then just select ‘Punch Tool Station’.
- A firm set of grippers will then move into loading position, where the metal sheets can then be placed under them.
- The gripper will then move under the punch station, where the system’s powerful hydraulic hold down strippers will start punching.
- The settings and the types of holes punched can be altered seamlessly with the CNC computer-console, allowing the punch station to punch holes of all different sizes in base plates, cleats, and similar sheets requiring round, square, or slotted shaped holes.
- There’s no mess either, all the cut metal is automatically collected and stored away in the waste chute in operation.
3. Hydmech A-18APC Large Capacity CNC Band Saw
As one of the most complex systems in our arsenal, it is almost mesmerising to watch the Hydmech A-18APC Large Capacity CNC Band Saw’s hundreds of parts moving in seamlessly together in operation. The result is a fast, accurate production of structural and architectural metal parts — more reliable and better than 10 workers.
- What is most eye-catching about this system is the automatic vertical band saw. The saw almost glides into the air as it smoothly mitres welding joints from 45° to the left or right.
- Its V-18APC shuttle feed is capable of multi-indexing up to 40 inches in a single movement. It really is incredible to watch as the system fluidly controls vising, head swings, head advancement and retraction, shuttle movement, arm guidance and blade tension in one fell swoop — did we mention it was fast?
- The machine’s CNC and PLC systems continually monitor the state of input devices and allow for stunning accuracy — up to 99 jobs can be logged on to the systems, and 5 jobs can be queued at one time.
- The blade chamber allows the machine to run unattended and with no chance of the blade catching on any material.
- The V-18APC is typically used for the creation of structural and architectural metal parts such as structural columns, beams base plates, square and round sections, and flat bars.
4. Haco Kingsland 3000x12mm capacity CNC guillotine
Just 41 years ago, most people would think of the guillotine as the weapon of choice for capital punishment (France’s last execution by guillotine was in 1977). Now, the word ‘guillotine’ brings something else to mind: one of the most efficient machines used for the cutting of materials in industry. The guillotine’s shears, powered by hydraulic cylinders, cut to size with the highest accuracy; all in minimal time. ‘Execution’ has never been more favourable.
- This machine is like the most advanced pair of scissors ever made. The hydraulic cylinders push the ram in a downwards motion, and the blade gap can be adjusted so that it moves forward or backwards. The blade gap and the cutting angle can be adjusted easily at the computer-console.
- The guillotine’s conveyer moves plates and other materials into place. It then keeps these materials in place using hold-up systems that keep the plates locked in place for perfect gauging and cutting. Once the materials have been cut to size, the conveyor then transports the cut product to a pallet or stacking system. At the same time, any scrap is automatically removed to the scrap shute.
- The operator can use the CNS system to target different positions for several cuts over the one sheet. And once it has been programmed to do so, the operator doesn’t even have to touch the operator-control.
- The Haco Kingsland 3000x12mm capacity CNC guillotine is typically used for cutting rough shapes out of medium sized pieces of sheet metal. It has a fully operational CNC front and back gauge.
5. Ermakson CNC160 Press Brake
Like the guillotine is essentially a powerful pair of scissors, the press brake machines can be thought of as the futuristic hammers of today.
Bending metal panels is a hugely important part of manufacturing, which is why press brakes are so common in job and machine shops. The Ermakson CNC160 press brake is ideal for bending 0.8 – 25mm thick ferrous and non-ferrous pre-cut, flat sheet material, and with duo hydraulic and CNC features it will sharply increase efficiency in production and job setup time for whatever job is required.
- The Ermakson CNC160’s bending force is known as tonnage: an indicator of how much pressure it can apply during a bend.
- The CNC system can save enormous amounts of time, especially for simple applications of 2 or more bends on part lots that consist of more than the one piece.
- The computer-console allows for the appropriate material type, thickness, length, and descriptions of the bends and flange lengths to be input “readying” the machine for optimal use. This all works to reduce setup time, the scrap rate, and even the operator experience needed before bending.
- Metals that are often folded in this press brake are usually parts for stair treads, landings, and kitchen claddings and worktops — but most general sheet metal products are viable too.
6. Ercolina CE50H3 NC Ring Roller
The art of rolling in metalworking stems back, in some crude form, to the Middle East around 600 BCE. Legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci pencilled proto-ring rolling machines into his sketchbooks. Unfortunately, like his flying machine, he would have to wait half a millennium for science to catch up to his imagination.
The Ercolina CE50H3 NC Ring Roller has configurable flanges for all sorts of profiles, including angle iron, leg out and leg in, and square or rectangular tubes. It features a fully adjustable universal tooling set; forged roll shafts for precise and maximum performance, and can achieve bending speeds up to 20% faster than most other ring rollers. It is also operable in both a vertical or horizontal position.
- The numerical control machine features a programmable console with a digital centre roll positioning display, featuring up to eight individual programmes and an infinite number of bending passes.
- The Ercoline CE50H3 NC has the capacity to roll 10 – 60mm thick ferrous and non-ferrous materials including flat bars, and circular and square hollow sections.
- The efficiency of this machine is immense: with a programmable hydraulic centre roll movement of up to 32 feet per minute and with an already exceptional speed, it is a no-brainer that the CE50H3 NC will save time and energy.
- Ring rollers are often required for the manufacturing of products such as handrails, gate components, staging rails and stage props — especially if those products require a corkscrew or spiral shape. The spiral bending accessory can scroll and twist metals into all sorts of ornamental shapes for decorative attachments (an example being a helical handrail).
7. Kemppi Kempact 323A MIG Welders
More than two thousand years ago, the earliest welders forged two gold circular boxes together. Fast forward another thousand years, and iron welding was much more prevalent. But it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that welding, as we understand it today, started to look recognisable.
The efficiency of modern welding is a celebration of our understanding of chemistry and physics. It is a triumph of western progress.
The Kemppi Kempact 323A MIG Welders is the perfect continuation of our never-ending desire for efficiency, and of ultra-modern welding technology.
- Of all the Kempact models, the 323 AMV is the most advanced on the market: offering a virtually unmatched compact, portable, high-quality welding service.
- It features an adaptive control panel and memory channel function, allowing for more precise welding — and power levels automatically correspond to the plate thickness levels when selected.
- The gas chassis holds a G-sized cylinder that, with a simple push, can be loaded easily into place more than three times quicker than a typical gas canister installation.
- Only the material thickness needs to be dialled into the console, where the voltage and wire feed are then adjusted together.
- Included is a FE welding gun with a localised heat treatment function — perfect for thin sheet fabrication and automotive repair.
- The particle filter keeps out any dust, and its illuminated interior cabinet allows for wire loading and adjustment even in low lighting conditions.
8. Tekla Design Software
There may be nothing physically “hands-on” about this piece of software, but that’s exactly what makes it impressive. Take a moment to consider all of the knowledge in human history that had to culminate in order to give rise to software, nevermind software as complex as this. With its advanced physics engine and mathmatical capabilities, design software as meticulous as this is the ultimate ‘Standing on the shoulders of Giants’ tribute.
- Our use of Tekla Design Software allows us to envision what a project will look like right from the general assembly of drawings all the way to the full shop assembly.
- It is extremely useful for keeping the vision of a product in mind for both manufacturers and clients, so both can clearly see what is going on. Right from production, to assembly and installation.
Things are improving all the time. Just think, as recent as 1999, two divisions of NASA contributed to the building and accidental destruction of the Mars Climate Orbiter by using different units of measurement. A good piece of design software, one that would have allowed both divisions to work together and in real time, could have averted such a costly disaster.
Conclusion: A new industrial revolution?
When the industrial revolution started in eighteenth-century England, it quickly spread to Europe and beyond and changed the world forever. But the industrial revolution was only the start of a major change. Things were messy, inefficient, and sometimes even dangerous.
But as Isaac Newton famously said: “If [we] have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”. Now, after nearly three centuries of progress, the machines at our disposal have never been safer, more accurate, or more refined. With advancements from the last 50 years alone, it could be argued that we are at the start of a new industrial revolution.
A cleaner, greener, revolution: crafted with machines and tools beyond even our ancestors’ wildest imaginations.