scotchman ironworker

“On the punching aspect of it, we’re seeing increasingly calls to automate,” mentioned Mike Albrecht, nationwide gross sales supervisor of Scotchman Industries. For instance, Scotchman has added punch station automation to its DO 85 ironworker. Photograph courtesy of Scotchman.

Lengthy dubbed the Swiss military knife of the fabricating world, the ironworker gives flexibility and performance multi functional machine. Though these workhorses have been a staple on the store ground for many years, they’ve resisted requires main tech upgrades. Nonetheless, increasingly, producers wish to incorporate automation to assist make these versatile machines much more environment friendly.

“We’re undoubtedly seeing extra requires automation throughout the board,” mentioned Mike Albrecht, nationwide gross sales supervisor, Scotchman Industries, Philip, S.D. “All people needs a machine to perform a little bit greater than they did earlier than. Ironworkers are primary, manually run machines. The operators punch holes, shear angle iron or plate. These are the primary features. On the punching aspect of it, we’re seeing increasingly calls to automate.”

Fundamental Automation

When most individuals consider automation, they usually go straight to robotics. Nonetheless, for the ironworker, a easy or semi-automated operation is a good first step. There are a selection of challenges on the subject of incorporating automation. One of many largest challenges for OEMs is placement. With a machine that performs many various operations, it may be tough to position a extremely automated system with out impeding the encircling operations. Nonetheless, in a guide system, including even the best of automation could make all of the distinction.

“Automation continues to get a bit extra subtle,” mentioned Angus Catterson, president, KAAST Machine Tools Inc., Aldan, Pa. “On the essential machines, an digital sensor is included. So for bar inventory, angle iron, channel, and flat plate, the operator might manually set this sensor, after which as quickly as the fabric hits that sensor the ironworker cuts. So it’s a really fast and straightforward means of constructing many repeat, uniform cuts.”

Albrecht added that utterly automating an ironworker might be a stretch. However one space the place it may be added is materials positioning. When an operator is punching holes in heavy materials, making a mistake will be pricey. If the operator has to measure by hand after which mark the outlet location, particularly with a spread of gap placements, human error can happen and the operation time-consuming.

“In an effort to cope with this problem, including a programmable measuring system to line up the one axis could make an enormous distinction,” mentioned Albrecht.

Semi-automated Operations

Past primary automation, shifting away from guide operations to semi-automated operations that match a store’s wants is one other step to maximizing the ironworker’s utility.

“Having a lower listing programmed into the system is an effective way to automate the ironworker,” mentioned Albrecht. “Operators can put the punch listing into the system so the outlet places will be listed with out having to do any materials marking and the machine can transfer the fabric to the right place. This can be a huge step in serving to clients velocity up the punching course of.”

Catterson agreed that the following step up from easy automation can be to include automation that will permit for a single axis to chop, punch, or notch at varied lengths. Having the ability to program in many various lengths is a good possibility for retailers which are producing many various components. Catterson famous {that a} system like that is usually restricted to 1 axis.

Increasing Automation

Past easy automation, an ironworker can embrace a full CNC. The operator can program within the operations and the ironworker works in a number of axes for punching, shearing, notching, and extra.


“The vast majority of machines we’re nonetheless promoting with a easy digital sensor,” mentioned Angus Catterson, president of KAAST Machine Instruments. This KAAST PS 85 DP ironworker contains electrical set off change as much as 1,000 mm for fast work move of repetitive work. Photograph courtesy of KAAST.

“We’ve got simply constructed a giant system the place we put a 20-ft. measuring system on the punch of an ironworker,” mentioned Albrecht. “With this, the operator can put a full lower listing in and program the collection of holes. The operator manually positions the Y axis, however then the X axis pusher might push the angle iron by to the outlet location and routinely punch the outlet. This helps velocity up the operation tremendously.”

For punching a big variety of holes, including a full CNC and automatic system can considerably improve velocity and accuracy.

“For instance, if an operator is punching a collection of holes, the system permits the machine to maneuver the fabric shortly with out the necessity for measurement, which in flip reduces scrap,” mentioned Catterson. “So long as this system is appropriate, there shouldn’t actually be any errors. With a system like this, the store will get sooner processing and fewer errors.”

Market Curiosity

Each Catterson and Albrecht agreed that clients are very snug incorporating primary automation like sensors and semi-automatic operations. Nonetheless, only some retailers are curious about exploring huge automated programs.

“The vast majority of machines we’re nonetheless promoting with a easy digital sensor,” mentioned Catterson. “There’s undoubtedly some curiosity within the totally automated system, however presently the easier machines nonetheless [generate] by far the best gross sales quantity.”

Catterson believes that that is partially attributable to operator availability. The ironworker is a reasonably easy machine to function, however when it turns into a full CNC machine, it must be programmed.

“I believe that’s undoubtedly one of many explanation why, if solely for the time being, there may be much less curiosity in CNC than primary automation,” mentioned Catterson. “The extra subtle the automation, the higher the rise in productiveness and diminished scrap. Nonetheless, discovering an operator both with the abilities or coaching the operator to satisfy the machine’s necessities will be difficult. Earlier than investing, a store has to ask itself, ‘Who’s going to function this machine?’”


An ironworker is thought for its flexibility to finish a variety of completely different duties. Apart from discovering expert employees to function superior CNC ironworkers, one other problem with these automated programs is that their flexibility is diminished.

Albrecht defined that automation is usually a great point, however retailers must be conscious that even totally automated programs have restrictions. He gave the instance of an automatic angle line that’s designed to chop 4-in. angle to size then routinely punch holes in it. An automatic ironworker could not be capable of deal with 1½-in. angle in the identical capability. An ironworker nonetheless has that means to work with a bigger vary of fabric, however in a semi-automatic mode.

“It’s vital to know these limitations, and in some ways, we are able to overcome the challenges and discover a resolution to the shopper’s necessities,” mentioned Albrecht. “Actually, although, clients are at all times wanting their ironworker to do extra. That’s the wrestle. It’s virtually at all times straightforward to make a machine do one, two, or three features. The trick is making a guide ironworker that has been time-tested for over 50 years go a few steps farther. That’s why there are completely different ranges of automation out there for the ironworker to essentially meet the wants of all retailers.”

Affiliate Editor Lindsay Luminoso will be reached at

KAAST Machine Instruments,

Scotchman Industries,

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