Automated flatbed cutters: Reliability ensures productivity

Flatbed cutting system suppliers discuss a key concern, from their customers' point of view: machine reliability.


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From the customer’s viewpoint, flatbed cutting system reliability is a key concern. It can’t produce if it’s down for maintenance. “We maintain a call center that actually monitors performance in real time through 130 sensors in a customer’s machine. We’re able to predict any problems, and reduce response time — all part of our lean approach to our customers,” says Paul Epperson, VP of manufacturing sales at Lectra (Smyrna, Ga.).     

Likewise, trademarked GERBERconnect remote monitoring service maximizes machine uptime and productivity, by enabling certified service and support professionals to diagnose and fix issues in real time via a secure Internet connection, explains Gerber Technology’s (Tolland, Conn.) director of industrial product management Tom Gordon.

David Cook, operations manager of Pathfinder USA Inc. (Hickory, N.C.), U.S. arm of Melbourne, Australia-based Pathfinder Pty. Ltd., says his company’s pledge was to create robust cutting equipment that would require little or no maintenance, and offers as a testament to the compnay’s success, the fact that the first customer’s machine, sold in 1997, is still working in a production setting. Cook claims that Pathfinder’s small-footprint conveyorized cutters use fewer moving parts, which contributes to greater reliability and a lower operating cost, compared to other suppliers: “It’s perhaps an Australian mind-set that we want our customers to be self-sufficient, because of the great distances involved to make a repair call there.” Pathfinder customer Uwe Hübner of ZCK Carbon & Cutting Tech (Kulmbach, Germany) agrees: “Given the low maintenance costs and less-frequent replacement of wearing parts, including knives, we have been able to reduce our automated cutting costs by more than 60 percent compared to the previous machine we owned.”

Jonathan Palmer, the chief technology officer at Autometrix Inc. (Grass Valley, Calif.), points out that his company’s tables are equipped with a carbon fiber composite gantry that supports the cutting head, made by a company customer. “Since many composite companies are engineering-based, we believe the carbon composite design appeals to them. It also minimizes the cutting equipment and gantry weight, which results in lower wear and tear on the machine,” he adds.

Elizabeth McGruder, marketing manager at Eastman Machine Co. (Buffalo, N.Y.) says her company’s machines are designed and built to function successfully in any type of industrial settings, dirty or clean. “Our systems are heavy-duty and intended for all types of industrial production environments, whether fast-paced production cells or not.”

This short article is a sidebar to a feature story titled "Automated cutting accelerates." To read the main article, click on its title under "Editor's Picks" at top right.