Material handling automation via large-scale shuttle table

Specialist for bulk storage tanks invests into cutting edge equipment
Engicon nv (Geldof) located in Harelbeke, Belgium, is a leading European supplier of integrated steel solutions for the storage, handling and processing of bulk liquids, solids and gasses.

Strategic location on the bank of Leie River with direct connection to major ports of Gent and Antwerp provides Engicon with easy access to the worldwide market. Engicon's own quay facility enables the loading onto barges of items up to 300 tons, 150 m length and 15.5 m diameter. Large constructions can be transported trouble‐free by ship or by a truck. The company is renowned for the production of storage tanks, pressure vessels, dry bulk storage and handling installations and diverse other engineered solutions that often require a combination of wide-ranging technical competencies.

Purchase of a new CNC cutting solution became a necessity after the old plasma machine needed to be replaced after 31 years of service. Engicon saw this also as an opportunity to expand their fabrication options and take the precision and quality to a new level. Most notably, the company wanted to incorporate bevel cutting into their production since beveled edges are ready for welding without requiring any further machining thereby significantly reducing the processing time and workforce requirements.

After careful deliberations, Engicon NV chose to purchase a MicroStep machine from the MG series. With a working area of 14 x 4 m and a combination of oxyfuel and bevel plasma cutting technologies it is a truly versatile CNC centre capable of creating a wide range of parts/products from plates of different sizes and thickness. Traceability of production is taken care of by a micro-percussion marking unit, which stamps the heat number of the original plate on each cut part. This is very important information in case of possible part failure and allows tracing back all parts from the same faulty plate.

Engicon also wanted the machine to be equipped with a shuttle table. After an internal discussion on this topic, MicroStep and Engicon have decided that due to the large size of the table, the best solution will be to join forces with German cutting table specialist Tecloga. The solution they supplied is a 14 x 4 m shuttle table; after cutting the grate with finished parts is ejected into a separate room. This setup makes unloading of parts and subsequent loading of the new material much safer.

Engicon cares greatly for safety and wellbeing of its employees. That is the main reason why the new machine had its own custom hall built.  It has been constructed specially for plate cutting, adhering to the company safety, health and environment standards.  “A safety light curtain has been installed around the machine together with an ergonomic operating system and there is even a separate control room for the operator,” says Dieter Vandeputte, Maintenance & Facility manager.

The decision to go for an MG machine was motivated mainly by the need for a resilient piece of equipment. Engicon has a two-shift production and cuts about 10,000 to 15,000 tons of steel per year. Machines of the MG type feature a sturdy frame and have protective covers that keep its electronics and guidelines safe from harm. Furthermore, MG gantries are moving on linear guidelines which, unlike standard rails, ensure very high positioning accuracy.

Apart from MicroStep being a well-known brand with good references the thing that tipped the scales in its favor, is the service delivered by MicroStep's Benelux partner Wouters Cutting and Welding. WCW has a reputation as a reliable and competent service partner who puts the continuity of their clients as their primary priority. “We were searching for a decent, professional service partner with educated technicians,“ justifies Mr. Vandeputte the final decision to go with WCW. We wish the customer a long and prosperous use of their machine with many accurate cut contours and weld preparations.

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