Tanks up to 60 m in diameter

The Belgian tank manufacturer Ivens chose MicroStep again: A new 21 meter long multi-functional plasma cutting and marking machine of the CombiCut series
Located in the Antwerp harbor vicinity, the Belgian company Ivens specializes in the design and construction of tanks for the petrochemical industry. Due to the substantial dimensions of these tanks, equally large sheet metal processing machines are required. The previous MicroStep machine at Ivens was a 21 x 4.5 m CombiCut plasma, oxyfuel and inkjet marking machine acquired back in 2008. As of recently, the original machine was replaced with a new model equipped with the latest technologies. Thanks to the performance record of well over a decade and professional support provided by Wouters Cutting & Welding, Ivens chose the proven partner combination – MicroStep and WCW – again.

Family business of four generations
Ivens was founded in 1930 by the great-grandfather of the current managing director Peter Van de Perck who represents the fourth generation of the Antwerp-based family business. In its early years, the company primarily constructed underground oil tanks. However, with the rise of the petrochemical industry in the 1960s, the construction company shifted its primary focus on this market.

Fig. 1 Nic Wouters, CEO of Wouters Cutting & Welding, together with Kris Luyten and Tom Leenaarts from Ivens at the production launch event of the new MicroStep CombiCut machine.

Tanks of 20 m in diameter
In the Antwerp harbor area, Ivens designs and builds liquid storage tanks with volumes ranging from 100 to 60,000 m3. These tanks are mainly shipped through the harbor to other European and Central African countries. Currently, Ivens employs around 450 people, collectively generating an annual turnover of 65 million Euro.

"At our production facilities, we can build tanks up to 18 m in height and with a diameter of 20 m. When assembling these on-site, we can even work with diameters of up to 60 m. We start with steel plates that are cut, rolled, and welded into individual rings. Furthermore, all prefabricated components, such as stairs or railings, are constructed here. This adds to our flexibility, enabling us to adapt quickly," explains Van de Perck.

Fig. 2 All accessories and parts of Ivens tanks are made in-house

New machine after 14 years
Two plasma cutting machines were already in place here, both supplied by Wouters Cutting & Welding. The smaller machine features a cutting table measuring 14 x 3 m, while the larger one measures 21 x 4.5 m. " After 14 years of intensive use, the latter required replacement, so we turned to this trusted partner once again. They recommended the MicroStep CombiCut machine," says Production Manager Kris Luyten. Ivens bought the first Microstep machine – CombiCut 24001.45IPPrG – in 2008.

"Where the previous machine had a plasma source of 260 A, it has now been increased to 450 A. This allows us to cut plate thicknesses of up to 50 mm from certain steel types. Thanks to Kjellberg's Contour Cut technology, the achieved cut edges are perfectly straight. This enables us to create even more parts in-house with precision, such as lifting lugs. Accuracy is crucial for us since the plates must fit together precisely and have precise bolt holes," explains the Production Manager.

Fig. 3 While the table from the previous plasma cutting machine remained intact, significant technological enhancements were implemented across various aspects.

State-of-the-art bevel cutting and marking
While the previous plasma cutting machine could already cut at an angle, MicroStep's latest generation beveling technology is a great improvement in terms of precision, reliability and, first of all, ease of maintenance. "With this machine, we can create all weld preparations directly. Previously, we often did this on a milling machine in a different department. Now, we not only work faster but also safer by avoiding internal transportation."

In addition to the bevel cutting head and an inkjet marking head, the new machine also features a third head. This head has a punch marking function to apply marks such as heat numbers, which are necessary for traceability in tank construction. "Previously, this was done manually through hard stamping in a later production step. By doing it directly by the machine now, we save a lot of time and reduce the risk of error," says Luyten.

Fig. 4 The markings, produced now entirely by the machine, are essential for both internal and external traceability purposes.

CyberFab Manager ensures manufacturing efficiency
The company is now entirely up-to-date in terms of production data flows thanks to the production management software CyberFab Manager by MicroStep that communicates with Ivens' both plasma cutting machines. "With this, we can oversee the entire production from the office and collect all useful data," he adds.

Despite numerous technological advancements, the impact on the machine operators was minimal. "The actual machine control is more or less the same, which also contributed to our choice of another MicroStep machine. This allows us to continue employing our staff on both cutting machines after a brief training," Van de Perck emphasizes.

Fig. 5 The CombiCut machine is equipped with three heads: one for plasma bevel cutting and the other two for punch marking and inkjet marking.

Excellent service and support by MicroStep partner WCW
The cutting machine plays a critical role in Ivens' production, so it must not become any sort of a figurative Achilles' heel. "In case of malfunctions, we need to get it up and running as quickly as possible. Wouters Cutting & Welding have proven their worth in terms of maintenance and quick response times in the past, thanks to their experienced service technicians and their proximity to Antwerp."

"Moreover, I believe that all machine manufacturers are currently on par with each other regarding technological specifications. As a distributor, Wouters helped to set MicroStep ahead of the market with their short communication lines and easy accessibility in case of issues. In that regard, both Ivens and WCW being Flemish family businesses, we share the same values, which creates a certain synergy," concludes the managing director.

Article credits: Nic Wouters, Kris Luyten, Tom Leenaarts

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