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IF INTEREST in new plant equipment is any indication of the improving health of manufacturing, then manufacturing received a clean bill of health at Fabtech 2011, the annual exhibition of plant tools and equipment. Record crowds (up 35% from 2009) filled Chicago's McCormick Place to view equipment that promises to improve quality and productivity.

This year's show had more than 1,300 exhibitors, filling a record 522,000 net square feet.

According to Chris Kuehl, PhD, economic analyst for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association and moderator of Fabtech's State of the Industry session, “Attendees were preparing for a better year in 2012 and were investing to be ready for it. They were engaged and were finding ways to do things better, faster and more efficiently.”

The 2012 show will be held in Las Vegas next November and return to McCormick Place in 2013. For more information, visit www.Fabtechexpo.com.

Fabtech Hypertherm image Really intense: Hypertherm is expanding its HyIntensity Fiber Laser product line with the introduction of two new systems. The systems, a 2.0 kilowatt system for thicker metal cutting and increased productivity, and a 1.0 kilowatt system for thinner applications, join a 1.5 kilowatt system unveiled at last year's show.

The HyIntensity Fiber Laser systems, developed and manufactured by Hypertherm in the United States, are specifically designed to work together as one complete cutting solution. The fiber laser supply, cutting head, automatic gas console, operator interface consoles, motion controls and software are all combined into one integrated package. Hypertherm, Hanover NH. www.hypertherm.com

Fabtech Comeq image What does “E” stand for? Mostly it refers to a series of electronic press brakes available from Comeq Inc, White Marsh MD, but Comeq will also say that it stands for efficient. The second-generation Safan E-Brake is available in four models with capacities ranging from 35 tons to 100 tons. It is energy efficient, using energy only when the top beam is actually moving. This results in a reduction in energy consumption of up to 50% compared with a conventional hydraulic press brake, the company says. www.comeq.com

Fabtech- Messer Cutting Systems Ready to build bodies: This fiber laser/plasma combo cutting system was going to Monroe Truck Equipment once Fabtech was over. Monroe will be using the cutting system to take some of the load that was previously being performed by three separate machines. According to Messer Cutting Systems, Menomonee Falls WI, the plasma/fiber laser combo eliminates tool costs, reduces changeover delays, and the fiber laser is less expensive to operate than CO2 lasers. http://www.messer-cs.com/us/

Fabtech - Amanda HDS 2204 Anyone home? Amada displayed the unmanned operation of a press brake, using a robot to handle the material. Offline programming generates the code required to integrate the operation. The robot feeds the Amada HDS 2204 press brake, a hybrid drive system incorporating an AC servo motor and CNC controlled hydraulic cylinders located in lower beam Windows XPe embedded, touch screen control provides for transfer of tool setup data, bend sequences, and 3D simulation between control and network server. A high-speed five-axis backgauge reduces positioning time and easily handles staging of complex parts. www.amada.com

Hech Industries the Boss The Boss is here: Phil Heck knows the Boss, a 16-gauge press brake that his company, Heck Industries now represents. The Boss measures just over 48" long and has a maximum box depth of four inches. It can process 16-gauge mild steel and 20-gauge stainless. www.heckind.net

TigerStop Tiger Rack Hold that, Tiger: TigerStop, manufacturers of automatic gripping and positioning systems, displayed its TigerGripper, a pneumatic material holding device that enables the operator to use 100% of the material by allowing the material to extend into the vise area. It can be used with all TigerStop positioners. The company also showed the TigerRack which attaches to a cold saw, punch press, ironworker, or any machine needing linear positioning automation. TigerRack is a rack and pinion driven automated positioning system TigerStop products enable the operator to enter the desired length once for accurate, repetitive cuts, says Jack Ragan, vice-president of sales and service. www.tigerstop.com

Elitist: Dustin Olson displays the Elite 110 four-station ironworker from Edwards Manufacturing, Albert Lea MN. A lot has been built into the Elite, including integrated hydraulic hold-down, measuring system, lighting, and hydraulic accessory ports. The Elite 110 can punch a 1⅜" hole in A36 steel, shear a 1" × 12" bar or 6" × 6" half-inch thick A36 angle. The machine is rated at 110 tons capacity. Its 7.5-hp electric motor powers a 1- ½-gpm hydraulic pump. www.edwardsironworkers.com.

Scotchman AL150 The perfect notch: Jerry Kroetch shows the tight fit produced by the new line of tube and pipe grinder/notchers available from Scotchman Industries, Philip SD. The AL150, background, is one of a series of models that the company offers. It generates notches in ¾" to 4" pipe to accommodate joints ranging from 30° to 90°. The Scotchman notchers come with two-axis crossfeed table One vise holds all pipe and tube sizes. www.scotchman.com.

Hougen HMD 508 Deep and wide: The HMD 508 drill from Hougen Manufacturing, Swartz Creek MI, can cut up to three inches deep. The two-stage magnet engages full power when the motor is turned on. The company's new Rotofoam cutting fluid makes the cutting process easier. Introduced earlier this year, the foam lubricant can be used with multiple materials and processes, says Greg Londrigan. www.hougen.com

Trilogy Machinery Everything in its place: CNC positioning table takes the guesswork out of ironworking. The semi-automatic system from Sunrise is available as a factory-installed option on dual-cylinder ironworkers or punching machines with a throat that is 20" or larger. The new 80" table has a 750-watt servo motor. The ironworker shown here is a 110-ton model that can handle 6" × 6×; × ½" angle and 24" × 5/8" plate. Fred Gebhardt demonstrates for Trilogy Machinery, Belcamp MD. www.trilogymachinery.com.

Lord Maxlok acrylic adhesives Destructive testing: Dan Bradshaw puts sheet metal on the rack, pulling two fastened pieces until something breaks. The idea is to demonstrate how well Lord Maxlok acrylic adhesives hold up compared with other fastening techniques. Show here is the result of a tensile test of a spotwelded joint. In tests of joints bonded by Lord adhesives, the metal failed first. www.lord.com

Kremlin Rexon, Thor pumps Dispensing system: Pumps for dispensing adhesives and sealants debuted in the Kremlin Rexon booth. The Thor Range of pumps can process oils and greases in addition to adhesives and sealants. Thor's modular concept provides a choice of extension system (pump, elevator, and follower plate, says Scott Otto. www.exel-na.com

Alco Tec/ESAB Have gun, can travel: Advancements at AlcoTec/ESAB have made it possible to feed aluminum welding wire from a bulk drum product 100+ feet away from the gun. Using drums allows less frequent spool changes, and their product allows wire to have a uniform cast that allows better, more uniform seam welds, according to Tom Thompson. The feed system requires no connections other than an air line. Thompson adds that the wire is packaged into a cardboard drum that is recyclable. www.alcotec.com

ThermalArc Fabricator 252i Three in one: The Fabricator 252i multi-process portable welding system can be used for MIG, stick, or TIG applications. It comes with the power supply, 250-amp MIG gun, contact tips, argon flow gauge, and 200-amp electrode holder. The ThermalArc Fabricator 252i is available from Termadyne. www.thermalarc.com



Miller AlumaPower 450 MPa Pulsating power: Miller's AlumaPower 450 MPa provides the power for larger diameter 1/16-inch aluminum wires and thicker materials in an aluminum specific platform; synergic pulsed MIG welding controls automatically match wire feed speed to pulse parameters for simplified use. This new machine is rated at 450 amps at 100 percent duty cycle, and offers increased power efficiency over older and non-inverter welding equipment, longer welding times and increased productivity with larger 1/16-inch wires because of increased amperage and duty cycle, simple interface and controls, and quality pulsed MIG welds through synergic operation with the XR1 AlumaFeed portable feeder. www.millerwelds.com

Koike PNC-10 Elite Name your fuel: The PNC-10 Elite cutting system from Koike Aronson can be used for oxy-fuel or plasma applications. Because of its low profile and small footprint, the system can be easily moved our stored. The D410 control comes with a 45-shape library. Custom shapes and designs can be loaded into the controller through a standard USB port. Koike Aronson, Arcade NY. www.koike.com

Bug-O MDS Going steady: The Bug-O MDS provides an automated way to maintain torch height. Automatic height sensing monitors welding current and adjusts height in response to changes in the current. Motorized slide provides four inches of vertical travel and 20 pounds of weight-carrying capacity. It is a product of Bug-O Systems, Canonsburg PA. www.bugo.com