Production manager Brian Fella (L) and leveler operator Randy Duckworth (R) check flatness on a batch of parts processed on the ARKU FlatMaster 120. A typical flatness requirement is 0.07 in. across a 60 in. diameter.Click image to enlargeA US shop has installed what is considered the largest parts leveler in North America, capable of leveling parts up to 43 mm (1.675 in.) thick and 1,981 mm (78 in.) wide.

 O'Neal Manufacturing Services (OMS), based in Birmingham, AL, recently installed its second ARKU FlatMaster leveler, model 120-200. 

The company is one of the largest manufacturers in North America of complex metal fabrications for the heavy equipment industry. Its ten plants are each ISO 9001: 2008 certified, offering 1.5 million sq ft of outsourcing support for OEMs in the agriculture, construction equipment, material handling, railroad and power generation industries.Leveler operator Randy Duckworth processes steel parts more than 1 in. thick on the ARKU FlatMaster leveler at O'Neal's Birmingham plant. The parts are cut from plate by laser or plasma machine. They vary widely in size and shape, often with openings as well. A spokesman for O'Neal said, "We setup the leveling control, and a part typically comes out flat on the first pass, very flat."Click image to enlarge

"Capital equipment purchases, including the ARKU flattening presses, are a business decision based upon our customer intimacy strategy," says Gerald Brockman, VP of sales and marketing at OMS. "All our resources, whether capital, time or human, are focused on enhancing long-term relationships with our key customers.”

The new leveler is a big step up from the FlatMaster 88 acquired for the company's Greensboro plant in 2013.

"Our Birmingham facility was quoting some business that required a tight flatness tolerance on parts larger and thicker than our machine in Greensboro could handle," says Gene Gadient, an application engineer at OMS. "We have a gantry flattening press that could do the work, but the part volume and variety, as well as our experience with the smaller FlatMaster, make the larger roller leveler a better solution. The gantry press is a trial-and-error method that takes an experienced operator. It may take several hits from both sides of a part to get it flat. With our FlatMaster in Greensboro, we set the control and the part typically comes out flat on the first pass, very flat."

The contract for the Birmingham plant largely involves mild steel nearly 25.4 mm (1 in.) thick, with a minimum yield of 36 to 50 ksi. The parts are cut from plate by laser or plasma machine, and vary widely in size and shape, some with openings. A typical flatness requirement is 1.8 mm (0.07 in.) across a 1,524 mm (60 in.) diameter.

Circles, triangles and parts with openings are a particular challenge with a hammer press. "You can chase a high spot for quite a while," explains Gadient. "It's a very inexact science." The ability to adapt the leveling force to varying shapes is what sets the FlatMaster apart. Each part presents a changing cross section as the leading edge, center, and trailing edge enter the leveling rollers. These changing cross sections require varying levels of force to maintain the leveling gap. The FlatMaster's servo-hydraulic system can recognize any change in the required force in a fraction of a second and adjust to maintain a precise gap.

More than just leveling the part, the FlatMaster also stress relieves it, making it much easier to weld or bend. "We found in Greensboro there's a definite advantage to using flat parts in our downstream operations," says Gadient. "It is a unique manufacturing asset."

FlatMaster machines are available for part thicknesses up to 57.15 mm (2.25 in.).

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