One machine, two revenue streams

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Sometimes a “this OR that” question is best answered with a “this AND that” solution. That would seem to be the case if you’re looking to supplement your mainstay sheet metal processing business with some tube processing. And you can tap into the growing demand for semi-finished tube products without needing to invest in a separate machine to do it. 

Several machine makers offer hybrid models which can handle both flat sheet and tube processing. 

“Nowadays with the lack of skilled labour and the super high cost of shop floor space, there is more demand for these flexible types of machines that will do as much as possible with one operator within less floor space,” says Jean-Philippe Nadeau, blanking product manager with AMADA. “I see this as a growing trend.”


The rotary index on AMADA’s ENSIS 3015 RI is an integrated unit, allowing the cutting head to be positioned near the chuck which minimizes the dead zone.

With AMADA’s 3 kW Ensis-3015 RI you basically get two machines in one. The machine is equipped with three separate processing tables. There are two cutting tables for flat sheet processing and a separate table with the rotary index mechanism for tube. When the machine is set up in sheet mode it will process sheets automatically using the two cutting tables for non-stop production. Within 30 seconds you can bring new raw material in and start removing the processed parts on the other table. When you want to go from sheet to tube mode, the operator presses a button, and it will move out the cutting tables for flat sheets and bring in the tube processing table with the rotary index automatically, Nadeau explains. This operation takes one minute. The rotary chuck is an integrated unit, attached to the tube processing table. 

Similarly, TRUMPF combines flat sheet and tube laser processing on its TruLaser 3030 and 3040 2D machines equipped with the RotoLas feature, which is a rotary tube and lasering process. 

What you need to consider in deciding whether these types of hybrid machine are the right choice for your shop starts with how much tube you’re processing or hope to be processing.

Customers who have these systems enjoy the flexibility in their production and the trend in the industry is to be vigilant to opportunities they can take advantage of, according to TRUMPF’ experts. That’s why the company has that capability on the TruLaser 2D machines, but it doesn’t take away from the machines it has for companies whose business is strictly dedicated to tube processing.

You have to consider how much tube you’re processing. If someone is processing a mix of flat and tube, TRUMPF welcomes  a conversation about specific applications and needs. If they need something more dedicated towards tube or they’re growing their tube business, that’s when TRUMPF would suggest a machine for shops that are doing 100% tube processing day in and day out.

If a hybrid machine is the right choice, another consideration is how quickly and easily you can make the transition from flat sheet to cutting tube, says Nadeau. 

“Next thing to consider would be the tube capacity – weight and length and what type of tubing it can process. Can it do rectangles, squares, C-channels?  The setup of the tubing itself is also important. How quickly can it be done? Does it need a special tool to tighten it up? Do you need to manually place supports for the tubing? Is it equipped with touch probes?” Nadeau adds.

As with all machinery, safety features and tech support round out the list of considerations.

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