Spoiled by German engineering, Ben Beiler admits his standards were high when growing demand for thicker carbon steel prompted him to look for a plasma cutter. The majority owner of BenCo Technology has a reputation in the industry for keeping his production floor stocked with the latest equipment. The Honey Brook, Pennsylvania fabricator designs, engineers, cuts, forms, welds, powder coats, assembles and ships finished parts for a plethora of industries ranging from agriculture to medical and just about everything in between.
“We are always investing in the latest technology,” says Beiler. “We’re a full cutting facility—plasma, oxy-fuel, flat fiber laser, tube laser, waterjet—it’s about finding solutions for our customers. Requests for thicker stainless and aluminum led BenCo to purchase a waterjet. But a growing number of inquiries for carbon steel made plasma cutting a more efficient choice.
BenCo’s management team conducted careful research of different plasma cutters finding that similar performance characteristics made it a relatively even playing field among OEMs. Then St. Charles, Illinois-based Fab-Line Machinery, the exclusive distributor of Baykal equipment in North America, caught BenCo’s attention.
“I was familiar with their press brakes,” says Beiler, “when we found out they also carried plasma cutters we took a closer look. I was intrigued by the engineering behind the Baykal machine. Most equipment manufacturers use a tube design for their gantry but the Baykal plasma cutter didn’t.”
Gantry design was an important factor for BenCo. “The gantry is the moving portion of the plasma,” Beiler notes. “If it’s not built correctly you won’t have a good part. The gantry on the Baykal plasma cutter compensates for heat, especially when cutting thick materials and we found its accuracy rating of ± 0.002 attractive.”
Tom Millen, vice president of Fab-Line Machinery explains how Baykal plasma cutters “take the heat.” “The cutting process generates heat which causes the gantry to expand and contract,” he says. “It’s a condition that can result in excessive wear on the rack and pinion. Our slide carrier design eliminates premature wear by allowing the machine to maintain a constant mesh.”
Baykal constructs its gantry with formed, fabricated sections that provide maximum stiffness to weight ratio. In addition to the gantry design, Baykal’s bearing placement greatly increases torch holder rigidity allowing the machine to cut at higher speeds while maintaining maximum accuracy.
“Most models we looked at had a fixed gantry with bearing surfaces located on the front of the machine about 8 to 10 in. apart,” Beiler says. “Baykal’s top mounting system minimizes damage from dross, while the machine’s front mounted system keeps the bearing close to the plate for stability.”
The Baykal gearbox and mid-level rails contribute to positioning accuracy. “It’s an important feature because a mid-height rail puts the gantry at the same level where the work is being done,” he says. “It gives you a more rigid mounting and drive system to produce a more accurate part at higher production rates.”
“Unlike many high rail machines, the rails on the Baykal plasma cutter are isolated from the cutting table to preserve them from shock during loading and unloading and thermal stress while cutting,” Millen says. “Double side drives are fitted with AC servos and high precision planetary gearboxes.”
Beiler was leaning toward purchasing the plasma cutter, but admits his biggest fear was “that the machine was made in Turkey.” So he, along with Millen, traveled to Bursa [Turkey] to take a closer look. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he recalls. “But when we walked into the facility I was very impressed.”
Baykal has three factories with the newest building totaling 500,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space according to Millen. The third generation OEM, founded more than 65 years ago by Hakki Baykal, is run today by Baykal’s grandson Semih Erbek.
“Early on Fab-Line conducted a global search for machine builders, narrowed prospects to Baykal and ultimately it was the relationship that sold us,” says Millen. “It’s a truly family-owned and run company.”
This year Fab-Line marks its 10-year anniversary, celebrating a decade spent importing Baykal machinery. The strength of the relationship between the two companies helped boost consumer confidence for Beiler. “Service is very important to me,” he says, “I wanted to see the company that was making the machines and find out what kind of company Baykal was. Semih’s an engineer. We could tell that they put engineering first in their machines. That was also a priority for me.”
In 2014, after taking a second trip to Turkey to its’ plasma machine perform test cuts, BenCo installed a Baykal BPLH 3007 plasma cutter with a 400 amp power supply offering and a cutting area of 102 in. by 44 ft. Once orders are processed, jobs are moved to the plasma cutter before transferring to downstream operations. BenCo runs carbon steel, aluminum and stainless components for diverse markets like transportation, defense, and energy.
“We’ve cut 20 ft. parts for the trucking industry and we’re taking on work we couldn’t do before,” Beiler says. “We’re cutting mounting plates and rings.”
Operators are also able to process 2-in. carbon parts with minimal slag and a high-quality edge. “I was amazed at the lack of slag on part bottoms,” says Beiler. “I’ve heard horror stories about the tremendous amount of slag that can build up and I’ve seen the parts that have come off machines like that.”
Beiler is finding that with thicker materials he can achieve a better edge finish with the plasma than he can with a laser. “I can throw a lot of stuff on the plasma that I normally would have reserved for the laser,” he says. “I’m doubling my speed and still maintaining accuracy.”
Cutting more than 1000 parts a day, Beiler feels the plasma cutter gives him an edge over his competition. “When Semih came over to visit last year, he asked me how I liked the machine, “I looked at him and said, “There is just one problem – it cuts so darn fast, I can’t keep up.”’
Honey Brook, Pa.
Fab-Line Machinery LLC