GEMA Apparatenbouw’s own 3D cutting machine opens up new opportunities

Speeding up production, having more control, cutting costs and generating work in its own production department – these were the main reasons for GEMA Apparatenbouw in Biddinghuizen (the Netherlands) to buy a pipe profiling machine from the German manufacturer MÜLLER OPLADEN. This 3D cutting machine opens up new possibilities and market for GEMA. “We can now target new markets because we can offer a wide range of 3D cuts in the field of round pipe profiling,” says Production Manager Peter Mulder.

The cutting machine from MÜLLER OPLADEN is 3D cutting round pipes with thermal cutting process such as plasma cutting and oxy fuel propane cutting.

GEMA Apparatenbouw makes loading arms for the petrochemical industry. These are used for loading mainly liquid products on ships, trains or trucks. These used to be mainly petroleum products, but demand is now shifting to loading arms for the loading of gas, and then mainly low-temperature liquefied gas. GEMA’s speciality is welding to certain codes, such as the ASME and EURO standards. The loading arms produced in Biddinghuizen are manufactured according to the Steam Equipment and AMSI B31.3 standards, which means that they are regarded as pressure vessels. In fact, GEMA has only one customer for its loading arms and that is Kanon Loading Equipment, which sells and installs these loading arms all over the world.

3D thermal cutting in-house

The cutting of tubes for the loading arms always used to be outsourced, but now it is done in-house. “Because we now have our own 3D pipe profiling machine on-site for cutting, we can fine-tune our internal planning and exercise better control over delivery times,” says Mulder. “And this in turn is important for our customers. We are now much more in control of our own processes and are no longer dependent on outside parties. In addition, we are now generating more work for our plant and thus for our production staff.”

Staying innovative

GEMA has been producing standardised loading arms for 30 years, but wants to keep innovating because the market is changing. Mulder: “The 3D pipe profiling machine makes us more flexible in handling different applications. We used to saw everything ourselves and did the welding, while all the 3D cutting was outsourced. We then decided to do this in-house to have more control over the whole process. We also wanted to invest in a technological innovation in order to keep our technical staff and give them the opportunity to work at innovative machines. Another advantage is that it we are able to cut costs per project, as we are now doing the work ourselves.”

Benefits of CAD/CAM software

The great advantage of cutting with the Müller machine is that it makes many different types of 3D cuts possible that GEMA uses in its pipe-to-pipe connections. In addition, the advantage over sawing is that the machine cuts a good bevel as preparation for the welding process. In addition, using the CAD/CAM software package allows GEMA to read in CAD files and edit or check them where necessary. When the drawing is ready for cutting, it can be sent straight to the machine. Mulder explains how the whole process works: “Our work planner receives the drawing package from our customer with STEP files of the complete loading arm we have to manufacture. He first analyses these drawings from pipe to pipe connections to check the joints before cutting. Then he can read the STEP files into the CAD/CAM software, which then sends them to the machine. This works very smoothly. Because the CAD/CAM software 3DPP is very useful in making it easy to upload different kinds of CAD drawings. In addition, all functions for the performance of our work are included in this software. If you need to work in a really detailed and precise manner with more complex 3D cuts, the 3DPP software really offers benefits. We can also work from the machine with Corobs alone, but the CAD/CAM software offers us a lot more scope.”

Amazingly quick

The machine has been in operation for some time now and is doing very well. “We are surprised how fast the machine works now that the operators are trained and experienced with the machine and its set-up. Cutting itself is amazingly quick. The operators have picked it up very quickly and enjoy working with the machine.”

The machine has done much to improve productivity and efficiency in the production process. The internal operations on-site have decreased. The pipes from the supplier now come straight to the stock near the 3D pipe cutting machine in the shop, where they can immediately undergo 3D cutting. “The internal route through the factory has become a lot shorter now that we perform length measurement, 3D cutting and bevelling on the MÜLLER OPLADEN machine,” Mulder explains. “After this, we immediately transfer the pipes to the welding hall where the assembly is welded. We used to have to handle a pipe four times before welding it. Now, when a pipe comes from the pipe supplier, it is only twice we have it in our hands. This is a significant difference in time, especially if you consider it on a project basis. Another efficiency advantage is that we have less material in intermediate stock in the shop than before. This also frees up space for other activities in the plant. Another big advantage is that we have fewer leftover lengths, because the CAD/CAM software has a nesting function that can be used to indicate how to minimize the number of leftover lengths in a project.”

Explaining the reasons for buying the machine at MÜLLER OPLADEN, Mulder says: “This machine offered exactly what we needed and MÜLLER OPLADEN cooperated with us to come up with the right solution. We had confidence in this solution and that is why we chose MÜLLER OPLADEN . In the end, it was a MO 900/6 Compact machine and we are delighted with it. The machine does highly precise 3D cutting with its 6-axis design.”

3D pipe cutting service

The 3D cutting machine enables GEMA Apparatenbouw to tap new markets. It is now doing cutting work for third parties, for example. “We offer a cutting service for the 3D cutting of steel pipes up to 36″ diameter and up to lengths of 12 metres,” says Mulder. “Our 3D pipe cutting machine is capable of both oxy-fuel and plasma cutting. This means that we can use our machine to cut carbon steel, stainless steel and alloys. The advantage for our customers is that we handle not only the 3D cutting and bevelling, but also the welding of steel structures. “We can read in the customer’s CAD files for 3D cutting and then cut them with the correct dimensions and shapes on our machine. We focus on short throughput times with good and reasonable pricing. GEMA now concentrates on the manufacture of loading arms and, in addition to this activity, will also focus on welding and fabrication work in the field of steel structures and then mainly for customers in the Netherlands.