Panafab Custom Machine Builders of Suwanee, Georgia has spent the past three decades furthering the special automation processes of customers ranging from Fortune 500 component and tool manufacturers to small machining firms and even worm farmers.
“We’ve dedicated ourselves to customers looking to augment their production lines with customized equipment and automation systems,” says Joe Panetta, Panafab’s president. “After years of investing in the highest-quality engineering and programming software, tools and machinery, we are now transitioning to the design and build of proprietary lines of industrial automation equipment designed to increase the productivity, improve the quality and reduce the costs of our client’s manufacturing processes.
“We are, however, still supporting many of our existing partners with industry-specific solutions designed to reinforce their unique production, assembly and fabrication needs.”
In 2013, these legacy services extended to the manufacture of a custom aluminum handle produced for a handheld heat-sealing tool used by the military to hermetically seal jet engines in foil polymers. “Unfortunately, our early attempts proved far too expensive for a short run of about one thousand parts,” explains Panetta. “We tried making our own extruded profile, but there was no way to cut the handle into the necessary z-pattern with conventional methods. So, we decided to think out-of-the-box when we reached out to Bestway Products at the advice of one our associates.”
Since 1986, the Bestway Products Company has manufactured a full line of Spyral saw blades that enable the tight, intricate cuts that are virtually impossible with conventional flat saw blades. Designed with a single continuous cutting tooth that spirals 360° around the length of a hardened steel wire, the Spyral saw blades cut materials ranging from metals, plastics and ceramics to rubber, graphite and wood to make them ideal for many building, machining, crafting and fabrication applications.
“Conventional toothed saw blades are typically flat, cut in a forward direction and need to be positioned so the teeth face the material at the right angle,” says Stuart Gordon, Bestway’s owner & president. “Our Spyral saw blades cut in all directions, even sideways and backwards. They will cut in the direction of the feed pressure, which can make a significant difference when cutting without rigid fixturing. While other wire blades are limited to cutting only certain types of foam or require machinery that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, our Spyral saw blade can cut a greater assortment of Foams as well as wood, insulation, plastics and many metals without requiring costly specialized CNC machinery.”
After several initial conversations with Bestway, Panafab developed a cutting platform based on company’s recommendations. This custom bandsaw was designed to rapidly cut the aluminum handles sequentially from their aluminum extrusion, requiring only two axes of motion to produce a part in one cut with the Spyral blade. This action would then be repeated continually until the entire extrusion was consumed.
Prior to undertaking the design of a custom saw, Bestway suggested that Panafab send the extrusion material for test cuts. “Once we received the material and thoroughly understood their fabrication needs, we experimented with Spyral blades of different diameters until we developed a template that we thought would work,” offers Gordon. “We had previously put in a lot of effort to develop a weld for the Spyral blade to be used in continuous loop applications.”
Given their vast experience with systems like these, Bestway was able to provide Panafab with several recommendations within a few days after receiving the manufacturing details and running tests on the aluminum pieces. Within four months of the initial outreach, Panafab was producing 1,500-piece batches of the aluminum handle with a .050” Spyral blade making dimensionally-accurate simultaneous vertical and horizontal cuts in a single stoke.
“We’ve been working with this particular client for nearly 20 years,” say Panetta. “And they keep coming back because they thoroughly appreciate the quality of our work and ability to deliver on demand. This was a particularly tricky request that we fulfilled in an extremely timely fashion and with incredibly precise and cost-effective results. There’s no way this could have happened without Bestway.”
“This is what we do,” adds Gordon. “Regularly working with companies to develop unconventional solutions for unique applications is our specialty. There are times that the traditional blades used on existing bandsaws just won’t work. This application was perfect for us. They could have gone in other directions. But those systems would likely have costed hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce.”
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