ThermoEnergy needed a robust yet flexible solution allowing them to increase business opportunities and customization
Since 2005, ThermoEnergy Systems Inc. has been providing complete turnkey systems for the greenhouse industry covering everything from the ground up. "We offer full service solutions for greenhouses including supply and install of greenhouse heating and cooling systems, irrigation systems, CO2 systems, hot water storage tanks, boiler install and service, greenhouse carts and fabrication of greenhouse structures," stated Dave Loewen. Each of their greenhouse solutions are custom designed to fit their customer’s needs.
Many of the growing environments provide produce in Ontario and neighbouring regions, but the company’s market reach doesn’t stop there. “We are working on a three-phase project in Ohio,” said David Loewen. His official title is estimator, but he is heavily involved with sales and assists with shop floor production flow as needed. “When completed, the 100-acre Ohio project will grow a variety of vegetables and fruits under glass year-round.”
Loewen explained the complexity of today’s greenhouses. “A greenhouse is a giant computer. Whether the vents should be closed or how much they should be opened, if the shade curtains should be down to protect the crops from too much sun or to retain heat, or how much heat needs to be pushed in is all automatically calculated and adjusted. Sensors feed information on the heat and humidity both outside and inside the greenhouse to the computer and it adjusts the various systems to create an optimal growing environment based on climate data built into the software.”
Previously ThermoEnergy was using mechanical punches and dies for their structural beams and tubes needs. Lowened explained, "The mechanical punches could only do so much when it came down to the customization of building greenhouses". ThermoEnergy needed a solution that allowed for more flexibility with designing instead of buying more dies and punches. They also had a three man team to perform the tube and pipe cutting which was much more physical labor than necessary.
ThermoEnergy went with the Mazak FABRI GEAR 400 because of the accuracy, robustness, and flexibility. The FABRI GEAR 400 offers 3D flexibility, rugged construction and precision performance for tube and structural applications.
Prior to adding the tube laser, the company had a three-man team cut the tube, pipe, and structural shapes to length. They used mechanical presses with punches and dies that were designed in-house to make the thousands of fastener and access holes required for the various systems and assembly of each greenhouse. The process was time-consuming, and deformation caused by the punching limited design capabilities.
Mark Duczman, design manager, said, “We used to manually punch the openings needed for the structures. We were forced to design based on the tooling available unless we chose to invest in more punches and dies. That limited us in the size and shape of the openings we could achieve.
“The deformation that happened during the punching process was a problem. When the tube or pipe was deformed, it would limit where certain features, particularly those inside of the structure, could be placed. With the laser we don’t have that deformation occurring so we’re not limited to size or placement of the features. We can make certain components fit inside the profiles where they couldn’t fit before. The liberties it gives for design are limitless.”
ThermoEnergy is now able to change their designs and installations more easily which saves them time and in turn money. "The FABRI GEAR’s flexibility has allowed us to think of any design and we are able to create it" stated Loewen. This has allowed them more business opportunities because the vast range of materials and thicknesses that the FABRI GEAR 400 is able to cut.
Loewen further explained, "Because the FABRI GEAR is so precise, we have less to worry about during the assembly and installation process".
ThermoEnergy has been able to make their tube and pipe process a one man job, cutting the processing by two-thirds. “I was heavily involved with acquiring the tube laser because it made so much sense from a costing point of view,” said Loewen. “Anything that can reduce labor costs and material processing costs is a huge benefit to the company because we use so much steel.”
Full article written by Sue Roberts and published in the November issue of Canadian Fabricating and Welding.