Cordless Tube Saw Delivers Precision Cuts for High Purity Pharmaceutical Applications

9 mins read

Reimagining conventional tube saw design has led to an innovative, cordless model that cuts the widest range of piping and tubing sizes and materials with greater precision, efficiency, and longevity.

The pharmaceutical industry requires extensive piping and tubing systems to maintain stringent quality and regulatory standards. These specialized systems are designed to ensure the purity of critical fluids, such as pharmaceutical-grade water, raw materials, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), gases, and air within pharmaceutical facilities.

Given the critical role in the product process, high-purity piping systems are constructed from materials like stainless steel and are designed to resist corrosion, maintain material integrity, minimize extractable and leachable, and facilitate easy cleaning and sanitization. 

To install or replace this piping and tubing, the pharmaceutical industry’s mechanical contractors often utilize tube saws to cut the materials to length prior to welding. However, ensuring the maintenance of liquids and gases at a high level of purity, or even achieving an ultra-high level of purity, presents a significant challenge for this sector. This means any cuts in the piping or tubing need to be extremely precise, square, and free of contaminants such as tiny metal fragments. 

Unfortunately, typical tube saws often are not engineered to make such precise cuts reliably, “particularly given the variations in pipe and tube sizes, wall thicknesses, and exotic material types from industry to industry,” says Chris Belle, CEO of Tri Tool Technologies. Founded in 1972, Tri Tool Technologies is a leading provider of machining tools, custom machining solutions, and on-site services for the pharmaceutical, aerospace, defense, power generation, oil and gas, and life sciences industries. 

To service more than one industry, mechanical contractors frequently must procure multiple tube saws to cut piping and tubing of different sizes and types, increasing installation costs and complexity. Moreover, this equipment traditionally requires replacement in less than a year with regular use, further contributing to expenses.

Fortunately, recent advancements in the industry address many of these challenges while meeting the requirements for high and ultra-purity applications. A meticulous engineering approach has developed tube saws that ensure consistent, accurate, and precise cutting of a wide range of pipe and tubing sizes and materials. 

Additionally, incorporating a cordless design has enhanced versatility, enabling cutting in locations without access to a power source. Moreover, to minimize capital expenses, a new tube saw is available in the market that is designed to withstand demanding environments, eliminating the need for premature replacement, and ensuring long-lasting performance.

Reengineering Traditional Tube Saw Design

With a view into the needs of sectors like the pharmaceutical industry, Belle of Tri Tool considered what could be done to increase conventional tube saw design’s precision, reliability, and longevity.

Although the OEM has traditionally focused on higher-end, custom machining tool applications, Belle directed the company’s engineers to design a tube saw that could reliably make precision cuts for the widest range of markets.

The Tube Saw was engineered with the aim of eliminating weak points in conventional designs and was based on feedback from customers and mechanical contractors. The result is a table- or pipe stand-mountable OD clamping tube saw with a self-centering clamping system that ensures precise, square cuts. The jaws clamp securely to the cut material and self-lock to prevent loosening. Jaw extensions snap into place to hold smaller materials.

To promote accuracy, an integrated laser line indicates the center of the cut on the tube and thin wall pipe. To facilitate precision, the saw passes around the perimeter of the material to be cut after the plunge cut. A feed handle prevents the operator from overrunning the cut, yet provides smooth control. The design of the cutting head creates a square cut with a high-quality surface finish.

In considering the market’s needs, Belle also saw a demand for greater versatility.

“Most tube saw manufacturers focus on high purity and sanitary piping, primarily thin wall tubing. For applications that require cutting thicker wall tubing and piping or exotic materials like Inconel®, which is common in aerospace, you generally need a second machine. So, there was a market need for a more versatile tube saw,” says Belle.

The newly designed tube saw can cut a wide range of tubes and pipes, ranging from 1/4″ to 6″ OD and 1/8″ to 6″ ID respectively. Its capabilities include precision cutting of thin wall stainless steel within the range of .035″ to .150″ (schedule 10 pipe), as well as the ability to handle challenging materials like titanium and Inconel ®.

The saw comes with different blade options to enhance productivity when cutting various materials. Assorted blade diameters and tooth counts are available for different wall thicknesses and materials. 

The machine increases productivity by enabling quick diameter changes without the need for tools, and it can make cuts in a single pass. The advanced tube saw demonstrates superior performance in cutting thin walls, including specialized metals such as titanium tubing, which is often brittle. 

“The clamping force, plunge cut, and radial cut are very important when it comes to cutting titanium to length,” says Belle. “You don’t want it to tear as you are cutting.”

To give mechanical contractors the freedom to use The Tube Saw anywhere, the machine is designed for use with a cordless motor but can be used with a corded motor as well. Ambidextrous interfaces provide the capability to reconfigure the tool on either side of the machine, accommodating both left-handed and right-handed users. This can also facilitate the placement of The Tube Saw in tight spaces or against a wall. 

A prevalent issue encountered with conventional tube saws is that their design leaves crucial components, such as bearings, susceptible to the fine metal particles that detach from pipes and tubes during the cutting process. The presence of even the tiniest metal fragments in the bearings reduces accuracy and performance and results in abrasive wear and damage. In some industrial environments, traditional tube saws are essentially deemed disposable in six to nine months due to the ingress of metal particles into the bearings during cutting operations.

As a preventive measure, the new tube saw design incorporates sealed precision bearings to ensure smooth, accurate cuts over years of use. A variable speed motor provides cutting speed control for long blade life and material finish to increase longevity. Hard anodized coatings throughout the machine components provide corrosion protection and robustness for harsh environments.

In today’s high-pressure industrial landscape, precision tube and thin wall pipe cutting are crucial in various sectors such as pharmaceutical manufacturing. For this industry, as well as the mechanical contractors that install high-purity pipe and tube, using a meticulously engineered tube saw that offers enhanced precision, reliability, flexibility, and longevity can significantly enhance quality and productivity.

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