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Farm Implement Dealer Uses Spectrum 625 Plasma Cutter to Minimize Dirty Power

America's Dairyland - also known as Wisconsin - is a state of scattered population centers connected by rolling farmland. Towns such as Embarrass, located in the north central region of the state, are numerous: small towns flanked on all sides by corn and cows. It's there you'll find Peterson Built Products, a dealer of tractors, skid steers and farm implements. Peterson Built Products is also an official distributor of farm equipment made by Peterson Manufacturing Corporation - both of them owned and operated by Bill Peterson since 1959.

Peterson Manufacturing uses Miller's Spectrum 625 plasma cutter to build farm equipment such as feeders for hay, straw and silage.

Located a mile out of town, Peterson Manufacturing fabricates feeders, trailers, harrows, buckets, manure spreaders and bale spears sold throughout the Midwest. Like any other shop "out in the country," Peterson Manufacturing experiences "dirty power" - sudden drops and fluctuations in voltage that can hamper the use of critical equipment, including plasma cutters. New plasma cutting technology from Miller Electric Mfg. Co. has given Peterson Manufacturing the power to combat these fluctuations and keep a steady production schedule.

Peterson Manufacturing

Peterson doesn't have the name recognition of a John Deere, but its products are looked upon as durable and of the highest quality.

"We build a good product," says Peterson. "We've been making feeders for 40 years. They last a long time, and when needed, people come back to buy more. We don't implement any fancy marketing, either. We've run the same ad with the same pictures for years. People call up and say, 'I like the second one on the left.' So we build them one and give it to them. We go to Farm Progress Days (farm trade show and expo) and talk to people who've had our feeders for 10 years and they're impressed. We really like what we're doing here."

With five employees, Peterson Manufacturing builds one feeder per day. Seen as the bread and butter of Peterson's production, these feeders are a portable trough of sorts, attaching to a truck or trailer for use on the farm and regularly serving hay, silage and straw. The main frame is formed by 6 channel mild steel, planked and sided by 2x6 treated lumber. Water pipes (1-in. diameter, 1/8-in. wall) form the downtubes while 3/16-in. angle iron forms the top railing. Sheets of 18-gauge galvanized sheet metal (2-ft. wide) form the v-shaped inserts running down the center. These components come into the shop uncut, meaning that Peterson Manufacturing gets a lot of use out of its shears, torches and plasma cutters.

Along with the ability to cut all electrically conductive metals, plasma cutting requires no preheating and provides faster turnaround times, a smaller heat-affected zone and greater portability than other cutting processes. Plasma cutters can cut materials up to 6-in. thick, but the majority of the market has shifted to inverter-sized plasma cutters that can cut up to 2-in. material.

Inverter technology, similar to that found in much of today's welding technology, is responsible for a reduction in the size of plasma cutters. This newer technology replaces conventional, transformer-based plasma cutters. Peterson uses plasma cutters to cut materials from 18 gauge through 1/2-in. - materials used on nearly every product they make.

Cutting Through the "Dirt"

Chris Suess of Peterson Manufacturing struggled because his 40-amp plasma cutter with a rated cut of 1/2-in. had difficulty cutting the various sizes of mild steel used to create Peterson's products. Its cutting arc would extinguish or not penetrate at all when being run off of the shop's outlets. Slag build-up on the backside of the cut would then need to be knocked off with a hammer. Besides aggravation, these problems add grinding and polishing time to the final piece, slowing production.

Normally, a machine of that size and rated output should have no problem cutting through materials up to 1/2 in. But it did, largely due to the power fluctuations coming from the pole barn's electrical outlets.

Peterson Manufacturing became a test-site for the Spectrum 625 plasma cutter from Miller Electric. Impressed with the machine's performance and ability, Peterson bought its own unit when the test period was over. Used on a daily basis, this 40-amp plasma cutter with a rated cut of 1/2 in. can also produce quality cuts on 5/8-in. mild steel. Featuring LVC line voltage compensation technology, the Spectrum 625 ensures a steady arc and manages input power anywhere from 176 to 264 volts - something Peterson's previous plasma cutter couldn't match.

"This new machine took care of the voltage fluctuations," says Suess. "And it cuts a lot smoother - everything we've tried cutting has run a lot smoother."

As an example, Peterson cuts 1/4-in. mild steel caps to cap off piping used to support the 6-channel steel used on the feeders. A string of caps that took 10 minutes now takes five, thanks to the steady arc - and without the cleanup involved with the older machine. Consumable life is improved through a pilot arc controller that extends tip life by boosting pilot current only when needed for a strong arc transfer.

This helps Peterson on its wide variety of materials, whether it's 1/8-in. thick water pipe for one of its feeders or 1/4-in. mild steel for a skid steer bucket. Suess estimates that for every 10 tips changed on the older machine, he's only had to change three with the new one.

Features and Benefits

Other features that assist Peterson Manufacturing in its day-to-day use of a plasma cutter include Wind Tunnel Technology, power factor correction and Fan-On-Demand. Wind Tunnel Technology, a Miller exclusive, prevents abrasive dust and particles from damaging internal components by blowing them through a tunnel that runs down the center of the machine. Sensitive electronic components are isolated on the other side of the tunnel wall. Power factor correction allows plasma cutters to draw less amperage while not sacrificing cutting abilities. This helps save on utility bills and minimizes the effect of voltage drops when plugged into shop outlets. Fan-on-Demand reduces the amount of airborne particles that can hamper a machine's performance by running the cooling system only when needed.

The Spectrum 625 plasma cutter features Wind Tunnel Technology and Fan-On-Demand (notice the cooling fan on the back of the machine) to prevent dust particles from damaging components.

"We haven't had any problems of any sorts, even with the demo unit," says Dave Robertson, Peterson Manufacturing. "It's a whole world of difference (compared to the unit we used in the past)."

A Clean Cut - And Progress

Plasma cutters are an integral part of the production process in any fabrication shop. Whether you're building cars or feeders and trailers for farm use, steel is steel. Shops in rural and urban areas that experience voltage fluctuations can't move their operations to ensure power consistency, so using a machine that can regulate that fluctuating input power is critical. Peterson Manufacturing recognized this problem with its old plasma cutter and was wise enough to address it with new technology providing clean, fast cuts and enduring performance.

"My guys are using that Spectrum 625, and they're liking it," says Peterson. "And it's not the same day in and day out. They're using it on a variety of things, so it's good to have a consistent tool like that."

For more information about the Spectrum 625 plasma cutter, visit MillerWelds.com or call 1-800-4-A-MILLER.

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