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Market Report: Sawing & Cutting

Silence is golden

Phil Mist gives his hands-on assessment of the latest Norton cutting products designed to reduce levels of noise and vibration.

The Stafford factory of Saint-Gobain Abrasives, one of whose brands is the diamond blade and machinery manufacturer, Norton, was originally known as the Universal Grinding Wheel Company. It was later renamed Unicorn Abrasives, and was subsequently purchased by Saint-Gobain. A recent visit to the operation gave an opportunity to see changes that have taken place in product development and manufacturing techniques.

At one time in the Universal operation, virtually everything was done by hand, by a workforce of more than 500. Production techniques have now been streamlined and much of the work is carried out by computer controlled robotic machines offering higher productivity. As with other manufacturers, Saint-Gobain’s Stafford plant now produces a reduced range of grinding wheels, principally for the heavy engineering industry, and their overall quality is higher than ever before.

Visiting the factory also enabled me to conduct a hands-on test on the new Norton Silencio diamond blade, which was officially unveiled at the Executive Hire Show. As its name suggests, it is designed to give decreased levels of noise, thereby improving working conditions for users and bystanders.
In theory, highly efficient operation will create three problems: dust, noise, and possible exposure to HAV. Dust can be dampened down by using water during some cutting operations, while HAV can be reduced by design improvements in the machine driving the blade. Noise, however, has been virtually unmanageable, until now.

Merely rotating a circular saw blade, bonded abrasive wheel or a diamond blade at high speed generates some kind of noise, each of which is different. All are not only irritating, but also pose a danger to operators’ hearing. Circular saw blades and diamond blades generate a metallic noise, caused by vibration within the blades themselves. In addition, a high-pitched whistle is created. It is possible to reduce the latter on many circular saw blades by inserting copper plugs into the keyholes present in them, but this does not work on diamond blades, and a different solution is required. It is worth pointing out that hearing protection is mandatory in the workplace when noise emissions exceed 85d(B)A. However, many operators still seem unwilling to wear appropriate protective equipment, and so any steps that manufacturers take to reduce noise at source could have significant impact.

Saint-Gobain’s approach is to join two steel centres together, using a technique that is being kept closely under wraps. The tests carried out under EHN’s supervision involved using a diamond blade, designed for cutting concrete on a Norton C99 walk-behind floor saw, and then a blade for cutting granite on a masonry tile saw, to set a benchmark. Noise emissions were measured at a distance of no more than 1m from the blades. The tests were repeated using a single Silencio blade on both machines. On the walk-behind saw, the reduction in noise was just over 40%, while on the masonry saw there was a decrease of almost 60%. These are remarkable results from genuine tests designed to simulate construction site usage. Also, as Saint-Gobain points out, the Silencio is suitable for use sensitive locations such as city centres, schools and hospitals.

The manufacturer has also launched two new saws. The CS451 Clipper walk-behind floor saw will eventually replace the popular C99, while the other new introduction is the CM41 Compact masonry saw. Both incorporate improvements to reduce noise (further improving the overall performance of a Silencio blade and machine combination), and to decrease vibration at the handles, as well as improvements in cutting performance. The CM41 Compact also weighs less than its predecessor.

Today, producing machines and accessories for the construction and tool hire industries requires an awareness that customers demand products that improve operator safety and comfort, without compromising performance. Silence is undoubtedly golden, and Saint-Gobain appears committed to manufacturing products that help create a better and safer workplace.

T 01785 279550
W www.construction.norton.eu

Executive Hire NewsArchivesJune 2008Market Report › Silence is golden

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