Rail cutting lays tracks for innovative saw

Rail cutting lays tracks for innovative saw

A new saw cuts through tough materials such as titanium, Waspaloy, and Inconel faster than most conventional methods. The key to the saw's speed is its special cutting action: the machine feeds horizontally and oscillates vertically. It also cuts dry.

The Del-Saw feeds horizontally and oscillates vertically to quickly cut through such materials as titanium, Waspaloy, and Inconel.

One of the original Del-Saws still cuts railroad rail at Midwest Rail.


A new saw cuts through tough materials such as titanium, Waspaloy, and Inconel faster than most conventional methods. The key to the saw's speed is its special cutting action: the machine feeds horizontally and oscillates vertically. It also cuts dry.

Called the Del-Saw, the machine is the brainchild of Delmar Lanzer, CEO and executive plant engineer at Midwest Rail Inc. of Fort Wayne, Ind. The saw originated from a need to cut railroad rail without overheating the material or changing its molecular structure. Lanzer built the first version in the 1970s and later patented an updated version, called the model 2040-M.

In test cuts, the Del-Saw walked through a 12.500-in. piece of titanium in a little over 10 min, a 13.750-in. billet of Waspaloy in 9.5 min, and 6-in.-diameter section of stainless steel in 30 sec. On all these materials, the saw left polished-like cut surfaces that were clean and square.

According to Lanzer, the saw enters and exits the cut quickly, and the blade dissipates heat away from the cut point in a stream of sparks. "The saw doesn't stay in one place long enough to heat the material," he adds.

When cutting hard high-carbon steel railroad rails, for instance, the operation lasts only 26 sec, and temperatures at blade contact remain well under 200°. Cut pieces are almost immediately cool enough to touch with bare hands.

Keeping workpieces cool is especially crucial when cutting titanium, says Lanzer, because it's a magnesium-based material that actually catches fire when overheated.

Cuts on the saw are square to within 0.010 in., and machine vibration during operation is basically nonexistent because of the saw's rigid design. "Nothing dampens vibration better than bulk," says Lanzer. That's why the saw has a solid-steel-plate construction and weighs approximately 25,000 lb. "This weight," adds Michael Mettler, project manager, "keeps the saw from deviating in any direction, makes for a square cut, and eliminates the need to clamp the unit down." The saw is counterbalanced and pivots 360° to cut in any direction. Spacers inserted into the pivot bearing of the saw let users match its height to the cut.

Besides the 2040-M, there's a model 2060-M. Where the 2040-M has a 125-hp motor and a 4-ft-diameter abrasive-wheel blade, the 2060-M has a 250-hp wheel-drive motor and accommodates a 60-in. blade. Both machines mechanically oscillate a maximum of 1 /4 in. and feed in hydraulically. The machines are 152-in. long, 55-in. wide, and 78-in. high and are constructed from off-the-shelf components for easy maintenance.

Currently, Del-Saw Inc., the name the saws are marketed under, is in the final stages of producing an attachment that will let users switch from abrasive to steel blades for operating the saw as a cold-cutting steel unit. The company is also working with control suppliers to upgrade and offer variations of the saw's current control.

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