Champagne Metals is a privately held, family owned metal service center headquartered in Glenpool, OK, specializing in aluminum distribution and coil processing. The company sets itself apart from other service centers and processors through continuous investment in state-of-the-art coil processing equipment with the aim of exceeding performance expectations for their customers. Most recently, the company has commissioned a 111 inch leveling and cut-to-length line in its newly enlarged Middlebury, IN, facility to satisfy the ever growing demand for surface critical aluminum sheet material from the marine, commercial transportation, consumer electronics, and appliance industries. The new aluminum leveling line is one of the widest such lines in North America, but the only one of this width with the versatility to trim, finish, and process coil underwind for customers’ demanding needs, including greater return on existing metal.
Champagne Metals is a distributor of a wide range of bare and painted aluminum products, including coil, sheet, plate, and shapes—primarily serving the liquid and dry bulk tank trailer, grain and livestock trailer, dump body trailer, truck body, walk-in van, and pleasure/pontoon boat markets. Strategically located in the heart of the U.S., the company has three facilities in Glenpool, OK (200,000 sq ft); Middlebury, IN (160,000 sq ft); and Lebanon, MO (50,000 sq ft), with a total of seven finishing lines. The company provides coil processing for material from its own inventory as well as aluminum coil toll processing for major aluminum mills, OEMs, and other service centers. The company’s coil stock includes 3xxx, 5xxx, and 6xxx aluminum alloys in gauges ranging from 0.024–0.375 inches and widths from 23.25–111 inches. The company is ISO 9001:2008 certified.
They have a history of actively pursuing equipment expansion projects in order to ensure they have the most advanced equipment available in order to serve its customers’ needs. “Champagne Metals has a reputation of taking on big projects when others are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what might happen with the economy,” said Mike Champagne, president and ceo of Champagne Metals. “In 2008, when the country was facing one of its worst economic times, we added our state-of-the-art 100 inch line in Glenpool.”
New Coil Processing Line
After serving customers in the Indiana area from its Glenpool location for many years, Champagne Metals decided to make a long-term commitment to the state by building a facility in Middlebury. The 80,000 sq ft facility completed in May 2013 includes an 80 inch leveling and cut-to-length line, a 60 inch leveler and slear, and a 60 inch coil-to-coil slitter. “Geographically, Indiana is strategically located to be closer to our customers in the Midwest and Canada, as well as several aluminum mills,” said Mike Champagne. “This region needed the type of coil processing equipment and customer service that we are able to provide.”
The company further expanded their Indiana operations in March 2016 with the addition of another 80,000 sq ft and the installation of a fourth leveler and cut-to-length line, designed to provide the capability to process wider coil as well as high quality surface finishes. Manufactured and installed by Butech Bliss, the new line is the company’s largest and most advanced yet, providing the capability to process coil up to 111 inches wide.
“Butech Bliss was chosen because it is a privately held company and was able to provide all the components of the 111 line that we were looking for,” said Mike Champagne. “There are very few custom cut-to-length lines that can be produced from beginning to end by the same manufacturer. In addition, we were very impressed with the professionalism and attention to detail of the Butech Bliss team. They took our vision and made it a reality.”
The new line can process aluminum up to 0.375 inches thick, with 35,000 psi yield at a maximum line speed of 200 fpm (Table I). Entry equipment including coil car, uncoiler, hold down roll, peeler, and centering guides (Figure 1); a hydraulic crop shear with auto-gap adjustment; a 6-Hi hydraulic roller cassette leveler (Figure 2); a side trimmer; a direct drive flying shear for cutting the sheet to length; and a scrap chopper with conveyor system was installed on the line. The hydraulic leveler has 400 hp for leveling coils from 0.5 inches to 0.375 inches thick and has a quick change feature that allows the rolls to be easily removed for inspection, cleaning, and grinding. The reciprocating (or flying) shear is installed on a movable base (Figure 3), which allows the shear to match the material’s speed to accurately make each cut at the proper location. In this way, the process can be continuous without having to stop to make each cut. Further down the line an inspection table, a receiving table with conveyor, and sheet takeaway were installed, as well as a rotary stacker (a new technology for Butech Bliss) that provides smoother operation than many drop arm stackers.
The key features of the line, however, include the side trimmer that is able to trim up to 16 inches off the width of a coil and the line’s ability to underwind the coil—all of which aid Champagne Metals in meeting the needs of customers facing current industry challenges. “Part of the problem for a lot of users of aluminum right now is that they might have slow moving or perhaps obsolete inventory,” said Darren Hayes, coo of Champagne Metals, who explained that one of the primary attributes of the new line is its ability to trim 8 inches per side of every coil (or up to 16 inches total). For OEMs or aluminum mills that have coil they cannot use or sell, the trimming capabilities of the line provides an opportunity to trim the coil to a more usable or marketable size. For example, if a mill or an OEM has coil that’s just sitting on the shop floor for a year or more tying up their inventory, these companies can have the material trimmed down by up to 16 inches, providing them with a more desirable coil product. “We thought this would hit at a good time for the industry,” said Hayes. “It provides companies an option outside of just continuing to hold on to the material or scrapping it.”
Tied in with the trimming capabilities is the increased width capability that the finishing line provides. “Right now there’s not a lot of mills that can even produce as wide as 111 inches,” said Hayes, noting that many mills that can produce wider width coil may not have the capabilities down the line to trim and finish the material. For example, they may be able to produce 105 inch wide coil, but may only have 90 inch or less finishing lines. “We can finish the coil for them in a range wider than what they can produce at this current time,” said Hayes.
Another important feature of the new line is that it can switch from overwind payoff to underwind without making any changes to the set up—a capability not available on many other finishing lines. Generally, mills will wind a coil so that the prime (or best) side of the sheet is on the top side or facing away from the inner diameter of the coil. In cases where a mill might find that the prime side of the material is flawed or damaged, rather than scrapping the material, underwinding provides another option. “If they know there is a flaw on the prime side of the material but the other side is in good shape, then we can process that material with the underwind, which turns the coil over and runs it so that the bottom side becomes the prime side,” explained Hayes. “This allows them to use coils that they might not have been able to use before.” Another benefit of the underwinder is for OEMs that sometimes have processes in which the sheet needs to be flipped over, so that the bottom side is up before they can use it. In these cases, the underwinder provides efficiency and safety benefits, as the coil can be run through the line so that the correct side is up to start with, rather than the OEM having to flip the sheet.
Like all of Champagne Metals cut-to-length lines, the new 111 line is designed to enhance the clarity of the aluminum up to 60% (Figure 4), depending on the alloys and the finish. “A lot of our customers are getting more and more quality conscious,” said Hayes. “Whether it’s tankers or a pontoon boat, everyone consistently wants to give their products a better look to encourage their customers to buy from them. They want it to look as pristine as possible, regardless of the end-use that the product is going to have. With these increasing quality demands, the surface quality of the material has become more important than what it was even five to ten years ago. Accordingly, we can and do enhance the finish on the coils that mills produce. That is something that is very important to a lot of our customers, because they can get a brighter finish than their competition.”
This multi-million dollar investment solidifies Champagne Metals’ commitment to the aluminum service center market and the continued effort to deliver the high quality services that their customers have grown to expect. The new state-of-the-art leveler and cut-to-length line expands the company’s capabilities with the ability to process and trim wider sheet, while also providing high quality surfaces.
“Champagne Metals is always looking for the next new opportunity and initial planning for another expansion of the Indiana facility has begun,” said Mike Champagne. “Superior equipment, quality, service, and on-time delivery are the cornerstones of our business.”