Volume 3 | Issue 6 | Year 2000

A company that cut its teeth in the ironworker manufacturing field, Piranha is a proud USA manufacturer of metal fabrication equipment.

It can do everything but slice and dice. That’s Rob Green’s description of the Piranha Ironworker, a diverse machine developed for the metal fabricator. Green extends the metaphor by adding, “It’s the Swiss army knife for the metal fabrication business – it can punch, bend, shear, notch.”

What makes Piranha’s machines different from the competitors’ is the design: Piranha’s offers more features and is more durable. “Our ironworkers are the heaviest, fastest and most durable on the market,” says Green, vice president and general manager. Most ironworkers, he explains, last eight to 10 years, but Green knows of some Piranha ironworkers still going strong after 20 years. “They hold their value,” he adds. “They’re known as the Cadillac of ironworkers.”

The $40 million company – with two plants in Hutchinson, Kan., measuring a total of 150,000 square feet – was founded in 1973 by Bob Brown and Harry Oswald. The pair, says Green, had their own structural fabrication business, and decided that the mechanical ironworker they owned wasn’t “user-friendly” so they set about to build a hydraulic version.

Their original ironworker was the single-operator P-50, still the single most popular ironworker manufactured in America. “One of the strengths of the P-50 is that parts developed in 1973 when the machine first was introduced will fit into the same machines being built 27 years later,” Green says. “That speaks to the quality of the design and the durability of the machine.”

The company, a division of Mega Manufacturing, has expanded its product base through the years to include press brakes and shears and bending rolls. All machines offer the highest quality and the most in the way of standard features of any machines built in the world. Their market reach extends from small mom-and- pop businesses to many of the Fortune 100 companies.

“We’re target-market oriented,” Green adds. “Our growth and success can be credited to our sales management within that target market. Our primary market has always been the metal fabrication shops, from small to large and the big OEM manufacturers – virtually anyone who works with ‘black iron.’ Anyone with a maintenance shop needs an ironworker. We have Piranhas in Jack Daniels distilleries, the Big Three automobile plants and in most of the aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy. As we have expanded our product offering to press brakes, shears and bending rolls, we have expanded our target to manufacturers dealing with all types of sheet metal, plate, and structural sections.

Prime Cuts

The core of Piranha’s line of quality ironworker machinery is the Single Operator Ironworker line, available in 36-, 50-, 70- and 90-ton models. The P-36 is competitively priced, yet has standard features that are options on other ironworkers. It is easily the most durable of all ironworkers in the 30- to 40-ton range.

The P-50, the granddaddy of Piranha’s product offering, is considered the heart of the line. Its design addresses most of the needs of any fabricator or maintenance shop, and is considered the “one machine to have.” It provides precision punching, bending, bar shearing (round, square and flat), and angle iron shearing. It also has what is considered the most user friendly notcher in the market.

The P-70 puts more power and more precision on the job, and the P-90 has enough capacity to handle nearly any job. All of these models have high-speed, load-sensing hydraulic systems that always match hydraulic power to the job requirement whether light or heavy shearing, punching low- or high-tonnage holes, or bending up to capacity. In addition, all of these have the automatic urethane hold-downs throughout the shear sections. This, plus the low rake angles, ensures precise cuts. The urethane punch stripper provides for minimal deformation to the work piece and longer lives for punches and dies.

Piranha’s single-end punch presses range from 35 to 140 tons, and are adaptable to an unlimited variety of special applications. Standard features include electric punch controls with a remote foot switch for smooth, precise operation. Most models are available with the famous urethane stripper punch assembly as an option. The 120-ton punch is touted as the most “cost-effective 120-ton single-end punch manufactured in America.” It also features a 21.5-inch throat that allows the use of a wide range of tooling accessories. The line features large open throats and up to 7 inches of true vertical stroke, capable of accommodating all kinds of tooling.

Dual-operator ironworkers, from 35- to 140-ton models, finish out the line. They offer the advantages of independent punch and shear controls (allowing two operators to work both ends of the machine at the same time), in addition to a large open punching station that allows the use of a wide variety of tooling. The entire line features low-rake, flat-bar knives that minimize distortion. The PII-35 is a complete five-station fabrication center with dual-operator controls for the punch station and shear/coper stations. A large open punch station allows the use of an unlimited range of optional equipment and special tooling. Models PII-65, PII-88, PII-110 and PII-140 all have automatic three-position urethane hold-downs on the plate, angle and round/square bar shear stations. Both ends of the machine can be operated independently of each other. They have
dual-operator electric controls for the punch station and shear/coper stations.

Applying the Brakes

Because 80 percent of Piranha’s customers also use press brakes, in the last three years, Piranha has concentrated on offering and expanding its line of press brakes. “We’ve narrowed the market to larger fabrication shops, heavy metal, heavy fabrication shops and sheet metal OEMs,” Green says. “They’ll cut any kind or any shape of metal, they have tools to punch holes and they bend and cut a wide variety of shapes and sizes,” he says.

Piranha’s hydromechanical design uniquely fits this wide range of applications. With the ability to achieve full tonnage anywhere on the bed, fully gibbed parallel movement of the ram and excellent ram repeatability, the Piranha press brake is well suited to capture a significant share of the market.

Piranha’s full hydraulic CNC shears offer a guillotine design with adjustable non-metallic gibs for blade alignment. The hydro-mechanical maxi shears have a single cylinder linkage system allowing constant parallel alignment of beam through shearing movement. All pivot points are lined with maintenance-free Fiberglide® bushings, providing high load capacity and low friction.

Piranha continues its manufacturing of the best ironworkers in the field through internal expansion, a distribution network that extends into Europe – particularly England – and Australia and through the loyalty of existing customers.

Presently, Piranha has just finished an addition onto its Hutchinson facility of 72,000 square feet, the result of a $5.5 million plan that was part of a three-phase expansion. Phase two will involve a second facility to be build adjacent this one and phase three will consist of offices, showroom and training facility. But what keeps the company turning out better ironworkers is the eternal loyalty of longtime customers. “We’re most proud of our ability to get into new products. We’re very reliant on customer loyalty; we’re selling to the same people we’ve sold to for 25 years,” John Doswell, general sales manager, says. “I am amazed at the number of people that walk up to us at machine tool shows and say things like ‘It’s the best machine I ever purchased,’ or ‘That Piranha has paid for itself hundreds of times.’”

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