A Niche For Notches

Holly Snyder demonstrates his tube nothing machine at Medford Tool. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie LuschJamie Lusch

A Murphy fabricator has cut an hour from the time he spends creating bumpers for off-road Jeeps with an improved tube notching device developed by a Medford businessman.

"You probably knock an hour off, say, eight hours to build a bumper," said Tree Simonson of RPM Diesel. "There's about 10 or 12 notch cuts per bumper. It cuts down on the weld time also because it's a lot more precise."

Patents are pending on the SYNC Notching System, a trademarked tool that Holly Snyder, president and owner of Medford Tools, developed when his usual supply of notching devices temporarily dried up. He realized he could improve the concept as his firm developed its own version.

Tubes are welded for a variety of uses, including snow sports rail parks, bike frames, race car roll cages and other products requiring multiple tubes.

"It's not the first notcher in the world," said Snyder. "It actually came about because other notchers always have a lot of limitations. We devised the SYNC Notcher 180 to make a more user-friendly version."

A round tube that is welded to another round tube in a structure needs to have its end notched so that it conforms to the surface of the first tube. Tubes that span spaces in a structure need to be notched twice.

Notches are made with a hole saw, a round blade attached to a drill that cuts into the metal. On extreme angles, the hole saw will "bottom out" when it reaches the extent of its length, leaving a partially uncut piece.

The SYNC Notcher has a swiveling arm attached to the base that allows for 180-degree rotation so that the piece can be cut completely while it remains in place in the device's jaws.

"What improved everything is the fact that you can spin it around 180 degrees if you can't finish a cut," said Simonson. "Previously you used a plasma cutter or a Sawzall (a reciprocating saw) and a lot of grinding to finish a cut."

Larger gaps also take longer to weld and many fabricators and their customers don't like the appearance of excess material at joints, said Snyder.

Snyder and his firm spent a year developing the tool after they started in 2007. The units weigh 36 pounds with base plates constructed of nickle-plated steel and holding jaws made of aluminum. They measure about 10-by-10 inches without the swiveling arm.

"We actually destroyed a few prototypes," said Snyder. "A real key to notching is that you have to have the tube really secure and steady."

A complete system sells for $699. Other less sophisticated notching devices sell for $200 to $300. Large-scale production milling equipment that will notch is available for $3,000 to $7,000, said Snyder.

The firm also offers software that can determine how long to cut pieces that span between other tubes after angle measurement and other statistics are input. The precise measurements result in fewer errors and less material being used versus a cut-and-fit approach.

"We like to think in the long run you are going to save money because you waste less material and the hole saws last longer and it makes fabing (fabricating) life a little easier," said Snyder.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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