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How Spiraling is Changing the CAD/CAM Industry – Interview with Mestek Machinery

In this interview, Michael Bailey, VP of Sales, and Bryan Timmerman, VP of Sales & Spiral Product Development at Mestek Machinery, discuss the relationship between spiraling machinery and software, and how it’s changing the CAD/CAM industry.


Who is Mestek Machinery?

Mestek Machinery is leading the industry in designing and manufacturing the most complete, productive, and innovative metal-forming solutions for the fabrication of HVAC sheet metal ductwork and fittings. Their family of companies includes innovators with decades of experience, addressing every aspect of the HVAC duct industry. The result? Hundreds of years of combined experience that works to develop the most cutting-edge, precise technologies and automated manufacturing equipment, saving sheet metal contractors and fabricators time, money, and labor. This ensures a finished duct product that resonates both reputation and quality.

In this interview with Mike Bailey and Bryan Timmerman, we discuss the machine capability of downloading to coil lines (rectangular ductwork) and tubeformers (spiral ductwork), and the benefit of this advancement in the CAD/CAM industry. We’ll focus on the software value of this machine download capability in the Spiral Duct Fitting Machines and what it does for the productivity of fabricating ductwork.


Bryan and Michael, could you please share your backgrounds and describe how you got involved in the industry?

Bryan: I’ve been in the spiral industry for about 20 years. I started my own company, ISM Machinery and sold it to Mestek approximately five years ago. So I’ve just been in sales and product development and running one of those shops for Mestek for them for the last five years.

Michael: I’ve been in and around the product line for about 22 years. Ten of those years was distribution, and the last 12 of those was manufacturing.


Bryan, when you started working on the spiral duct fitting machinery, what was the problem you were trying to solve?

Bryan: In the spiral machine world, there’s not a lot of variables to enter into the machine other than primarily the size of forming the head, size/diameter of the pipe, length and the quantity. A lot of people had been asking to download from their office into the spiral machine. So, with the assistance of Trimble, we switched to a B&R controller, and we were able to now give Trimble FabShop users the ability to download into the system. Other users can also do it via CSV file.


Can you talk a little more about how the problem of customers not being able to download from their office was solved in both the spiral duct fitting machinery and software?

Bryan: On the machinery side, not being able to download was simply solved by switching the controller to a B&R controller. We switched the whole PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) and HMI (Human Machine Interface) out. As far as the software, Trimble focused a lot on the automation; being able to see the project through from start to finish. It helped solve a lot of the problems by using a CAM software to manage the entire project as it runs through the shop and communicates with each of the applications.


So the big benefit of the relationship between the machine and the software is that automation piece?

Bryan: Oh, absolutely.

Michael: You know, when you look at the industry, for quite a while now, they’ve been starving for greater output and less input; less chance for human error. And that’s what the control download software does. One point of entry allows you to download a job to not only the spiral machine, but the coil lines, and plasma cutter. It keeps the workers from having to be in control and inputting that job, which will yield you better optimization of material as well.

“When you look at the industry, for quite a while now, they’ve been starving for greater output and less input; less chance of human error. And that’s what the control download software does.”

-- Michael Bailey, VP Sales, Mestek Machinery


Michael, you’ve been in the industry for quite some time now. Can you walk us through the evolution of HVAC duct forming technology and ductwork machines, and how you’ve seen it advance over the years?

Michael: Well, a lot of the changes are due to BIM. And a lot is due to coordinated drawings...the ability to take a drawing or an as-built drawing and convert that into a shop drawing. And from a shop drawing download through the software into the machine itself. We produced coil line downloads somewhere in the 90s for a customer in Texas. That’s kind of where it started and how it grew from there. Every owner wants to reduce labor cost and they want to optimize material cost as well. This is the best way to do it when it comes to less input, greater output, and less chance of human error.


How have people been responding to this new HVAC duct forming technology?

Michael: From what I’ve seen, everybody’s trying to take advantage of new duct forming tech and the ductwork machines. People have been responding to it well. Once they know what it is and you explain it and how it works, they want it. For every new deal that we work on when it comes to a coil line, they already have a plasma cutter, and maybe even a spiral machine now. They buy into the technology and even look for the opportunity to do so.


Do you find that there’s a lot of education involved when you’re explaining the automated ductwork manufacturing system?

Michael: A lot of people can understand it. If the system works as we explain it and the owners see results that are saving cost and materials, they’re on board.

Bryan: The main reason I’ve found is that they want to take the input error out of the operator’s hands, and it’s become more efficient just sending it directly from the office into the shop floor, onto the machine.


Is there any differentiator between this particular spiral ductwork system and similar technologies?

Michael: As a differentiator for CAM, Trimble FabShop provides you a lot more features. It optimizes material better than most CAM software, it’s user-friendly, and with Trimble and the acquisitions over the years with SysQue and the old duct designer, we continue to add more features and make it a better product every year.


What advancements do you anticipate for spiral duct fitting machines and software in the future, if any?

Michael: People think that one day people will be able to scan a drawing. I’m not sure exactly what type of technology this will be,  but I think that one day people will be able to do it. That’s coming from some of the field requests we’ve gotten from time to time.

Another trend in the industry- a lot of the bigger contractors today are trying to control labor. A big way to do this is in the shop, not always in the field. So in order to do that, they’re trying to manifold ductwork in the shop, more today than they ever have. You put two or three sections together, you cut in your taps, access doors, whatever you need, install them at the shop, seal them up, and deliver the product. All they have to do is hang it. The manifolding of ductwork is a big trend in an industry right now, which leads to this entire conversation.


So what does the future of fabrication hold when it comes to HVAC duct fitting machines and CAD/CAM software? With the constant need to deliver components faster and more efficiently, we’ll continue to see advancements in these manufacturing systems over the next few years. New spiral duct fitting machine and software features will focus on improving speed, precision, efficiency, and repeatability, perhaps even making way for the ability to scan drawings in the future.


What do you think is the next step towards optimizing overall performance in CAM? Leave your comments in the space below.