There are several variables to take into account when estimating labor for curved steel projects. Machines for rolling can vary in design, but a standard machine often works off of a three roll process. Since architects and engineers may incorporate rolled material of different sizes and shapes, it is incredibly helpful to have a machine built that can handle multiple sizes of different pipes, angles, channels, and beams. To serve that purpose, the machines will usually function around the changing out of different rolling dies or tooling. This tooling needs to support and protect the rolled material well in order to prevent damage to the product. For this reason, you would have to use a different set of tooling and dies for rolling a 2 inch round steel tube versus a 2 inch square tube. The old adage “fitting a square peg into a round hole” comes to mind in these situations. If you want the job done right, use the proper tooling.
For this reason, when estimating the labor cost of rolling parts, machine setup time needs to be factored into the overall job costs. For example, let’s say the equipment was set up previously with the tooling to curve a 4 inch pipe, and now the operator needs to roll rectangular tubing the hardway. Before the operator even begins to roll the rectangular tubing, he must remove the pipe rolling dies. Then he can finally set the machine with the necessary tooling to roll the rectangular tubing.
After the first piece of rectangular tubing is rolled, the operator will need to examine the piece, check the radius and confirm accurate rolling has been achieved. Once that has been confirmed, all additional pieces can be rolled as needed, knowing that the machine is properly calibrated to produce the finished product. Initial setup labor is a key component of cost in small production run orders. If all you ever rolled on a machine was a single size of pipe or tube, you might not realize just how much time investment was needed to change from one design to another. This is one reason why the unit price of a small run of rolled material can be much higher than a bulk order. Experienced operators and project estimators will look for ways to combine setups and customize the rolling process so that as much downtime is eliminated as possible, leading to increased savings for their customers.