Cutting Massive Pipes with Wachs Cold Cutting Machine

Wachs Air Cutter Thumbnail by Wm. T. Spaeder


In the video above, we demonstrate how we used the Wachs Cold Cutting Machine (www.ehwachs.com) to cut 48” pipe for our 2020 Donjon Dry Dock Project on Lake Erie. The dry dock is used to build, repair, convert, dry dock, and repower ships. It is one of only two dry docks on the Great Lakes capable of docking 1,000 ft vessels. This project required the replacement of 20” and 48” discharge piping on four pumps in the dry dock. Steamfitters Apprentice Eric Holcomb talks about the overall pipe cutting process. *Social distancing as recommended by the CDC was practiced throughout the video’s creation.

What Are Cold Cutting Machines and Why Use Them?

Cold cutting machines, also called “air cutters,” have the ability to cut through pipe without using a flame or torch, i.e. hot cutting. There are many reasons for the development and use of this process. These include:

  1. No HAZ (Heat Affected Zone). HAZ can occur when pipes come in contact with high temperatures like those produced from acetylene torches.
  2. Prevents Warping. Heat can cause large diameter pipes like the one above to warp and lose their perfectly circular shape. Cold cutting prevents this from happening.
  3. No grinding necessary. While torch cutting tends to yield a faster cut, it also requires the newly cut edges to be ground down to be welded cleanly.
  4. Highly accurate edge. The Wachs Cold Cutting machine we used in the video above provides near perfect accuracy and can both cut and bevel at the same time, creating a perfectly machined edge that saves time when welding. On a 48” pipe like the one shown in the video, if the cut is as much as 1/8th of an inch off from top to bottom, it can throw the entire pipe assembly off.

Spaeder’s Experience with the Wachs Cold Cutting Machine

The Wachs Cold Cutting Machine utilizes a split frame rotating ring that fits around the pipe. When the ring rotates, it removes small amounts of material little by little until the cut is complete. It took us about an hour of setup time and an additional 30 minutes to perform the cut. While this may seem like a lot, we saved time by not needing to do additional weld prep later.

Once the pipes were cut, we completed the primary welding in our shop before sending them out to be painted. Some field welding was required on-site at the dry dock for final installation. Because large welds can take a long time, we used a technique called “brother-in-law” welding, where two welders both start at the bottom and work up the sides simultaneously.

Click to learn more about the Donjon Dry Dock Project.

To learn more about our services contact us here or call 814.456.7014.

3D Scans Expedite Complex Tasks for the New Erie Insurance Office Building

Faro Video Thumbnail


Wm. T. Spaeder Company completed an extensive amount of 3D scanning in our work for the new Erie Insurance Office Building in downtown Erie, PA. We were responsible for the complete mechanical and plumbing of which we designed, fabricated and installed. The scanning ensured that the miles and miles of complicated piping was fabricated and installed with precision so that our work meshed with the other trades involved.

In the above video, we discuss our process and how our workflow allowed us to tackle this complex project efficiently. We would like to thank FARO® and Hanley Wood for putting it together.

For more information, contact us here or call 814.456.7014 and ask to be directed to our VDC Department.

FARO Laser Scanner Streamlines BIM Workflow

Overhead Point Cloud of Iroquois High School

(Navisworks flythrough – point cloud & pipe modeling)

Project Scope:

Retrofit of existing 140,000 square foot facility with a chilled water system, including the installation of:

  • 4 Mitsubishi split systems in kitchen
  • 135 ton chiller with pumps
  • Approx. 1000 L.F. of pipe
  • 40 ton split system with refrigerant piping

The Challenge:

The original drawings were no longer in existence, and the Spaeder team did not have access to accurately measured models, building plans, or pre-existing architectural drawings. Even if they did, the school had undergone a number of renovations and space changes since it was built. Because the job encompassed a massive footprint, accurate measurements and drawings were required for a proper retrofit. This is where 3D scanning technologies and the use of the FARO Focus 3D Scanner helped to expedite the process quickly and efficiently.

How Does 3D Scanning Work?

The FARO Focus 3D Scanner uses a rotating laser which bounces off of surrounding surfaces, collecting data points. These reflected data points are compiled into an extremely accurate three-dimensional image called a “point cloud” which replicates real world conditions. At the moment, Spaeder uses two different scanners, the FARO Focus 3D 350 (primary) and the FARO Focus 3D 120 (secondary). Both of these scanners create near perfect results and are intended for both indoor and outdoor uses. For more information on how 3D scanners work, check out our Podcast Episode on 3D Scanning.

Focus Faro Scanning on job site(VDC Coordinator Zach Bundy (left) and Point Work Coordinator Charles Morgan (right) with the Faro Focus 3D 350)

Iroquois High School Scans:

  • Two Days
  • 87 Scans
  • 8 Distinct Regions: Roof Top, Upper Roof Top, Machine Room, Front of School, Gymnasium, and Multiple Landings
  • Data Points: 1,250,000,000

Rather than sending a team to collect measurements which would be rendered as drawings and models, Point Work Coordinator, Charles Morgan, spent two days scanning the building. After which, the final point cloud was able to be imported into Revit. VDC Coordinator, Zach Bundy, modeled all of the piping using this point cloud for reference. If a team were employed to collect accurate measurements to create drawings, it would have taken about two weeks and these drawings would not have been as thorough or complete.

The Benefits of 3D Scanning:

There is no guesswork with 3D scans because you “know what you’re connecting and drawing to is actually there. You know it’s going to work,” says Charles Morgan. On many occasions, even when architectural drawings are available, they are not always completely accurate or do not depict the subtle shifts and changes a structure undergoes as it is being built as well as the years afterwards. A scan captures all of this. In the case of a retrofit, drawings rarely show changes and renovations to a property.

For example, even perfectly accurate architectural drawings rarely show smaller elements such as struts. The team must content with these elements when creating accurate pipe designs. Seeing these things in the point cloud helps to ensure that the work is completed correctly the first time.

Pipe modeling in point cloud(Pipe modeling in point cloud)

After each construction project, Spaeder creates as-built drawings. Even if the original architectural plans are not available, the new renditions equip facilities with the information needed to confidently plan for future renovations and maintenance work. The point cloud provides access to extremely accurate data for these as-builts.

3D Scanning Services for Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York

The Wm. T. Spaeder Company is headquartered in Erie, PA with offices in Pittsburgh, PA and Buffalo, NY though works with companies across the United States. Spaeder provides 3D scanning services for its own construction projects as well as for other contractors. It also assist non-construction related tasks such as forensic investigations, historic building preservation projects, ship building, aerospace engineering, and much more.

For more information, contact us here or call 814.456.7014 and ask to be directed to our VDC Department.

Company Newsletter August 2020

Wm. T. Spaeder Newsletter Open on Table

Check out the Wm. T. Spaeder Company Newsletter for August 2020. In this publication, we review the last half year in both the work and life of the company and employees.


Installing Central AC in Your Old House

brick house with lush green yard

One of the questions we get as HVAC professionals is about installing central air conditioning in older houses. Many houses on the East Coast, and in Erie where our headquarters is located, were built 100+ years ago. It is entirely possible to successfully retrofit these historic structures without losing the integrity of the house, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Some older houses are easier to retrofit than others. If the house already has a forced-air heating system, the new AC unit can simply utilize the existing ductwork. These retrofits tend to be quick and inexpensive. For example, to add air-conditioning to a forced-air heating system for a 2000 square foot home, it can cost as little as $3,400 and can be completed by two technicians in one to two days with little or no change to the ducting.

If the house requires new ducts, these costs will increase (and probably double) because contractors will need to retrofit the ductwork behind walls and in other areas where they can find space.

Whether you need new ducts or can use existing ductwork, there are certain considerations you need to make when installing central AC.

1. How Much Cooling Do You Need?

The first thing you need to determine is cooling capacity and efficiency. This can be determined by a contractor based on a load analysis using the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Manual J.  In addition, the contractor will consider certain specifics relating to the construction of your particular home such as surface areas of exterior walls, insulation levels, window glazing and air filtration. Cooling capacity is measured in BTU’s and the amount needed is determined by the above factors.

Getting just the right size is important for your AC to function properly. If the unit is too large, it will cool your space very quickly, minimizing air circulation and reduction of humidity. Humidity reduction is one of the advantages of air conditioning and is important because reduced humidity can actually increase your comfort level at higher temperatures, meaning a 75 degree home at low humidity will feel cooler than a 75 degree home at higher humidity and therefore put less demand on the AC unit. A unit that is too small, on the other hand, might always be running and will therefore create a higher energy bill.

2. Unit Efficiency

Unit efficiency is measured in SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.  SEER measures how much money the unit will save vs. the number of years it will take to break even. Air conditioners with a SEER more than 12 will have a decent cost savings scenario but buildings with loose windows, doors, and gaps around the base boards and moldings can have air leakage and spillover, including moisture if you’re in a humid environment. Sometimes air conditioners with even higher SEER could make sense but this would depend on the length of the cooling season and how often the unit would be used. The energy savings and payback will be different if you’re only using AC two months out of the year (such as in Erie, PA) vs. seven.

Once you have an idea of how much cooling your home requires, you can decide what type of AC unit you need.

(Condenser for Central AC Split System)

3. What Type of AC Unit Do You Want?

There are two main types of AC units and then variations from there.  There are Package Systems. These systems combine the condensers along with the fan-and-coil system into one unit. This is similar to a large window air conditioner and not very common.

The other alternative is a “split system.” In these types of systems, the condenser is outside the house and the fan-and-coil system is inside. These two parts are connected by pipes carrying refrigerant.

4. Ducts! What If You Don’t Have Them?

As mentioned above, many old houses do not have ducting. When this is the case you can either…

Install new duct work: The ability to install duct work is determined by the individual characteristics of your house. The majority of older houses have plaster walls and detailed finishes which requires extensive clean-up afterwards. In this situation, ducts are often added in closets or ceilings, but sometimes, given the way the home is constructed, this is not an option, which leads us to the next possibility…

(Wall Unit for Ductless Mini-Split System)

Ductless Mini-split System: Mini-splits are heating and cooling systems that allow you to control the temperatures in individual rooms or spaces.

Mini-split systems have two main components — an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit(s) (evaporator). They are easy to install and usually require only a three-inch hole through a wall for the conduit; which houses the power and communication cables, copper tubing, and a condensation drain line, linking the outdoor and the indoor units.

Mini-split heat pumps are not only great solutions for whole home or new constructions but make good retrofit add-ons to houses with “non-ducted” heating systems, such as hydronic (hot water heat), radiant panels, and space heaters (wood, kerosene, propane). They can also be a good choice for room additions where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not feasible, and energy efficient new homes that require only a small space conditioning system.

Whatever options you decide to do, the HVAC team at Wm. T. Spaeder is here to guide you in choosing the best system for your house as well as installing it quickly and professionally. If you have any questions, give us a call at 814.456.7014 or email info@wmtspaeder.com. We look forward to hearing from you!


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