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The job shop helping to maintain the information superhighway

Oct 07, 2023

The internal infrastructure for a data center requires a lot of metal and fabricating activity to create. CNC machinery is the only way a shop can do it productively.

Life is full of surprises. That's why you can't be surprised at where you might end up on life's path.

When Gianni Ygnelzi was a teenager working in the same metal fabrication shop in Las Vegas where his dad, Emilio, worked, he knew he didn't want to be doing that for a living.

"I swear I hated that work," he said. "I’d get stuck on a machine grinding all day long, and I swore that I’d never do this as a career."

He initially kept that promise to himself. After school, he got a job in the hospitality industry, a common landing place for someone in Las Vegas looking to try out a career path. But in the early 1990s, Emilio was looking to possibly start his own business. His previous employer had closed, and it was either start his own fab shop or go to work for someone else.

In speaking with his father, Gianni saw the possibilities that his 14-year-old self didn't immediately recognize. He wouldn't be stuck behind one machine all day long. He would have a role that involved not only production work, but also customer service and part design. It's something in which he could see a future, which wasn't necessarily the case for the teenager trying to see through the sparks of the grinding process.

That's when Nevada Precision Sheet Metal (NPSM) was born. Starting out in a 5,000-sq.-ft. shop, half of which was leased to someone else, the Ygnelzis had some manual press brakes, a single-station punch, a shear, some welding power sources, and a couple of spot welders. It wasn't much, but it was enough to get going and start building a business.

Only about a year into being a family fabricating company, the Ygnelzis decided that it might be necessary to start looking at some semiautomated machinery. Such a move would allow the company to turn out more quality parts in a much tighter delivery window.

"CNC is just the best. It takes away the guesswork. It makes everything much quicker to process and more efficient," Ygnelzi said.

Some of NPSM's first major investments included a 2.5-kW CO2 laser and a Sunrise CNC punching machine. (The latter purchase led to the addition of a Sunrise APS-30080M CNC punch and shear processing system.) Today the business can laser, plasma, or waterjet cut parts; form them on press brakes; MIG or TIG weld them; and even powder coat them in a 40,000-sq-ft. facility only a few miles from the strip that made Las Vegas famous.

The company's design and fabricating skills have helped it attract new customers and grow with some old ones. One company in particular has helped NPSM enter an industry sector that continues to grow and will play an important role in supporting the future of digital commerce in the U.S. The 50-person job shop is helping to maintain the information superhighway for the thousands of people and companies that rely on it each day.

(From left) Gianni and Emilio Ygnelzi pose with a Sunrise CNC ironworker, which was one of the first CNCs Nevada Precision Sheet Metal purchased to help with its growing business.

NPSM's data center client has grown over the years to become one of the hottest names in the information management space. Just as a metal fabricator might take on the manufacturing duties for a large OEM that outsources the function, a data center takes on the responsibility of housing, maintaining, and protecting an organization's IT operations and equipment. Why would a company want to outsource its IT operations? A data center offers a company the access to state-of-the-art computing devices, which leads to increased uptime and super-fast internet connectivity. This outsourced relationship also offers levels of security that one single organization would be hard-pressed to afford on its own.

Ygnelzi said NPSM started working with one local data center "visionary" who has grown the business to include five major data centers located in key regions of the U.S. NPSM has built out the internal framework that supports the servers in these data centers.

But these aren't simple racking systems. The racks are designed to help cool the servers as they operate and minimize the use of air conditioning. It's one of the many "creative" ideas that the company's founder has that has helped it to grow and helped NPSM to prosper as well.

Ygnelzi explained how the fabricated racking systems work: "When we do the builds, we do it for like a 50,000-sq-ft. space. We fabricate a bunch of frames that go up to the ceiling. So, it's a room with a roof that goes up to 32 ft. in the air. Well, they split the racking at 16 ft., and they have insulated panels that run around the SCIFs [sensitive compartmented information facilities, a U.S. Department of Defense term for a secure room]. The SCIFs are where the servers sit. So cold air is taken from the outside and fed into the center, which is the hot aisle. The air is then pushing up into the ceiling and dispersed, so that it's cooling all the equipment throughout the day."

The SCIFs represent the computing power of companies contracting with the data center to ensure optimal performance of the computing systems and protection from breakdowns and slowdowns in the system. Companies like eBay and Google are depending on the data center to keep e-commerce operating at the speeds the online consumer expects.

"So, we've built our business around data centers," Ygnelzi said.

To keep up with this growing customer in a hot economic sector, NPSM knew it needed a new level of automation. In 2017, it added two new pieces of equipment to help keep up with the work.

The first was a TRUMPF TruLaser Tube 7000, which was expressly purchased for processing 3- by 3-in. and 6- by 6-in. square tubes, two material types that make up the bulk of the material that is processed for data center infrastructure.

"Our customer comes to us with a lot of different projects. He's like a visionary. He definitely wants a certain look," Ygnelzi said. "It's not something you can just buy off the shelf. So this helps us with all of the custom-made stuff for his facilities."

The 3.6-kW fiber laser cutting machine can handle tube diameters of 5/8 to 10 in. with up to 0.4-in. wall thickness in mild steel. It can handle the typical round tube shapes, but also rectangles and channels.

A TRUMPF TruLaser Tube 7000 laser cutting machine has been instrumental in processing tube for data center projects.

Ygnelzi said that the tube laser has really improved productivity because material handling has been greatly reduced. The machine takes tube stock from a staging area and feeds the tube into position where the chuck can grab it and lock onto it. From there, the machine takes over with tube manipulation during cutting.

The tube laser also is helpful in tackling what might have been secondary operations when it came to manual tube cutting. The machine can handle bevel cutting up to 45 degrees, allowing for sharp miter joints or countersunk holes all while being in the tube laser.

NPSM also processes a lot of flat bar, most of which is 7 in. wide and 5/16 in. thick. With the stock bars being 20 ft. long, it's heavy and awkward stuff for someone to be manually loading and unloading onto saws and then moving to drills.

To assist with that aspect of the fabricating process, NPSM purchased the Sunrise APS-30080M automatic punching and shearing system for flat bar from Trilogy Machinery. The equipment has a triple punch to assist with the hole-intensive parts.

"We have one part that has 14 holes in it and then another with eight holes, and when you are working with 15 or 20 of those 20-ft.-long bars, that's a lot of holes," Ygnelzi said.

Now someone can load a bar onto the feeder, and it runs through the machine without further operator intervention. The automatic plate system handles the hole-punching and shears off the part at the end. Another bar is then fed onto the feeder, and the process repeats itself.

"It really reduced an operation from two to three guys to just one guy," said Ygnelzi, who also added that a large job with hole-intensive flat bar parts used to take a couple of weeks, but now only takes a couple of days.

Ygnelzi can't predict what will come tomorrow, but based on recent times, he knows he's going to be pretty busy. To prepare for more job opportunities, NPSM also added a new 6-kW 2D laser cutting machine in 2019. In doing so, he had to clear out a CO2 that had been the company's workhorse for a lot of years. The company also added a third Sunrise CNC ironworker, with this one being able to process angle, channel, and flat bar automatically.

Ygnelzi also has established formal connections with the local community college to tap young welders that might be interested in learning about the job shop life. While they require a little more schooling on things like fixtures, Ygnelzi said that the company has had some success taking those young workers and turning them into productive MIG and TIG welders.

So, the preparations have been made for a successful future. It's just a matter of seeing what's next and adjusting accordingly as NPSM heads down its own version of a superhighway.

The Sunrise APS-30080M automatic punching and shearing system from Trilogy Machinery has turned large projects involving hole-punching and shearing of flat bars from weeks-long endeavors to jobs that can be accomplished in a few days.