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Metal Forming
Monday | 25 August, 2014 | 2:30 pm

On the line

By Lynn Stanley

Fabricators unlocking new markets with roll forming lines anchored by air presses.

August 2014 - Housing sales are expected to show additional growth this year after a strong recovery in second quarter. U.S. light vehicle sales increased to 16.9 million annual rate in June, the highest increase since July 2006, WardsAuto reported. 

Roll formers are an attractive capital equipment investment for customers in these and other markets—like healthcare and recreational equipment—because they can cost-effectively form shapes from a wide range of stock while eliminating multiple stage, finishing or sub-assembly processes.

Growing interest in the continuous bending operation is pushing another trend in new equipment purchases notes Matt Barkman, sales manager for Airam Press Co. Ltd. The Covington, Ohio-based press builder designs and manufactures standard and custom pneumatic presses for metalforming, high-speed roll forming and other processes. 

Since the economic downturn, Barkman has observed a steady increase in sales for Airam presses, orders he says are coming primarily from new roll forming customers versus repeat orders. “This movement in roll forming has broadened our customer base,” he says. 

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“Traditionally, we saw straight roll forming operations producing parts that still required other finishing processes. Our pneumatic press technology has since evolved to the point where roll formers now realize they can use the higher speeds of our presses to get in and out of the material quickly without slowing the overall speed of their roll-forming line and eliminate secondary operations at the same time.” Roll formers are adding Airam presses to existing lines for pre-punch and post-punch operations.

Fewer steps

This capability is also getting the attention of fabricators and OEMs that, while still recovering from the recession, have adopted leaner, more streamlined manufacturing methods. “Our press is an alternate solution to the old mindset of using mechanical and hydraulic presses,” says Barkman.  

Companies are also gravitating toward the economical air presses to maintain a competitive profile by keeping overhead costs low. “If a manufacturer can reduce the number of steps required to produce a part they have a better chance of staying competitive,” Barkman says. “Roll forming that incorporates pneumatic press technology allows companies to run an entire product off one line in a cellular manufacturing configuration instead of using different machines in different areas of a plant.”

Barkman notes the key is the number of operations the machines can perform rather than the length of a line. “Customers are drawn to Airam because they are looking for simplicity of design, low maintenance and operational costs and easy-to-use versatility,” he says. 

Airam technology also makes it more cost effective for companies to penetrate new, specialty markets such as mining and agriculture. “Pneumatic presses are a practical choice for these applications,” Barkman adds. “They can pre-punch, post-punch and cut to length. The machines also permit quick die changes and can accommodate short runs, single jobs and other requirements associated with custom or specialty work. Our technology is a good fit because it’s efficient and can support short lead times and delivery requirements.”

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Higher profits

The applications really are endless Barkman notes, from custom jobs, long part runs, and markets that can range from tractor trailers to garage doors. “You name it,” he says, “there is a roll former that is using Airam presses somewhere on the fabrication end of that process.” 

With nearly half a century of experience serving the roll forming industry, Airam is also attracting first-time customers with pricing that is one third to one half the capital cost of larger tonnage mechanical presses. And because stroke, pressure and speed can be adjusted, a variety of parts from different materials can be produced. “You don’t necessarily have to go to extremes in terms of cost and technology to get flexibility and programmability,” says Barkman.

A larger mix of OEMs, manufacturers, fabricators and machine shops are looking at these lines, he notes, because once installed, air presses set up in a roll forming line can run with minimal attention. Quick change tooling means more production and less down time. Training on the machines also is minimal.

“There is no doubt roll formers are taking a larger market share and expanding their lines accordingly,” explains Barkman. “Because they can be thriftier with their equipment, it gives them a higher margin to access these markets yet remain competitive and profitable. As a result, companies are identifying more opportunities to make roll form products using lines grounded with air presses. It’s the perfect mix of more opportunity and a nimble production solution that supports a better bottom line.” FFJ

Sources

  • AIRAM Press Co. Ltd.
    Covington, Ohio
    phone: 937/473-5672
    fax: 937/473-5012

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