Punching power

By Lynn Stanley

Hole-punching technology anchors manufacturing cell for increased production

May 2011- The Machine Development Center for E.H. Price Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba, uses continuous process improvements to fine tune its operations and make product enhancements. When customer feedback prompted Price to change a fastener on a laminar flow diffuser, the company took it a step further and redesigned the equipment to streamline production. A new manufacturing cell anchored with patented hole-punching technology helped it increase production, add part value and reclaim lost time.

E.H. Price is a global supplier for air distribution products and services. The company makes a variety of grilles, registers and diffusers for building and construction requirements as well as hospital, clean room and laboratory applications. The Price Machine Development Center provides products to meet unique manufacturing requirements using precision tooling, accurate assembly fixtures and specialized equipment. In addition to designing tooling and assembly automation, the center also supports Price factories in Casa Grande, Ariz., and Atlanta.

Continuous-flow manufacturing
"We're always looking for ways to improve our processes and end products," says Neil Evenson, machine designer for Price's Machine Development Center. In designing the production cell to fit its continuous-flow manufacturing model, the center chose a patented air-over-oil press from Multicyl Inc., Bolton, Ontario, to punch fastener and paint line holes in stainless steel and aluminum parts.

"We had other Multicyl units and knew the quality of the equipment, but the company's ability to make modifications to the tooling and the hole-punching stations was attractive to us," Evenson says.

Multicyl distributes its product line in more than 30 countries for applications that include notching shearing, tube piercing assembly and metal joining. The company's bench-mounted punching products range from 2.5 tons to 100 tons and use regular shop air to produce cycle speeds of up to 60 strokes per minute.

Price's Machine Development Center wanted Multicyl to build custom tooling for the laminar flow diffuser and also custom design punching stations to fit the new cell's configuration. "We submitted a part drawing and several sketches of what we wanted to see for the overall manufacturing cell," says Evenson. "The profile of the extrusion presented a challenge because it wouldn't allow the material to sit flat on the die. Multicyl developed a design that allowed the part to sit or nest over the top of the tooling."

Eliminating extra steps
The center designed the gauging and table to give the cell the flexibility to handle the part's different sizes. The laminar flow diffuser is made in 20 different sizes ranging from 24 in. to 72 in. long. The part's interior frame is produced from stainless steel and aluminum. The exterior frame is made from aluminum 0.1 in. thick. "The ability to punch the part's interior and exterior frames in the same cell allowed us to eliminate wasteful transfer to other departments for additional processing," says Evenson.

Installed in 2010, the Multicyl units work on a patented flow-by principle that allows the two-stage pressure intensifier to self-adjust anywhere in the overall stroke. Setup is easy, and unlike a mechanical press, there is no need to set tooling to a precise height as the hydraulic action simply adjusts to the power stroke and "bottoms out" whenever the resistance is greater.

In addition to simple air controls, Multicyl machines offer lower air consumption because hydraulic power is employed only when needed. A spherical pivot point placed where the ram hits the tooling helps prevent internal side loading and wear on seals and bearings. The pivot points also compensate for out-of-parallel tool conditions.

To punch the interior frame of the diffuser, the Machine Development Center uses three larger vertical cylinders (7 1/2 tons) powering tooling on one station. Two of the cylinders work in conjunction with two smaller horizontal cylinders (2 tons). The exterior frame is produced on a three-station 7 1/2-ton vertical Multicyl machine using one station the operator can turn off or on based on the number of holes required. The punching stations run on shop air entirely and can accommodate both custom and C-frame unitized tooling. In addition to the Multicyls, the manufacturing cell supports a cut-to-length machine that prepares parts for hole-punching. If required, the parts are then welded before leaving the cell.

"Multicyl's goal is to provide a cost-effective work station that offers tooling interchangeability and saves work space with its compact size," says Todd Bryson, design engineer for Multicyl. Evenson agrees, adding "the flexible design of the Multicyls and the patented stroke technology permits this type of custom arrangement and supports our continuous-flow manufacturing model."

With the push of a pedal, the operator can punch multiple holes with one hit. The ability to have different-size cylinders mounted to the same base allows the operator to punch both the paint line and fastener holes without reconfiguring the machine.

Previously, Price used a high-demand press that required multiple operations, making the job very labor intensive. Each hole had to be punched manually. "We needed to increase throughput for the press and the ability to establish a dedicated cell for this hole-punching operation allowed us to do that."

Saving costs
Parts now move from the sawing department directly to the manufacturing cell for punching and welding. "When you are able to free up time on a high-demand machine by removing a small operation, you're able to improve your productivity and work flow," says Bryson. "This approach further contributes to cost savings by allowing the company to save setup time since the dedicated cell is always ready for production. The ability to punch holes simultaneously also helps to eliminate opportunities for operator error."

The manufacturing cell runs two shifts for a variety of parts. "This manufacturing cell has allowed us to reduce the complexity of the operation, yet we have the flexibility to reconfigure the punching stations for other parts if the tonnage requirements are the same," says Evenson. "In the current business arena, we're considered the number-one air distribution supplier. We're able to maintain that position in part by listening to customers and making continuous process and product improvements. At Price, the focus on innovation runs throughout the entire organization. Partnering with equipment suppliers like Multicyl contributes to our ability to remain competitive." FFJ

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  • E.H. Price Ltd.
    Winnipeg, Manitoba

    phone: 204/669-4220
    fax: 204/663-2715

  • Multicyl Inc.
    Bolton, Ontario

    phone: 905/951-0670
    fax: 905/951-0672


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