Press Brake Tooling

Saving time with tooling

By Lynn Stanley

Fabricator gains production efficiencies with precision tooling

September 2012 - Investment bankers like Goldman Sachs cautiously describe the current business landscape as a “mixed picture.” But companies like Gomaco Corp., a manufacturer of equipment for concrete construction, understand that regardless of economic conditions, time is money. Finding ways to shave minutes off parts production is an ongoing challenge.

Based in Ida Grove, Iowa, Gomaco’s product line includes curb and gutter machines, slipform pavers, placer/spreaders, trimmer/placers, cylinder finishers, canal machinery and accessories for concrete construction projects. When Gomaco decided to improve the efficiency of one of its work processes, the fabricator chose intelligent press brake equipment and Rolleri precision tooling.

“We were using a mechanical press brake to fabricate parts from 10-gauge steel with custom radii in varying sizes up to 18 in.,” says Ray Netherton, manufacturing engineering manager for Gomaco. “It was a very labor-intensive process. We knew we wanted a precision computer-controlled press brake and Gasparini was the only manufacturer that would guarantee its machine for the type of work we do. To meet our criteria we also needed precision tooling. Gasparini recommended Rolleri.”

Cost-efficient precision

Gomaco considered other press brake tooling products, but found that Rolleri offered the same quality tooling at a lower price point. “We could get the same performance capability but more cost effectively,” Netherton says. “Also there was an ongoing relationship between Gasparini and Rolleri.”

Rolleri, headquartered in Vigolzone, Italy, engineers and produces premium standard and custom press brake tooling while supporting customers with a broad product inventory and other critical support services. The company’s growth enabled them to establish Rolleri USA in Avon, Ohio earlier in 2012.

After purchasing a 13-ft., 220-ton press brake in 2006 and a 16-ft., 363-ton press brake in 2011, Gomaco worked with the press brake manufacturer and Rolleri to meet its tooling needs for air bending. The material thicknesses range from 16 gauge up to 3⁄8 in. for the smaller machine and 16 gauge up to 1⁄2 in. thick for the larger press brake. “Rolleri evaluated our work requirements and recommended punches and dies for our custom radius work as well as gooseneck tooling and longer punches for channeled parts,” says Netherton. “We began using Rolleri’s products in 2006.”

Accurate parts

The segmented tooling installs vertically and is clamped pneumatically. The automatic clamping system seats the tools for faster setup, a feature that offers Gomaco another way to conserve time that would have been spent on production as the fabricator can make up to 15 tool changes in one day. The computer-controlled press brakes and precision tooling also improved part quality and consistency. “We typically deal with small quantities, much like a job shop,” says Netherton. “By the nature of our production, more time is spent in setup rather than run time. That’s why it is so important that the first parts produced are good parts and not test parts. With complex forming, like step bending or bump bending, two challenges come into play—tolerance build up and material consistency. A typical step-bent part can have up to 20 bends. If each bend is off 1 degree, the final part profile will be off by 20 times that. The computer-controlled press brakes and precision tooling help eliminate this problem.”

According to Rod Daugherty, international sales for Rolleri USA, the bending process is like a formula from which one tries to eliminate variables. Computer-controlled press brakes can eliminate the machine variable from the equation because of their high accuracy. “That leaves you with material and tooling,” says Daugherty. “Our tooling is very precise so the only variable left is the material. Precision, ground tooling is one of the best ways to address material variations. Our products are induction-hardened for long life and maintained to a manufacturing tolerance of 0.0004 in.”

Rolleri’s precision tooling saves Gomaco time by performing multiple bends with just one setup. Netherton says the precision tooling supports the operator’s ability to use more than one tool set on the same machine at one time. “The main requirement is that the stroke length of both sets of tooling must be the same,” he says. “Having the capability of up to three sets of tooling on the machine at one time eliminates tool changes midway through the forming process.”

Improved efficiency

Precision tooling allows fabricators like Gomaco to work with more efficient and cost-effective manufacturing processes. If a company wants to transition from manual to robotic welding, Netherton says, use of precision tooling reduces the need for robotic options that typically would be used to account for discrepancies during forming. According to Netherton, these robotic options actually slow down the welding process. “Also, precision tooling reduces labor in the manual welding and assembly processes by providing parts that fit together more easily, so scrap and rework costs are minimized.”

Precision tooling also impacts the work done by design engineers. For example, if an engineer is designing a component with two metal surfaces that must be secured along one edge, there are several options. The edge can be welded together, mechanically fastened or formed. “The forming process aided by precision tooling is by far the most cost-effective approach,” Netherton says.

A part is considered 2-D until it reaches the press brake. During forming the part becomes 3-D. “Now you are dealing with three planes, not one,” says Daugherty. “Any processes performed prior to bending have to line up. It’s the most critical aspect of the manufacturing process because everything downstream depends on what happens at the press brake. Tooling is an important ingredient in maintaining a precise 3-D form as the ground-in tolerance of precision tooling not only makes this possible but also assures repeated accuracy over the life of the part.” In addition to custom radii, channeled parts and step bending, the press brakes and tooling are being used to perform single 45- and 90-degree bends.

Netherton also expects the tooling to help the company transition into robotic welding. Rolleri’s ability to accurately reproduce identical tools offers the flexibility customers need to enhance operations. “Once we produce the original tool, the data, such as critical dimensions, is etched directly on the tool,” says Daugherty. “That information is then linked to a database so we can reproduce that tool today or 10 years from now.”

Rolleri’s ability to maintain customer data also allows the manufacturer to modify a customer’s tools to solve specific issues or meet new needs. “We bought this tooling for our immediate needs and for when we implement robotic welding,” says Netherton. “Robotic welding requires consistent parts and this tooling helps provide that.” FFJ

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  • Gomaco Corp.
    Ida Grove, Iowa
    phone: 712/364-3347
    fax: 712/364-3986
  • Rolleri S.p.A., 
    Vigolzone, Italy 
    phone: 39 0523 870905
    fax: 39 0523 879030


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