Press Brakes

The perfect fit

By Lynn Stanley

Fabricator matches the right machine to the job for optimal efficiency

March 2013 - Balancing zero inventory with customer demands for just-in-time delivery requires close attention to throughput. Laserform & Machine Inc. knows how to finesse its work processes to coax the smallest efficiencies from an already lean work environment. Selecting the right machine for the job is a key ingredient when shipping out parts cut the same day, says Richard Fleck, owner and vice president of the Columbia, S.C., job shop. “When we started the business we needed machines that could handle the bulk of our work,” he adds. “At the time that was a 4 ft. press brake among other things. Today we’re in a position to pick and choose the type of equipment that will best suit the jobs coming in the door.”

ffj-0313-press-image1Cellular manufacturing

Laserform fabricates metal parts and assemblies from carbon and stainless steel, aluminum and other materials for industries that include agriculture, medical and power distribution. With the ability to laser cut, form, punch and weld components, the job shop also provides hardware insertion and powder coating. An enterprise resource planning barcode system tracks jobs through Laserform’s 46,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility.

“A large part of our business is making brackets for tractors,” Fleck says. Part sizes range from 1 in. to just under 1 ft. and are produced from hot-rolled pickled and oiled steel 7 gauge and thinner.  Like most jobs, volumes vary. To squeeze greater efficiency from the operation, Laserform established two manufacturing laser cells. “To complete the cells we needed a servo-electric press brake with a small footprint, quick setup and a cost-effective price point,” Fleck says.  “We were familiar with the different press brake manufacturers but we saw International Technologies’ C-One 900 series press brake demonstrated at a show. It was exactly what we were looking for.”

Laserform installed two C-One 25-ton, 34-in. servo-electric 900 series press brakes in 2010.  The job shop is full of servo-electric press brakes from different machine builders in sizes up to 180 tons. Familiar with the standard advantages associated with servo-electric machines, namely longer machine life and lower energy consumption, Laserform’s selection was more about fine tuning its choice of new press brakes to match its application. “Price was definitely a factor,” says Fleck. “The C-One is very cost-effective and its size and capabilities made it a perfect fit for our manufacturing cells.”

Counting the cost

“More than any other time in manufacturing history, pennies are making the difference in whether or not a company is able to survive and thrive while maintaining a lean environment,” says David Prokop, co-owner and vice president of 

International Technologies Inc., Schaumburg, Ill. “Companies can no longer afford the cost of running and maintaining machines that are larger than the job requires. A bigger hydraulic press brake carries a bigger price tag and higher operating costs, such as electrical consumption, maintenance and labor. It will likely cost more to form a small bracket in a big hydraulic press brake than you can competitively charge for the bend,” he continues. “A small, efficient servo-electric press brake forms faster, providing more parts per labor hour, and is more cost-effective to operate both electrically and maintenance wise.” He also notes the asset cost of a servo-electric press brake is a fraction of what a hydraulic brake costs.

“When you buy a machine it is either costing you or profiting you for as long as you own it,” Prokop says. “The key is implementing the right machine so it is always paying you. Laserform has turned the ability to select the right machine for the job into somewhat of an art form. The C-One is the perfect cellular machine for simple, small parts production because it doesn’t break the bank, offers low maintenance and high repeatability.”

International Technologies imports globally recognized metal fabricating, bending, folding, spinning and welding equipment lines. The company offers press brakes from 22 in./20 tons up to 10 ft./110 tons and can engineer its press brakes to customer specifications with a wide range of options. “The C-One is totally configurable, from a three-axis base all the way to a six-axis gauging system,” Prokop says. “We can match offline programming, any tooling strategy along with a large variety of safety systems to the customer’s wants and needs.” 

Easy to useffj-0313-press-image2

The brackets formed on the job shop’s C-One press brakes start as 5-ft. by 10-ft. sheets of metal loaded on the laser for cutting. Bracket size dictates how many parts will fit on a sheet. Once cutting is complete, the flat parts are removed from their metal skeletons and taken to the C-One press brake where the operator uses air bending to form standard 90-degree angles. Parts are then either shipped or sent to welding and powder coating.

Setup on the easy-to-use C-One also is simple. “That was another feature that attracted us to the machine,” says Fleck. “Much of our bracket work is seasonal and we often pull in temps to run the machines. A trained operator can quickly set the press up then turn production over to the temp. The C-One has a simple touchscreen that allows the operator to enter the length of the bend and angle and away you go. It’s really fast.”

Fast cycle and setup times

The C-One stores job recipes and offers Laserform more than enough capacity. “We’re basically making the same parts over and over again,” says Fleck, “but the flexibility of the C-One press brakes makes them suitable for a variety of jobs because they are so fast to set up and easy to use. If one of our older press brakes ever goes down, I plan to replace it with another C-One.”

Fleck adds that the servo-electric press brakes’ cycle times and ram speed also have proved advantageous. For the production work in Laserform’s manufacturing cells, ram speed takes precedence over back gauges. “Once the back gauges are set we really don’t need to set them again,” Fleck says. “Cycle time also was a big consideration for us. We knew we needed a press brake with a cycle time that was faster than our laser in order to support throughput. We performed an analysis that was a combination of both approach and bending speeds. Our analysis showed that we needed a press brake with a very fast cycle time and the C-One met our needs.”

Laserform bends 500 to 1,000 brackets a day running the C-One press brakes for two shifts during a five-day workweek. The accuracy and reliability of the press brakes are supported by a servo drive that provides a large pressing force with a low arrangement of input forces. Since the C-One’s servo motor design eliminates the need for hydraulic oil, the press brake is not subject to ongoing viscosity fluctuations that occur in conventional press brakes due to temperature instability. The repeatability and accuracy profile of the C-One is rated at ±0.000039 in. 

“These two small press brakes will out-perform a larger press brake all day long,” says Fleck. “In addition to quick setup from job to job along with the accuracy and reliability of the machines, I don’t think these press brakes have ever been down one time since we got them.” FFJ


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