Press Brake Tooling

It’s all about the details

By Lynn Stanley

Above: The Wila segmented New Standard Premium tooling and FMS Speedbend press brake give Camfil Farr the cost-effective, repeatable solution it needed to break up its production bottleneck.

Fabricator finds differentiator in tooling/press brake combo

April 2013 - “For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the battle was lost.” The centuries-old proverb emphasizes the importance of small details. The adage also is an apt description of the impact press brake tooling can have on the fight fabricators are waging at the press brake to eliminate production bottlenecks and improve throughput. Reproducible and dependable press brake processes rely on the right combination of press brakes and press brake tools.

Until a few years ago, press brake tooling was an afterthought for most fabricators says Gunter Glocker, president of Wila USA. The Hanover, Md., company is a global manufacturer of press brake tooling and accessory technology.

“Attention instead has typically focused on the press brake and its features,” Glocker says. “But if you think about forming and the components that actually touch the part, it’s the punch tip, the two shoulders of the V-die and the backgauge fingers.” Consequently, the ability to align the tooling so the nose of the upper die is central to the lower V-die over the length of the machine is critical to achieving good, consistent flange lengths.


Leaner, more accurate forming

Technological advances create a more equal playing field for fabricators when it comes to choosing a press brake. “Most of today’s press brakes are pretty good when it comes to repeatability or how effectively the press brake can sustain ram positioning over time,” Glocker says. “The differentiator now often is the tooling.”

The recession and recovery have influenced the way fabricators think about the interaction between the press brake and the tooling. “It has forced fabricators to examine more closely how they are making their products and ways they can set their machines up to be faster and more flexible,” says Glocker. “In that sense, the economy has forced changes that are good.”

The approach to leaner, more accurate forming also is taking on greater importance as fabricators become more aware of how tooling can make or break—in cases where older tooling or the wrong tooling is used—production efficiencies and part accuracies. “The key objective is to help sheet metal fabricators improve productivity,” says Glocker. “Part of that equation is to look at the parts a fabricator is forming and show them how they can configure their press brake to improve setup times and workflow through their bending operation. Finding their problem areas ffj-0413-pressbrake-image1is another factor. If a press operator has to regularly shim the dies to get consistent bend angles, the right solution may be a crowning system. If a fabricator is trying to reduce lot sizes, which happens a lot when the economy fluctuates, the right tooling and press configuration can help a fabricator run those small lots efficiently.”

Developing punch profiles to bend a wide range of parts while maintaining their working height over time means fabricators can do more with less. “Fabricators that adopt our approach may have a third of the tools they might normally expect to carry, but they will still be able to form all the various parts they need to make,” Glocker says. “The ability to make more parts with fewer tools opens the door to a lot of side efficiencies—like more floorspace, less setup time, less time spent retrieving tools and easier storage.” 

Wila tools are designed to accommodate most press brake models, making it easy for the company to team with distributors like Fabricating Machinery Sales, Greenville, S.C. FMS is a global provider of metal fabrication solutions, machinery sales and service, applications support, maintenance and consultation.

Wila’s customer-driven approach coupled with FMS Speedbend press brake caught the attention of Camfil Farr’s Washington, N.C.-based fabrication facility at a trade show. Headquartered in Stockholm, the Camfil Group is a global developer and producer of air filters and clean air solutions.

Greater repeatability

“We had a lot of waste,” says Howard Campbell, general manager of the Camfil Farr North Carolina fabrication facility. “We were implementing a lean initiative that included single-minute exchange of dies to increase productivity and eliminate that waste. Part of the bottleneck at our press brake was the older tooling we were using.” In keeping with its lean initiative, the fabricator wanted to look at some of the latest technology. Wila and FMS visited the facility, evaluated the methods operators were using to form parts and made a recommendation that included New Standard Premium quick-change punches and dies, and storage cabinets. “The Wila segmented New Standard Premium tooling and hydraulic clamping system is by far the best out there,” Campbell says, “and the Speedbend press brake offered a cost-effective price point and repeatability. They also really went the extra mile in understanding our operations.” Camfil Farr installed three Wila-equipped FMS Speedbend press brakes in 2011. Two FMA press brakes (10 ft., 150 ton and 12 ft., 245 ton) support the shop’s life sciences and containment applications and one press brake (10 ft., 150 ton) forms parts for HVAC applications.

ffj-0413-pressbrake-image4Camfil Farr cuts, bends and welds stainless steel parts for containment systems for markets including nuclear, biosafety, hospitals, the military and homeland security. The fabricator produces bases, top and bottom pans for
housings, hood bodies and front and back pans. Part quality comes under the scrutiny of ISO and nuclear quality assurance standards. “Whatever the nasty is, we build equipment to contain it,” Campbell says. “We protect people and processes all over the world, from American embassies, the new World Trade Center towers and nuclear power plants to research facilities at universities. The Wila tooling gives us greater repeatability and accuracy to fabricate this equipment.” 

In addition to tight tolerances, Camfil Farr’s parts carry cosmetically critical requirements. “We don’t have tool marks because Wila’s top and bottom tool holders are self-aligning and the tooling is precision-ground to ±0.0004 in.” The stainless steel components, which are 16 gauge to 7 gauge, can be as large as 20 in. wide and up to 12 ft. long. But the finished containment systems are measured by the number of filters used. One of the fabricator’s largest systems, six filters tall and four filters wide, required double-wide transportation and a police escort. 

Increased throughput

Camfil Farr is seeing its biggest gains in setup time. Because each system is a custom job, part volumes can extend into the hundreds. “We are really seeing a savings in uptime, and throughput has increased due to quick tool changeovers,” Campbell says. “With our older dies it took two operators to drive the tooling into the machine and load it, and up to 40 minutes for setup. Now one person can easily pull and load the tooling, and setup takes less than five minutes.” 

Using a CNC-driven induction process, Wila tooling is hardened to a minimum depth of 0.157 in. and a hardness of 56 Rc. Tool accuracy and the ability to quickly combine different tool segment sizes is critical to forming complex ffj-0413-pressbrake-image3parts like the containment systems with up and down flanges. “The ability to change tooling sizes allows us to reach critical areas without collision,” says Sean Harrison, plant engineer for Camfil Farr. “Everything we do here is custom in the sense that we handle many variations to our standard offering. We size our units to a multitude of specs to meet the requirements of our customers for a project or job. Wila gives us that versatility—from the smallest segmented tool to the longest section—we have the ability to bend almost whatever we need.”

Since implementing its lean practices, FMS press brakes and Wila tooling, the fabricator has seen a 20 percent increase in ROI. “Despite the economy’s ups and downs, we’ve been able to keep costs for our customers stable,” says Campbell. “We used to view fabrication as a bottleneck. The laser and shear were pushing parts to the press brakes. Now our press brake and tooling turnkey systems are actually waiting for parts so we’re evaluating holdups at our laser and shear.” FFJ

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  • Camfil Farr International
    phone: +46 8 545 125 00
    fax: +46 8 249 65
  • Fabricating Machinery Sales Inc.
    Greenville, S.C.
    phone: 864/297-4714
    fax: 864/297-0370
  • Wila USA
    Hanover, Md.
    phone: 443/459-5496
    fax: 443/459-5515


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