Angles on a roll

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Collins’ distinctive lighting fixtures demand accurate metalwork.

Artist expands fabrication capabilities with roll bending technology

July/August 2013 -Artist expands fabrication capabilities with roll bending technologyRolling angle iron is like mastering French press coffee making. For perfect coffee, the right grind, water temperature, ratio of coffee to water and steep time are essential, and the right tips can make the process more efficient and produce a tastier brew. Similarly with roll bending, “It’s all in the technique,” says John Sherrell, technical sales for Stapleton, Ala.-based Carell Corp. and Eagle Bending Machines. “Like anything, when it comes to rolling good parts there are details behind the details.”

Roll bending compresses the inside of a radius while stretching the outside of the radius. Angles are particularly tricky because they tend to twist when bent. Deciding whether an angle can hold up begins with what Sherrell calls the Eagle 10-20 rule. “Multiply the material height by 10 to get the minimal rollable diameter,” Sherrell explains. “Then divide the material height by its thickness. If the result is greater than 20, the material will fail or distort and is not suitable for roll bending.”

Growing a market niche

Attention to detail is equally important to Dallas artist Tony Collins. Born in Australia and raised in England, Collins studied art but says his interests also were shaped by his grandfathers, Kenneth Collins and Ellis Tiddy, both mechanical engineers. “Although I studied art throughout school, I loved metalworking,” says Collins. “When it came time to go out and start earning a living, I chose to open a body shop. Working on fine auto restorations for classic cars allowed me to hone my welding and fabrication skills. Eventually, through word-of-mouth, other metal fabrication projects came my way.”


Collins moved to the U.S. in 1994 to join a fabrication shop that produced home furnishings and accessories. Two years later he and his wife, Holly, opened a custom metal shop in Dallas where Collins practices his craft but also pursues sculpting, painting and drawing. Like his work, his business has evolved. “Our initial focus was rustic ranch and lodge-style furniture,” he says. “It was fun because I got to hand-cut artistic animal and forest scenes with a plasma torch.” A growing customer list has since led Collins into commercial work for retail store fixtures and restaurant lighting. His distinctive designs are creating a demand that keeps the artist busy dividing his time between custom and production work for a wide range of lighting services, including in-house UL certification.

The heavy use of angles in Collins’ designs put him in the market for a bending machine. “I use round, curved and spiral shapes in my designs for art, lighting and other work,” he says. After researching different tools, Collins chose the Eagle CP60-H-REV for its capacity to roll material from 1 in. to 5 in., his favorite range of widths. He also was attracted to the roll bender’s sturdy construction and up-to-date technology. The machine helps ensure accuracy with an MPR40 programmable digital control. “Features like that make my job easier as a fabricator,” Collins says. “I also found I could easily adapt the machine to accommodate different kinds of rolling and types of material. With custom fabrication you never know what your clients will ask you for, so flexibility is key.”

Eagle Bending Machines stocks a wide range of tooling and designs custom tooling. “When Tony has a particular job or sculpture, he can order tooling as he needs it,” says Sherrell. “As long as the profile is within the laws of physics we can design custom tooling. Once we receive a template profile, we design the tooling and then test it at Carell Corporation before we deliver it to the customer.”

Eagle Bending Machines and Carell Corp. are domestically co-owned affiliates. Eagle Bending Machines exclusively handles three-roll profile bending machines. Carell specializes in machinery applications related to horizontal and vertical plate rolling, angle rolling, rotary tube and pipe bending, rebar bending, production ornamental bending, horizontal presses, notchers and other metal fabricating machinery.

FFJ-0708-bending-image2Collins installed the CP60H Eagle roll bender in 2012. “In the past we had to send this type of work out to be bent by larger fabricators which added substantial time and cost to production and caused quality control issues,” Collins says. “Having the roll bender in-house has opened a number of doors for us because we’re able to offer a wider range of fabrication services at a more cost-effective price point. Turnaround time is faster and more importantly, we’re able to control quality at all levels.”

Tackling challenging fabrication jobs also is easier with the roll bender. Design and construction of a complex, custom light fixture included 12 curved panels in both sheet metal and decorative, plasma-cut pieces. “For the pieces to fit together correctly with the right aesthetics, each panel had to be rolled accurately at the same radius,” Collins says. “I also roll angle for drum-style light fixtures. Accurate angle ring sizes are crucial, since we later install CNC-cut acrylic diffusers into the fixture. Both projects were a breeze with the Eagle roll bender.”

While the roll bender has worked the kinks out of Collins’ bending, Eagle Bending Machines’ service and support have made training on the machine trouble-free as well. “Learning how to use new equipment can be daunting,” says Collins, “especially when you’ve already sold a job using it. Eagle’s support has been fantastic. They have provided instructional videos, walked me through setup options and helped me get up and running quickly.”

Because angle naturally wants to twist as it bends, angles being rolled typically require a series of adjustments, sometimes in multiple passes, to achieve a desired profile. “With today’s technology we can take a smartphone image from Tony of the angle and profile he is trying to bend, evaluate it, make recommendations, create an instructional video and email him the link,” says Sherrell. With the videos Eagle provided, Collins was rolling good production parts in an hour.

Collins says the roll bender’s programmable control system saves hours of setup. When a customer reorders, he simply loads the original design settings. The roll bender also is a powerful design tool. “Metal fabrication is physically taxing and this machine bends amazingly accurate shapes with the tap of a foot pedal,” he says. “It’s a huge bonus to have it at my fingertips. As I design new pieces, I’ll think, ‘that would be nice with a bend in it.’ In minutes I can add a really cool component to my sculpture.” FFJ

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