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Press Brake Tooling

Getting the right angle

By Tom Klemens

Above: Upgrading back gauge motion control from two-axis to six-axis is one key to advanced press brake automation.

Software maker upgrades press brake infrastructure to accept high-level control system

March 2014 - Over the last 40 years, increasingly sophisticated control systems have leveraged further and further the productivity increases gained from the Industrial Revolution. The mechanical and electrical advances of the 19th and 20th centuries that automated repetitive tasks and increased speed and accuracy were great for mass production. But adding microprocessor-based motion control to factory automation provided a quantum leap forward for the metalworking industry in particular, increasing the flexibility necessary to support today’s demand for high-mix low-volume production.

Software is at the heart of modern machine control systems. Whether provided by the equipment manufacturer or a third-party developer, it’s through software that engineering designs are rendering into metal parts. Today’s powerful software tools convert CAD/CAM designs into machine language—typically CNC-based—enabling significant productivity increases. That has been partly due to enhanced machine performance that relies less on highly skilled operators and more on precise control hardware, like servomotors. But even more so, newer software allows much of the programming to be done offline, taking that activity off the production floor.   

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The software company Metamation was founded in 1996 to develop an innovative, integrated CAD/CAM solution for sheet metal fabrication. The company’s North American headquarters are in Reno, Nev. With users throughout the world, its MetaCAM suite includes modules tailored to each type of metalworking equipment and operation. “We have nesting modules, 2-D CAD, 3-D CAD, the bending module for press brakes, a punching module and a laser module,” says Anupam Chakraborty, vice president of Metamation. In its most integrated version, MetaCAM Enterprise, the overall package is designed to provide something “almost like an ERP system for sheet metal fabrication,” he says. “With this software you can design a sheet metal part. You can also import various CAD files—like DXF, DWG, SolidWorks, SolidEdge and so on—and you can do the tooling, the CAM portion of it, for various machines.” Storing files in the enterprise database effectively builds the users’ knowledge base with use.

The press brake problem

The adoption rate of CNC and subsequent automation has not been the same for all types of equipment. The more complex a machine’s motion, the greater the benefit of automating its operation. Machining centers and cutting tables were early adopters, while press brakes generally fell to the end of the line. Beyond that, early automation on press brakes was generally not very sophisticated.

Because of that and the difficulty in communicating with press brake controls, Metamation at first developed its press brake module, MetaBend, as a simulation-only product. “It would do the bending sequence, the tooling, the layout, the simulation and send out reports for the operator to see the correct bend sequence, but there was no post coding,” Chakraborty says. But customers wanted more, he says, so the company entered into a long-term agreement with Cybelec SA, a Swiss manufacturer of numerical controls, to develop its own control hardware. The result was the ModEva RA touch screen operator interface, which offers online programming but also works with MetaBend to provide offline programming as well. The product debuted at BlechExpo2011 in Stuttgart, Germany.

“With the ModEva RA you can still create, or change, a bend on the fly,” Chakraborty says. “But you also can import a file. If you have done some programming through the MetaCAM bending module, you can upload the code and see the whole simulation process. It’s all touch-screen based.”

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Metamation has designed kits of control hardware to go along with the ModEva RA and now offers retrofit service. “We go into a customer’s shop, remove the very old controls and replace the control with the ModEva RA,” Chakraborty says. “We also replace the old electrical—which mostly are DC drives—with servo controls. And we retrofit the back gauge, taking it from two-axis to six-axis. Once we’ve done that, the machine is as good as new with the latest technology.”

Tooling under control

In addition to enabling the integration of press brakes into a shop’s online production environment,  MetaCAM also brings ease of operation. The MetaBend software module provides powerful offline programming capabilities, including tool selection optimization.

To use the auto-tooling option, you first create an inventory of your tooling, Chakraborty says. “The program has a standard tooling library and you go through and specify the tools that you have,” he says. “When there is a part to be done, the software looks at the bend radius information, the angle, the deduction and everything else, then does a calculation to select the possible tool and die combinations based on your inventory.” The operator then knows which tool and die combinations to position in the machine, in addition to having the visual representation of the part and bend sequence on the touch screen. FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc.

STAMPING/PRESSES

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling

STEEL

Burghardt + Schmidt Group Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. Rolleri USA Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss UFP Industrial

PRESS BRAKES

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

AMADA AMERICA, INC. BLM Group
Tishken Advanced Gauging Technologies Automec Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

MC Machinery Systems Inc.

WATERJET

Mayfran International Cincinnati Inc. SafanDarley Barton International

DEBURRING/FINISHING

LVD Strippit

PUNCHING

Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation Scotchman Industries Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Trilogy Machinery Inc.

SAWING

WELDING

Osborn

METAL FORMING

Behringer Saws Inc. American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Cosen Saws Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers MetalForming Inc. DoALL Sawing T. J. Snow Company

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

HE&M Saw

 

Beckwood Press Co. Titan Tool Supply Inc. Savage Saws

 

Triform

 

 

 


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