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Stamping

Turning down the heat

By Lynn Stanley

Above: For high-speed stamping with larger part volumes and thin material it is essential to apply the correct amount of lubricant.

Cost-effective lubrication system gives stamper better part quality and longer die life

July/August 2014 - Reducing friction and dissipating heat build-up between die and material is instrumental to producing quality stampings, regardless of part size or press tonnage. Proper lubrication prevents the two surfaces from touching, allowing the die to ride a high-pressure barrier of fluid between the sheet metal and the tool. 

However, determining type, amount and correct application of lubricant can quickly turn troublesome. Excess lubrication, fluid applied unevenly or to one side of the coil, can cause variations that undermine part quality, tool wear and run times. 

For Scenic Tool & Stamping Inc., meticulous attention to customer requirements and work quality are hallmarks for each stage of production from design, build and stamping to packaging and shipping. The Campobello, South Carolina-based company manufactures stampings used by industries including automotive, electronics, defense and medical. In-house die maintenance supports die uptime despite part volumes, while a sophisticated vision system monitors tool performance and part quality. Raw and plated materials kept on hand allow the company to respond with faster lead times when customers’ ordering techniques allow for it.

“High-speed precision stamping is our specialty,” says Daniel Hood, stamping manager for Scenic Tool. “It’s where the rubber meets the road for us.” Using a drip/wipe method to manually apply lubricant to its strip material at timed intervals, the manufacturer found it difficult to control uniformity.

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Opposing surfaces

“Inconsistent application of oils was impacting our operations, from downtime due to excessive punch and die wear to premature wear of other components in the tool,” Hood explains.

Scenic Tool’s forte is its ability to process material 0.032 in. and thinner. With presses ranging in size up to 60 tons, it can form material up to 1⁄8 in. thick. Small contacts and leads for a variety of electronic components make up a large percentage of Scenic Tool’s output, which can range from a few thousand parts to more than 100 million parts per order. The ISO 9001-certified manufacturer stamps parts as small as 0.100 in. tall by 0.020 in. wide and 0.006 in. thick up to 3 in. tall by 0.500 in. wide and 0.032 in. thick from stainless steel, copper, red and yellow brass, copper alloys and other metals. 

“Proper lubrication is essential, especially when you are dealing with higher part volumes,” Hood explains. “I wanted a centralized location where operators could see at a glance what was going on with their production process from lubrication checks to vision system activity. I also wanted a cost-effective lubrication system that was easy to use.” Hood’s search led him to Kurt Fendius, a Norcross, Georgia-based sales engineer for Unist Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan. Unist designs and manufactures fluid application systems for the global industrial market. 

“Kurt introduced me to the Unist SPR-2000-JR, a programmable fluid controller combined with the Mini-Roller spray nozzle system,” Hood says. Engineered for lubrication of thin, narrow coil stock and high-speed, short feed lengths, the Unist Mini-Roller uses internally fed rollers that receive a calculated and preprogrammed amount of fluid from the controller.

Scenic Tool installed 10 Unist systems in 2013. The systems lubricate raw material before it enters the progressive die to be trimmed, coined or formed. 

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“The Unist system ensures that we are consistently receiving the same amount of lubrication,” says Hood. “If we are experiencing problems with a die such as slug pulling, the repeatability of the system allows us to rule it out as a changing variable.” 

The Unist control’s simple menu allows operators to select the frequency of lubrication in exact increments. Frequency is based on press stroke count. Once this preset number is reached, the control opens the Mini-Roller’s solenoids for a specified time, providing the exact amount of lubrication for optimal die and stamping operations. “Setting job parameters is easy,” adds Hood. “I can teach an operator in five minutes and they will not have any questions about what they are supposed to do.”

The right combination

Scenic Tool’s custom work means lubrication needs can vary depending on the die it uses. The SPR-2000-JR controller can be programmed to save up to 250 different jobs. “In general, spray systems are apt to deliver more lubricant than the job requires,” says Mark Cooper, sales for Unist. “It’s also not the most effective way to ensure an even coating across the coil.  Spray systems tend to spot spray, leaving heavier coatings in some areas of the coil while starving or leaving other areas dry. Spraying doesn’t usually take into account where the oil needs to be applied and in what amount. Most users just spray the lubricant on and hope for the best. By combining the SPR-2000 controller with one of our roller applicators, users can evenly and accurately apply the exact amount of fluid needed for each job. The controller takes the guesswork out of it, and ensures tooling is always adequately lubricated.”

In addition to improving part processing and uptime, Scenic Tool finds its Unist systems also support quality improvement. “We [automatically] vision inspect each and every part for defects and out-of-tolerance measurements,” Hood says. “When too much oil was applied with our previous lubrication method, we were subject to false rejections as well as the potential for the die to pull slugs. Under-lubrication also subjected dies to premature breakdowns requiring excessive repairs. With the Unist system we get a smooth, even, specified amount of oil on our stock.”

Hood adds that consistent lubrication also allows the company to make improvements in other areas. “We’re in a better position to try out new ideas and know that inconsistent oil application did not affect the results,” he explains. “We can try out new processing methods and tooling to achieve longer run times. Before, because lubrication was not always consistent, we did not always know for certain if it was die construction, the metal or a new process we were testing that was causing problems. With the Unist system we can eliminate lubrication as a variable in those equations.”

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Because the Unist system eliminates the possibility of operators over-lubricating the stock, the potential for overrun collecting around the press and on the floor also has been removed. Scenic Tool follows a thorough preventive maintenance program on its machinery and is continually cleaning and reorganizing its press shop. 

“We’re proud of the work we do here and want to showcase that,” says Hood. “It’s hard to do that if the first thing customers see is a dirty shop. The Unist system definitely contributes to helping keep our facilities clean, not just when customers come, but at all times.”

“We also find customers are able to reduce oil consumption by 30 to 50 percent,” says Fendius. “Stock size isn’t a factor either. The ability to load preset programs means the customer can continue to control where he wants the fluid to go as he moves up to larger stock. If lubricant is running low, the system will stop the press and sound an alarm, alerting the operator that the reservoir needs to be refilled.”

In Scenic Tool’s case, a simple, cost-effective approach to lubrication has proved reliable and consistent, allowing the manufacturer to maintain focus on its priorities: customers and quality products. FFJ

Sources

  • Scenic Tool & Stamping Inc.
    Campobello, S.C.
    phone: 864/472-0360
    fax: 864/472-0390
    www.scenictool.com
  • Unist Inc.
    Grand Rapids, Mich.
    phone: 616/949-0853
    fax: 616/949-9503
    www.unist.com


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