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Press Brake Tooling

Uninterrupted flow

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Bourgault regained lost production time on large panel forming for its air seeders when the lean manufacturer exchanged its 12 ft. press brake with a 685-ton, 30-ft. machine equipped with Wila segmented tooling, clamping and CNC crowning.

Tooling technology improves part accuracy, makes multiple setups seamless

September 2014 - For grain farmers, managing risk can mean the difference between profit, breaking even and going into the red. Farming is challenging, says Gerry Bourgault, president of St. Brieux, Saskatchewan-based Bourgault Industries Ltd., “because the number of uncontrollable variables is greater than in any other business on this planet.” 

Among them, he cites weather, disease, insects, geopolitical events like the current crisis in Ukraine, international policies on grain production and domestic issues such as transportation and pricing. “Seeding is arguably the most important activity in grain production and it’s the one operation farmers have control over that has the greatest impact on crop yield and quality,” Bourgault explains. “Farmers can put their crops in the best position to adjust to potential external threats by developing an environment for early and consistent seed germination and plant emergence. To do that, they need the right seeding tool.”

Bourgault Industries designs, manufactures and distributes some of the most durable and reliable farm equipment on the market today. Its air drills, air seeders, tillage, harrows, packers and grain carts are sold in the U.S., Australia and Eastern Europe. The company was established in 1973, after Gerry Bourgault’s father, Frank, developed and built a cultivator that could efficiently work the hard, stony soil and heavy field residue found in northeastern Canada.

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Time travel

As crop yields increase, so have the size and capacity of agriculture equipment. To keep pace, Tom Cunningham, production support for Bourgault, says the company had to consider more than just its bending process to justify the cost of a new press brake and precision press brake tooling technology.

Bourgault was bump bending large panels for its air seeder tanks in two pieces on its 12-ft. press brake, then joining the halves with a weld. The multistep process was stealing valuable production time and impacting part accuracy. 

“We’ve been practicing lean manufacturing for quite awhile,” Cunningham says. “The lean journey is something that never ends because you’re always looking for ways to make improvements. When you move into the larger realm of press brakes, though, along with the tooling needed to support it, you’re looking at a substantial investment. We couldn’t justify the cost based solely on production. We might bend roughly 10 different parts that are longer than 12 ft. But when we looked at the opportunity to eliminate weld costs and gain better fit up, it began to make sense pretty quickly.”

Bourgault specified and installed a 685-ton, 30 ft., Accurpress Accell in 2009. The larger press brake solved one problem but posed other challenges—namely tooling and how the operator would manipulate the parts on the press brake. Traditional tooling for larger press brakes can weigh more than 1,000 lbs., requiring added personnel and cranes or forklifts to help load longer, heavier tooling into position.

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“We insisted on Wila tooling,” says Cunningham. “We used their tooling on other press brakes so were familiar with the product’s consistent performance. With a machine this size we knew we also wanted a crowning system. Prior experience with Wila had us convinced that we wanted to go with their crowning technology.”

In addition to extra processing steps with its existing machine, the fabricator was experiencing a slight bow in the center of its formed panels. 

Payback

“The longer a press brake’s length, the more its deflection under load increases, making the need for crowning critical,” says Dan Joss, vice president and metal fabrication specialist for Wallace Machinery & Tool Co. Ltd. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, company handles a broad range of metalworking equipment and is a distributor for Wila products. “Wila’s CNC crowning system has been designed with anti-deflection technology to compensate for press brake deflection, delivering a better bend and improved fit up.”

Joss also looked at the scope of Bourgault’s application, the new press brake’s specifications and required capacity. “Wila’s precision segmented tools on a large press brake are a game changer,” he says. “Tool lengths are shorter, can be loaded by one person, and line up accurately every time.”

Wila American style clamping, tooling and CNC crowning aids the Accurpress in bump bending panels up to 28 ft. long and approximately 70 in. wide from 11-gauge hot-rolled steel. “The combination of tooling and crowning allows us to achieve tighter tolerances on these parts and we’ve eliminated the issue of bowing in the middle,” Cunningham says.

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ROI on the press brake, crowning and tooling took less than a year based on the additional throughput achieved by eliminating the weld seam from its panels.

“Payback was very fast,” he says. “We gained back about a unit a week.”

Of the nearly 12,000 parts Bourgault has on file, roughly 50 percent are bent. Some 200 different parts are run through the Accurpress from 16-gauge to 3⁄4-in.-thick hot-rolled steel, the majority of which specify air bending. Wila’s crowning system and segmented tooling supports Bourgault’s material flow environment, mixed part volume and critical timeframes for deliveries. “We don’t keep a lot of the large panels on hand in the event something happens,” says Cunningham, referring to an equipment shutdown. “The repeatability of the Wila systems allows us to cut and bend these panels in a flow pattern for downstream processing. It’s the only large press brake we have and we’ve never had to stop the line because of a tooling issue.”

The nimble company also has the flexibility to move back and forth between different jobs.

“Typically we bend a set of panels then remove some of the tooling to form other parts. If we need panels for another tank, we call up the program for that part. It’s the same each time. We don’t have to waste minutes reprogramming and making adjustments.”

Quick step

“Everyone is so concerned with the bottom line, they often overlook setup time,” he adds. “We perform multiple setups a day and it needs to be seamless. The quicker we do that the better. With Wila’s clamping and segmented tooling, that’s as quick as it gets.”

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Because Bourgault bends most of its parts in the middle of the press brake, it rotates the dies once a week to ensure an even wear pattern. “Unlike conventional tooling, if we have to replace a Wila tool, we can count on the fact it will be the same order to order,” Cunningham says. “Wila tooling maintains a ±0.0004 in. accuracy rating ensuring that each tool from order to order is made with the same tool height, centerline and hardening process,” Joss says. 

Bourgault has built its business on developing and producing equipment designed for tough environments. Wila’s tooling is also put to the test daily with the mill-scale covered hot-rolled steel the fabricator uses. “We consider tooling a capital investment not a consumable so we expect superior tool life. Wila’s unique CNC Deephardening process gives us that,” Cunningham says. “When you look at the long-term benefits of extended die life, the cost savings is apparent over time.”

For customer-focused Bourgault, creating the best possible environment for producing optimal parts depends on equipment like its press brake and Wila tooling. “If you buy an expensive press brake, why would you chintz on the tooling?” he says. “In the end, a press brake is only as good as the tooling because that’s where the rubber meets the road.” FFJ

Sources

  • Bourgault Industries Ltd.
    St. Brieux, Saskatchewan
    phone: 306/275-2300
    fax: 306/275-2307
    www.bourgault.com
  • Wallace Machinery & Tool Co. Ltd.
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    phone: 204/788-1199
    fax 204/772-2341
    www.wallacemachinery.com
  • Wila USA
    Hanover, Md.
    phone: 443/459-5496
    fax: 443/459-5515
    www.wilausa.com

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