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Hydraulic Presses

Maintaining momentum

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Hill Engineering’s HX series die/press performs cutoff operation at line speed without interrupting production.

Roll former finds value-adds with custom hydraulic presses and specialty dies

January 2015 - When it comes to survival, beating the odds takes more than marketable products and services. Strong values, an appetite for innovation and the ability to anticipate and adapt to industry trends and market shifts have kept Superior Roll Forming Co. nimble and fresh. Its relentless drive to understand where its customers need to be both now and in the future keep it growing. 

“We’re always pushing the envelope on how we produce parts, use our engineering resources and train our staff with the end goal to exceed our customers’ expectations and position them to be competitive,” says Tim Synk, Superior’s president and third-generation co-owner with Vice President Kevin Synk. That core philosophy keeps Superior’s pipeline full. 

The Valley City, Ohio, company’s 185,000 sq. ft. facility produces defect-free parts for every vehicle Honda produces in North America. It supplies components for Ford, GM, Nissan and other automakers; for tier one suppliers like Johnson Controls; and a wide range of industries with roll-formed parts and assemblies.

Cold-rolled, hot-rolled, galvanized, aluminum, stainless, high-strength and ultra high-strength carbon steel feed 23 roll forming lines, producing parts in a wide range of cross-section profiles and tolerances. Specified for weight and cost reductions, ultra high-strength steel is available in tensile strengths as high as 230 ksi. Eight of the manufacturer’s roll forming lines feature laser, TIG and high-frequency welding capabilities—options that help Superior eliminate an entire step in its manufacturing processes. 

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Streamlining steps

“Our manufacturing flow starts with these lines,” says Ray Krause, new product development manager. “We try to integrate as many value-added processes as possible into the lines to help eliminate secondary operations. That includes adding features to parts like fasteners.”  

The ISO and TS-certified company can configure its continuous welding operation for sweeping, prepunching or notching. Once material is formed and welded, metal is cut to predetermined lengths. For that operation, Superior says it needed a flying hydraulic cutoff press with a small footprint, capable of performing the process at line speed without interrupting or stopping production. Superior also wanted a metalforming equipment manufacturing company that would assist its growth. Its search led it to Hill Engineering in Chicago. Hill belongs to the Formtek Group, comprising several established brands that equip the metalforming industry.

“We liked their design,” Tooling Engineer Dan D’Aurelio says of Hill’s hydraulic press. “The company has a lot of experience and the press was versatile, just what we were looking for. Over the years we’ve continued to purchase from them.” 

The machines were tailored to cut parts from the side for those lines where part orientation puts the weld on top, though the presses can accommodate parts where the orientation of the cross-section puts the weld on the bottom. 

“Our HX series die/presses are designed with a hydraulic cylinder,” explains Paul Williams, director of sales for Hill Engineering. “When we activate the die, the cylinder becomes the press, giving us the freedom to cut from different angles. Because it’s a cylinder, it doesn’t care which direction it cuts from. With a conventional hydraulic press you would have to use cam drivers to perform cuts from the side. That means more moving parts and more maintenance.” 

In addition to its custom hydraulic presses, Hill has become the go-to company for specialty dies for the roll forming lines its equipment supports, according to Williams. 

“We have a strong reputation for design and development of unique punching and cutoff dies,” he says. “As demand for short stroke, high-speed hydraulic presses grew, we took our die experience and married it with hydraulics, something other equipment companies were struggling with. Our success in that area created a niche market for us.” 

Flexible function

Superior’s willingness to invest in capital equipment and technology is a testament to its progressive nature. “A lot of manufacturers don’t want to invest in the equipment and tooling they need to achieve the efficiencies they are looking for,” Williams explains. “That approach can hinder a company and make it difficult for them to be competitive because their cost will be higher per part. “As Superior has grown it also has become very self-aware,” he continues. “They now have design/build capabilities for tooling in-house but continue to work with us on difficult projects. These days you don’t often find the kind of vendor-customer relationship we have with Superior.”

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The hydraulic presses support faster changeover times for the tooling the manufacturer produces. “We constructed a number of holders that are identical but have the ability to take any material configuration or shape they want,” Williams notes. “They can pull the die inserts and use different blanks. They can change the holder out or they can change the die without pulling the holder from the roll forming line. It gives them a lot of flexibility.”

“We use Hill for jobs requiring more complex die applications or if it’s an application we haven’t seen before,” says Krause. “They are pretty good at coming up with innovative solutions.”

When Superior had to form a part specifying tabs in an open section at each end, for an automated material handling application, it turned to Hill for the cutoff die. “Line speed was 100 ft. per minute,” Krause says. “With the Hill die we were able to achieve a very close tolerance, ± 0.015 in. over 4 ft. tab to tab.”

Hill designed and delivered its latest specialty die to Superior in March 2014 for a line that supports a light truck seating application for an automaker’s 2015 model.

Horizons

“They are willing to look at our applications,” says D’Aurelio. “We don’t go to them with anything simple. They have a similar mindset when it comes to breaking new ground and supporting new technology.”

Part tolerance, line speed, part shape and number of holes are just some of the characteristics Hill looks at when it considers a new die design. “There’s no flow chart or data parameters though that you can plug into a computer that say, ‘This is how you build it,’” Williams says. “We look at the options and identify what will work best for the customer. We only get one shot, so we have to get it right.”

Although Superior focuses primarily on producing parts for the automotive, material handling and construction markets, the company is looking at new ventures. 

“We have already booked orders for new projects and expect to be busy through 2022,” says Tim Synk. “We have jointly developed some aerospace applications that are considered technology improvements for new engine designs. We are also looking at retrofitting engines in 2016 with these designs.” 

Superior is studying ways it can improve its cutting technology for the aerospace parts it will produce. “We may be partnering with Hill,” adds Synk. “Our goal is continuous improvement across the board. We’re in a very competitive industry and part of our strategy is to create new markets where they don’t currently exist.” FFJ

Sources

  • Hill Engineering/Formtek
    Carol Stream, Ill.
    phone: 630/834-4430
    fax: 630/834-4755
    www.hillengr.com
  • Superior Roll Forming Co.
    Valley City, Ohio
    phone: 330/225-2500
    fax: 330/225-0888
    www.gosrf.com
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