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Tool & Die

Adaptability advantages

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Rolla-V style tooling minimizes die marking and improves cosmetic aspects of parts.

Adjustable hardware reduces needed tool changes

April 2015 - Today’s manufacturers are expected to produce parts with tighter tolerances combined with aesthetically pleasing finishes in less time. Keeping that in mind, the Rolla-V tooling concept, originally patented in the U.K. 17 years ago, has evolved due in large part to customer requests. The result is an evolution of practical and innovative tooling designs making change-ups quicker without sacrificing consistency. 

Addison, Illinois-based Fab Supply Inc. introduced Rolla-V products into the North American market shortly after the Rolla-V was patented in the U.K. Fab Supply Founder and President John Wold has since worked hand in hand with U.K. based Rolla-V Ltd. to continually improve the design and function of existing models and to develop new designs in order to meet ever-changing customer needs. 

Some Rolla-V models have gone through eight generations of change with millions of dollars invested in research and development. Most recently, the company introduced two fixed models, its RVM 2.5 and RVM 90-4. “Most of our products have seen multiple redesigns. Anytime we find a way to improve our products, we do it,” says Kevin Marklew, managing director of Rolla-V Ltd., Halesowen, U.K.

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Customer feedback drives much of the change at Fab Supply. “This is precisely how the new RVM 2.5 came to be,” says Wold. “We had a huge number of customers looking to use Rolla-V tooling to form parts from 10 gauge stainless steel. Unfortunately, the 10 gauge stainless was slightly out of range for the original Model 2 and a bit too thin to form properly on the Model 3. Once we realized how badly our customers needed this new model, Rolla-V had a prototype designed and manufactured in less than three weeks. Now it is one of our most popular models.”

The preferred thickness range for the RVM 2.5 is 14 gauge through 3⁄16 in. but it can be used to form 1⁄4 in. material under certain conditions. 

The RVM 90-4 tool was designed for fabricators that needed to form 5⁄16 in., 3⁄8 in., and 1⁄2 in. material, but couldn’t justify the cost of the more elaborate adjustable models. “The RVM 90-4 offers the capacity of the light-duty adjustable models in a solid body design,” Wold says. “Since we were able incorporate 1⁄2 in. forming capacity into a solid body tool, the machining costs related to baseplates and saddle blocks used in the adjustable model design are no longer necessary.”

Many fabricators place a higher priority on producing cosmetically appealing parts than ever before. “In the past, if a part was within tolerance, it was acceptable. Now people also want improved aesthetics,” he says. “Folks use Rolla-V style tooling to minimize die marking and improve the cosmetic aspects of parts used in many different industry sectors such as architectural metals, food service, transportation and appliances.” 

Versatility by design

Adjustable tools are becoming popular due to their versatility, says Wold. A certain amount of setup is still necessary, but using adjustable tooling typically results in a significant reduction in the number of required tool changes. “The major advantage of having an adjustable tool is that you can form a wider range of material thicknesses without changing them out,” explains Wold. “Normally, when you have to form different material thicknesses, you have to change dies. Doing so is both time consuming and labor intensive.” 

Fab Supply offers five adjustable Rolla-V models. The four basic dies range from the RVPV3, which can be used to form materials up to 1⁄2 in. thick, to the massive RVHD4, which is used to form material thicknesses of up to 1.5 in. The fifth is the newest model, the RVZ adjustable joggle tool.

Once a functional RVZ design was developed, the next challenge was to add a level of adjustability. Various attempts were made to create adjustable offset dies by using shims underneath the forming insert blocks. “Unfortunately most of these attempts resulted in frequently unusable open angle joggles,” Wold says. “In contrast, by incorporating vertical shims and rotors into the tools design (see diagram), the RVZ tools can be used to effectively produce a variety of 90-degree and open-angle offsets ranging in depth from 2 mm to 15 mm (.078 in. to .590 in.).” 

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Another option

Fab Supply’s Vee-Lock adjustable die has also become popular in recent years. “Unlike the older, shim-style adjustable dies, which require the operators to manually remove and reposition the shims to change the vee-openings, the design of the Vee-Lock only requires the operator to loosen the stripper bolts on the top of the saddle blocks,” Wold says. As the stripper bolts are loosened, the saddle blocks are automatically lifted, thereby disengaging the locking channels at the bottom of the saddle from those located in the base plate. The saddle blocks glide on cam rollers and can be moved easily and safely into the appropriate position. Once positioned, tightening the stripper bolts re-engages the locking mechanism with the die ready for use.

The Vee-Lock adjustable die allows for easy die setups, saving a significant amount of time. “Changing out a 60-ft.conventional die setup (used in the pole forming industry), could easily take two hours or more,” says Wold. “With a Vee-Lock adjustable die you could make the change in less time. What normally takes you 45 minutes with standard dies can be done in 5 to 10 minutes on a Vee-Lock.”

The forming surfaces of a Vee-Lock adjustable die also differ from those of the shim-style adjustable dies. Vee-Lock dies are equipped with hard chromed rollers in lieu of the standard brake die forming inserts. “Unlike the standard forming inserts, the rollers have 360 degrees of useable forming surface so their service life is significantly extended,” he says. Using rollers at the top of a die opening will also reduce forming tonnage anywhere from 15 to 20 percent. “This tonnage reduction will minimize part making as well as wear and tear on your press brake.” 

Another useful feature is they can be produced with a hydraulic lock/unlock system. This feature is helpful when die openings are changed frequently because it allows for change-ups in minutes. Once the saddles are unlocked and repositioned, an operator presses a button to relock the saddles when the die is ready for use. 

“A stand-alone hydraulic power supply can be provided to operate this system when it is not feasible to tie it into the machine’s hydraulic system,” Wold says. A fully automated CNC version of the Vee-Lock is available, with its own control panel to operate the hydraulic clamping/unclamping and the motorized movement of the saddle blocks.

Overall there is a sense of positive growth within the Fab Supply and Rolla-V organizations, says Wold. “There’s been a tremendous increase in spending. People seem more and more willing to invest in specialized tooling because it frequently outperforms their return on investment for capital equipment purchases.

“If you buy a press brake, you want payback and you get it but it takes awhile,” he continues. “With the Rolla-V tooling you see payback instantly.” FFJ

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