Flexible force

By Gretchen Salois

Above: A single operator can set up CIDAN’s Futura Plus 30 folder in a matter of minutes.

Affordable design change made possible by a different method

May 2016 - The humble vending machine has stretched beyond the soft drinks and bags of chips of yore. Whether in need of an umbrella during an impromptu rain shower in Japan or an urge to stop at one of Seattle or Vancouver’s cannabis dispensing machines, the vending machine industry is catering to local tastes. In the metals industry, vending machines are also useful, allowing companies to keep track of custom tooling often used to carry out high tolerance jobs.

To ensure a smooth manufacturing process, vending machine builder Automated Merchandising Systems Inc. (AMS), Kearneysville, West Virginia, buys prepainted steel coils and unpainted steel sheet that it processes through its cut-to-length line, CNC turret punch presses and press brakes. To gain greater freedom to pursue new product designs, AMS found a more flexible way to maneuver metal by purchasing the Futura Plus 30 folder from CIDAN Machinery in Peachtree City, Georgia.

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An example of a crisp, 90-degree edge on a typical vending machine.

AMS wanted to go beyond the boxy look synonymous with vending machines. “Normally vending machines are very square looking with crisp, 90-degree angles,” explains Greg Mason, senior vice president of production and operations. “We wanted to change the look without going to a plastic molded front, which would raise the price. So we went to CIDAN and got ourselves a [sheet metal] folder to get a rounder, softer radius—allowing us to keep using metal.”

AMS uses prepainted galvanized steel to manufacture vending machines with component sizes ranging from 0.015 in. through 0.105 in. (12 gauge), and builds doors from 0.040-in.-thick steel. “We run prepainted, galvanized, hot- and cold-rolled steel as well,” Mason says. The CIDAN folder’s ability to manage prepainted steel made it a worthwhile choice. “Not every machine works well with prepainted material,” and, in fact, the folder doesn’t mark material, especially important when finishes have to be flawless. 

Bending design

The Futura Plus 30 folder opened up design possibilities for AMS. “We can do things with this folder we couldn’t do with a press brake,” Mason says. Instead of having a top ram and die come together with the bed of the machine as with a press brake, the folder folds the metal up and down to the top die. 

“There are two heads able to rotate 180 degrees each, Combibeam—that’s two sets of dies instead of one,” Mason says, adding the folder cuts down on tool changes. “It’s more flexible than a press brake, too.”

Previously, AMS used its press brake, which was “more of a hammer and anvil effect with a top and bottom die,” explains Mason. “You take 90 tons of pressure and bring that top die to the bottom die. You can bottom bend or air bend but you get the same result each time.

“Once we’ve run our sheet metal through the line and have punched the holes needed, we send it through a foaming process and blow polyurethane insulation if the vending machine requires some refrigeration or coolant,” Mason says.

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AMS previously used a press brake to get sharp angles using a hammer and anvil effect.

AMS produces a wide range of vending machines that go beyond snacking. Machine shops use vending machines to keep track of tooling and personal protective equipment. “Workers can swipe their card or badge or input a passcode to indicate what job number they need the tooling for or what machine, mill, punch or die they’re using—it helps keep track of things,” Mason says, adding companies also use vending machines to keep track of anything from office supplies to K-Cup-type coffee pods.

The convenience and reliability of a vending machine works particularly well in a job shop setting where significant delays can occur due to misplaced tooling. “We have a customer in the aerospace industry that needed a better way to track high-tolerance, custom-made tooling that would go missing,” Mason recalls. “A job would come up and the tool would be gone. Maybe it went home with someone—maybe it was sold on the internet—whatever the case, now that company was scrambling to get a replacement tool in to meet deadlines.

“Instead, with the vending machine they purchased from us, each tool is linked to a worker’s account so tooling is always accounted for,” he continues. “Certain tools can be restricted to certain job numbers, too, so they don’t get lost during the manufacturing process.” 

Solid service

As opposed to long setup times, multiple operations or multiple operators for large parts on a press brake, CIDAN President Larry Chandonnet says the company’s power folders can be set up in 1 to 2 minutes with only a single operator at the helm for larger parts. “By doing so, you relieve capacity on press brakes, which is particularly helpful when the customer is at capacity,” he says. “If you have two or more press brakes, we streamline those and give you more capacity than just adding another press brake machine.” The folder also has robust height adjustment back gauges and high-gauge fingers.

Mason uses the Futura Plus Combi-beam so he can place a door or any part and produce a crisp 90-degree angle, and then turn the beam to achieve a rounded 1/2-in. radius for a softer looking roll. 

Reinforced by reliable customer service, Mason says he has remained at ease since making the purchase. “I’ve bought a lot of machines over the years and these guys at CIDAN know how to take care of customers—they’re a very good manufacturer and supplier,” Mason says. 

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The CIDAN folder folds the metal up and down to the top die, making a rounder, softer radius possible.

“We’re always making updates on our machine controls and base a lot of those changes on customer requests,” Chandonnet says. Sometimes the best solution for a customer is not replacing its existing brake, but instead, adding a power folder. “We’re here to make the customer’s press brakes more efficient.

“What it comes down to is that people find both our machines and service reliable in both North and South America,” Chandonnet continues. “We pride ourselves on that reputation and continually invest in maintaining that trust by making sure our technology keeps up with industry changes.”

The service and reliability, coupled by the overall safety of the machine, was the tipping point when deciding on the right folder for AMS. “I’ve found that a lot of press brakes and folders in the U.S. are lacking safety devices. They’re just not there,” Mason says. “They built the machine and put a light curtain on it and it came into the plant as safe as anything else we’ve got.”

CIDAN employees attend weekly council meetings at the factory to keep abreast of an ever-changing industrial needs. “Technology is changing—it’s getting better and we take a lot of time in the research and development state to test and produce machines that aren’t rushed into the marketplace too fast,” Chandonnet says. FFJ


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