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Stamping/Presses

Flat out

By Lynn Stanley

Equipment maker takes the fight out of high-strength steels with heavy-duty coil line technology

April 2017 - Advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) is now the standard lightweight go-to material, prized by carmakers who want to reduce mass without sacrificing strength. But when feeding AHSS coils to stamping equipment, these grades can deal a knockout blow to a straightener, burning up motors, and snapping end journals.

In fact, straightening AHSS is typically the most difficult step in a stamping operation. Work rolls on conventional equipment lack the force of delivery to bend AHSS coils because roll support can be insufficient and component performance unreliable. Coe Press Equipment Corp. began to study the problem to help customers tackle this issue.

The Sterling Heights, Michigan, machinery builder supplies coil processing technology and comprehensive solutions for complete integrated lines, straighteners and reels. In 2014, Coe Press Equipment “put on the gloves” and introduced a heavy-duty straightener head able to process AHSS and other high yield strength steels. Coe used the straightener head as a platform to launch the SpaceMaster Series 4 compact coil lines in 2015. The lines are capable of processing heavy-gauge, high-strength materials at speeds of 60 to 70 SPM. The equipment takes up just 23 ft. of floor space.

75/25

Sebastijan Zupanec, general manager for Nahanni Steel Products Inc., has observed a steady migration from thick commercial grade steel to thinner, higher strength grades with a higher tensile yield. The Brampton, Ontario-based manufacturer produces metal stampings for light and heavy vehicles, alongside parts, components and systems for automotive and transportation applications. Nahanni also provides service and support for die production, stamping, tooling, maintenance, welding, assembly, packaging and delivery.

Nahanni’s steel products can be found on vehicles ranging from sedans to pickup trucks for brands such as Mercedes Benz, Lexus, Honda, Ford, Chrysler and GMC. Government rules mandate that vehicles  become lighter in order to improve fuel efficiency, Zupanec says. “In turn, the equipment needed to move that material can prove challenging, particularly in the areas of tooling design/builds and the right type of core feeding lines. Safety and awareness trends enforced by Canada have also stepped up dramatically.” 

FFJ 0417 stamping image1

Able to process heavy-gauge, high-strength materials at speeds up to 70 SPM, the SpaceMaster has a small footprint of just 23 ft.

Industry competitiveness pushed the company into a global marketplace where it found a playing field that was not always level. Each year, the specification of commodity grade steels give way to greater volumes of premium high-strength materials. “If I look back over the last five years, I would estimate that the jobs we were running were split nearly even between AHSS steels and commercial grades of steel,” Zupanec says. “Today, I would say it is closer to 75/25.”

The shift prompted Nahanni to reshuffle equipment maintenance to the top of the pile. “Materials like AHSS and HSS beat equipment to death,” he says. “I ran high-strength materials through equipment that was larger than necessary and usually dedicated to other work. It impacted our efficiency levels.”

To tackle the problem, Nahanni installed Coe’s SpaceMaster Series 4. “The ability to achieve material flatness with high-strength metals is one of the key reasons we chose the SpaceMaster,” Zupanec says. “Threading is easy, loading is safe and we’ve seen reductions in our downtime.”

A big hurdle for Nahanni was becoming able to run a broad range of material thicknesses and grades on the same line. Metals varied in terms of softness and hardness, too. 

“We have to push a lot of jobs through,” Zupanec says. “We needed a level of flexibility our existing machines didn’t have. The Coe line gave us that.”

On the flat

Other equipment builders demonstrated their capabilities, but Coe went the extra mile, Zupanec says. The efficiency of straightening lines is measured, in part, by material flatness. To prove its technology, Coe ran Nahanni’s high-strength material with its advanced straightening head. “We saw firsthand that we could attain the flatness and quality our customers were looking for,” says Zupanec. “Once we saw what [Coe was] capable of doing, and what their top-down management initiatives were, we felt they had a stronger ability to meet our needs than anyone else.”

Coe developed the SpaceMaster Series 4 line to address needs articulated by Nahanni Steel Products, as well as the specific requirements of other customers in the automotive market, says Coe Regional Sales Manager Mike Foster. “When you are dealing with high-strength materials in a coil form, it’s like a giant spring. You need to contain the coil when the bands are cut and you must have devices in place that control the direction of flow so the material can be threaded through the equipment and into the feeder straightener virtually hands-free without operator intervention.”

Manipulating steel

The SpaceMaster Series 4 also helped Nahanni resolve crossbow. Crossbow refers to a curvature in the transverse direction of a coil. Positive crossbow means the top surface width is greater than the bottom. The bottom width must be stretched while the top width is compressed to arrive at the correct, consistent measurement across and through the material. 

Coil set, also known as longbow, refers to curvature in the material’s longitudinal direction. A positive set means the top surface is longer than the bottom surface. Correcting this requires stretching the bottom and compressing the top.

Center buckle occurs when material has both coil set and crossbow, and is forced in the same direction to lie flat. This condition can create quality issues with blanks stamped from such coils. 

“We were having trouble with crossbow on our previous equipment,” Zupanec says. “Coe’s precision straightener eliminates crossbow, allowing us to manipulate material in such a way that when it reaches the tool, it is perfectly flat. That allows us to focus on the tooling side because we know that the material coming in is perfectly flat. We have been able to virtually eliminate any curvature in the steel within a couple thousandths of an inch.” 

The SpaceMaster Series 4 can handle coil widths of 12 in. to 72 in., thicknesses from 0.02 in. to 0.40 in., coil weights from 10,000 lbs. to 60,000 lbs. with yield strengths of up to 1000Mpa. Material grades include CRS, HRS, AHSS, stainless and aluminum. Coe will launch its SpaceMaster Series 5 this spring.

The SpaceMaster Series 4 has allowed Nahanni to attract new business. “There are automotive customers that require a higher flatness tolerance with high-strength materials,” says Zupanec. “This line has allowed us to obtain some of that work. I think we’ll be able to capture more work with the idea that, as we continue to evaluate this line, we’ll be able to expand to newer equipment with Coe.” FFJ

Sources

  • Coe Press Equipment
    Sterling Heights, Michigan
    phone: 586/330-0011
    www.cpec.com
  • Nahanni Steel Products Inc.
    Brampton, Ontario
    phone: 905/791-2100
    www.nahannisteel.com
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