Big picture

By Lynn Stanley

Above: The Murata servo-driven Motorum M2048TS allows Laurel Manufacturing to process sheet metal to tight tolerances  and eliminate fit-up problems downstream.

Servo motor-driven punch technology can produce features and eliminate secondary processes for fabricators battling short lead times

April 2018 - Rick Dorman has been in the sheet metal business since 1977. “It has changed so much,” observes Murata Machinery Inc.’s North American sales manager for fabrication. Automation is on the rise while the availability of labor is shrinking and lead times are getting shorter. “When I started in manufacturing, standard lead time used to be eight weeks,” says Dorman. “Now it’s down to about one week. That’s tough when you couple reduced turnaround time with the challenges of trying to find qualified help. It’s driving companies to find other alternatives, like automation.”

The eruption of fiber lasers over the last five years shook up the industry, too. By contrast, the punching market has maintained an even keel.

“You don’t see the rapid technology advances with turret punch presses that the industry has observed with fiber lasers because the market has matured,” says Dorman. And the equipment builder knows a thing or two about that. Murata traces its roots to The Wiedemann Machine Co., which introduced the world’s first numerical control (NC) turret punch press at a machine tools show in Chicago in 1955. “In those days you didn’t say you had a turret punch, you said you had a Weidemann,” notes Dorman. “Everyone knew what that was.”

FFJ 0418 punching image1

Murata’s HMI interface allows the operator to review jobs slated for each shift, determine which tools need to be changed and which tools don’t.

FFJ 0418 punching image2

Murata purchased the Wiedemann company in 1970. The manufacturer then introduced the first computer numerical control (CNC) punch press, followed by the first electric servo motor turret punch press, part of Murata’s Motorum series, in 1995. Murata also developed the flexible manufacturing system (FMS) when it married its punch to automated moving parts.

“The introduction of the servo drive in our Motorum series punches was the last major innovation,” says Dorman. “Turret punches used to be mechanical or hydraulic but today nearly 80 percent of manufacturers use a servo-driven punch. It’s cleaner and more environmentally friendly.” And a punch can go places a laser can’t. It has the ability to produce forms, extrusions, louvers, lances, and beads with precision, accuracy and speed.

But Murata isn’t resting on its string of inventions. “Everyone can punch holes,” says Dorman. “We talk to customers about the big picture.”

Looking ahead

Conversations focus on two key areas. With employee costs escalating and skill sets hard to come by, Murata works to equip manufacturers with machines that can be automated at some point. Automation helps companies increase productivity without adding manpower. The ability to add on later makes upfront equipment costs more economical.

Next, Murata helps equipment users to explore what other processes they can perform with the punch, such as forming small tabs, deburring or using the turret for capping instead of sending that work to a drill press. The approach allows fabricators to eliminate secondary processes and reallocate labor to other more value-added tasks. “We call it process integration,” Dorman says.

Control software—a third component—can help operators reduce downtime during setup. “If the operator has to stop the machine to change tools, that takes time,” explains Dorman. “We want to help the operator reclaim lost minutes and gain more greenlight time.”

The control’s HMI interface gives the operator the ability to review jobs slated for each shift, determine which tools need to be changed and which tools don’t. “The control performs analysis of these variables for the operator,” explains Dorman. “He or she doesn’t have to take time from production to manually look at what needs to be done to run the day’s jobs. The control also checks for program errors.”

FFJ 0418 punching image3

Murata uses a Fanuc control with proprietary HMI interface software that can check for program errors and can guide capabilities like retractable forming.

Additionally, it guides capabilities like retractable forming. In the case of a part that requires a feature like a louver, the tool is raised to height just prior to punching and forming. “In the past, tools remained at working height throughout processing, something programmers had to be really careful of,” Dorman says. “Raising tools to working height only when needed keeps sheet marking to a minimum.”

Versatility achieved

Dan Iosca, president of Laurel Manufacturing, understands what it means to have legacy equipment. The Delanco, New Jersey-based job shop serves the electronics and retail markets. Three aging machines put Iosca in the market for a new turret punch press. “I looked at some other models but I had a substantial investment in Murata tooling so it made sense to upgrade with one of their machines.”

Laurel Manufacturing installed a Murata servo-driven Motorum M2048TS in February 2017. The punch runs 12 hours a day, five days a week.  It punches steel, aluminum and stainless steel 1⁄32 in. to 1⁄8 in. thick. “We’re a jobber,” Iosca says. “We run lots of different jobs on the machine. I use it to process all my sheet metal to very tight tolerances. The machine is very accurate so I don’t have to worry about downstream processes. “

Laurel Manufacturing’s production schedule is driven by short lead times. Typical turnaround time is two to three weeks. Delivering high quality parts and components for assembly on time is critical. “We can’t afford downtime,” Iosca says. “We have to meet our schedules.”

Punching parts as small as 1 in. by 1 in., up to trailer truck-size assemblies, Iosca adds that repeatability and reliability help his team provide a level of customer support that sets Laurel Manufacturing apart. “The punch has run since we installed it.”

FFJ 0418 punching image4

The Murata servo-driven Motorum is CNC-controlled and can be paired with automated pieces, like material handling equipment.

Field experience

At Murata, extensive field experience and applications knowledge allow the engineering team to assist customers, like Laurel Manufacturing, with questions during consultations. “We don’t charge for consultation,” Dorman notes.

”Our customers can call any time. Most [members] of our sales team come from fabricating so they have the applications experience [that] manufacturers need to solve their production floor problems quickly.”

Despite a changing marketplace, Dorman feels confident that work will continue to be available both for punching equipment consumers and their vendors. “There will always be manufacturing, it’s just going to be different,” he says. FFJ



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