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Punching

Racine Metal-Fab eliminated time-consuming secondary operations by using a tapping tool from Wilson Tool

By Lauren Duensing

Above: The QuickTap kit comes with all the components needed to set up, run and maintain the tap tool.

December 2018 - Jim and Marge Madson founded Racine Metal-Fab (RMF) in 1968, which fabricated  small metal components for local OEMs. As RMF grew, it needed to find ways to produce parts more quickly and in larger quantities. As a result, the Sturtevant, Wisconsin-based company purchased equipment and embraced lean manufacturing strategies to eliminate waste, solve problems and—ultimately—deliver quality products. And the investment over the years in machinery and methods has paid off.

RMF is celebrating its 50th year in business and has been featured on the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Top Wisconsin-Based Women-Owned Businesses list for six years in a row.

“We’re a custom sheet metal fabricator with a strong focus in highly cosmetic and critical tolerance parts,” says Bruce Miller, senior manufacturing engineer. One of the high-profile projects RMF won was with Musco Lighting to build new LED lights for the Green Bay Packers’ stadium, Lambeau Field. RMF also produces parts for medical, food processing and electrical automation companies. “We work with a lot of highly aesthetic aluminum and reflective materials, and we either use a soft tool process with our turrets and lasers or we make hard tooling to mass-produce parts.”

FFJ 1218 punching image1

The QuickTap can create accurate threads at any programmed location on the sheet—right in the punch press.

Automation saves time

When evaluating operations from a lean perspective, sometimes a comparatively small change can provide big results. RMF found that switching its tapping process from a manual operation to Wilson Tool’s QuickTap saved time and increased accuracy.

“As parts get more complicated with more taps, the chances of manually missing one are greater,” Miller notes. “QuickTap has solved part of that because once you automate [the tapping process] in the turret or turret/laser combination machine, you only need to check once a sheet for all the parts on the sheet. As long as the ones at the end are good, usually the whole sheet is good.”

Every customer wants everything right away, says Mark Collins, Wilson Tool sales engineer. “The biggest challenge fabricators face is getting parts fabricated and out the door to their customers quickly,” he adds. “The QuickTap makes it extremely fast. You can punch your holes and punch your part and tap it—all in the punch press. Depending on material type, thickness and tap size, the QuickTap can tap up to 200 holes per minute, so it’s a tremendous time saver.”

Moving tapping into the punch press with the QuickTap allows the user to tap a threaded hole with every machine stroke at any programmed location on the sheet. The tool comes with its own internal fluid injection system that is synchronized with the machine stroke and lasts for up to 40,000 holes before a refill is needed. In addition, tap tools are easily changed and are available in both imperial and metric sizes.

FFJ 1218 punching image2

The QuickTap accepts multiple sizes of taps, and taps are easily changed, with no disassembly required.

One setup, one operation

“Once you install the QuickTap in your punch press, you can do all your punching and all your tapping right there, handling the part fewer times,” Collins says. “It’s much, much faster on the punch press than it is to take it over to a drill press. You get clean, high-quality tapped holes, and it eliminates downstream processes.”

For RMF, the tool eliminated downstream tapping. “In the past, we had to tap offline,” says Miller. “We prefer to tap in a flat, so the part would have to go to the machining center to get tapped and then come back to the forming department for bending. Now, we’ve eliminated that part movement, and the parts go straight from the turret to the press brakes.”

Reducing the amount of times a part is handled increases the speed at which it moves through the fabrication process and helps RMF achieve its lean strategy. “When we can run a sheet and have the same operator bend the parts without having that middle downstream operation, then that’s what we’re looking for,” Miller says.

Employees adapted quickly to using QuickTap with minimal training, Miller comments, saying that changing taps is very simple—“it just pops in and out”—and that once employees had the hang of setting up the tool for different materials and checking that the taps had been completed on the entire sheet, they were off and running.

Like Racine Metal-Fab, Wilson Tool has a long history, beginning in a basement and celebrating its 50th year in 2016. The company provides tooling solutions to the bending, punching, stamping, tableting and additive industries.

“Turret presses have to compete with lasers, and at the end of the day, for the customer, it’s all about how fast they can get parts off their machine and get on to the next job,” Collins says, noting that Wilson Tool prides itself on working with customers to educate them on available options and to help them become more efficient.

“Everybody is very busy, and they need to get parts through the shop as quickly as possible by decreasing the number of times that a part is handled. And the QuickTap tool is tried and tested to eliminate a lot of those secondary operations.” FFJ

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