Tackling tonnage

By Gretchen Salois

Above: General Kinematics can tool up the press for a 3⁄4-in. bottom die with a 1⁄8-in. top punch and all the way up to a 14-in. bottom die with a 5-in. top punch.

Tooling designs, coupled with powerful force, can handle even the toughest high-strength steels

May 2019 - About 90 percent of durable goods include castings produced in a metal foundry, according to the American Foundry Society. The $33.7 billion industry employs more than 200,000 people in the U.S. alone. Workers are feet away from alloys melted at temperatures reaching beyond 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. The equipment in a foundry must be as reliable as it is safe.

Founded in 1960, General Kinematics Corp. has produced vibratory and rotary foundry machinery equipment to increase casting throughput, while minimizing casting damage and maintenance costs. The manufacturer also makes resource recovery (recycling), mining and bulk processing equipment.

At one point, General Kinematics’ press brake went down. While looking for a replacement that would provide adjustability as well as flexibility and strength, General Kinematics had to temporarily subcontract its high-strength steel (HSS) press brake work.

“We’re not a sheet metal shop bending only thinner plate. The tonnages we need to meet meant our outsourcing options were limited. We were crippling along while we replaced parts to maintain our machines,” says Eric Schwantje, production manager. “Our operators did the best they could with what they had, but it was time to invest in a machine that would grow with the company.”

FFJ 0519 bending image1

Using laser optics underneath the part, the Ursviken angle measurement system measures the angle of the formed part in real time to the programmed target angle.

General Kinematics invested in an Ursviken press brake. “Our old machine couldn’t handle the increase in tonnage and we ran into a lot of hydraulics problems,” he says. Repeatability problems were compounded by the need for operators to perform manual changeovers.

“A single unit might include stainless with another [adjacent] part being wear-resistant plate, and each change took time and slowed our operators down,” Schwantje says. “They’d be making parts but would have to stop to change the setup for the next part. It was difficult and burdensome to make the changeovers quickly or adapt to variations from job to job.”

Flexible adjustability

Based in Crystal Lake, Illinois, General Kinematics runs multiple steels from A36 mild steel up to HSS. “Customers require a mix of flat plate and formed plate, ranging in tensile strengths from 60,000 psi for A36 through 230,000 psi for HSS. We’re building a unit with parts like that right now; it includes stainless A36, stainless steel and HSS,” Schwantje explains.

“We have 10 different punch radii, anything from 1⁄8-in. punch up to 5-in. punch,” he says. “Due to our wide range of upper tooling, we need the ability to changeover quickly as well as meet heavy tonnage requirements. Ursviken’s line best fit those requirements.”

Ursviken’s upper tooling adapters come in standard lengths of 39.3 in. and can be interlocked to keep the alignment between tool adapters. The dovetail radius tips can be delivered in 19.7-in. and 39.3-in. lengths.

Larger Ursviken press brakes over 350 tons can be equipped with the UMV28 upper tool clamp to allow higher concentrated loads because the safety tang is increased from 1⁄2 in. to 1.1 in.Ursviken 5 19 image002

“Ursviken further developed the UMV28 mechanical and hydraulic upper clamp [beyond the 1⁄2-in. American style tool] to include integrated rollers,” explains Marten Weidgraaf, general manager at Ursviken Inc., Elgin, Illinois. “The main idea is that upper adapters can simply be rolled in and out of the upper tool clamping.”

Completing large radius bends with thick, heavy steel on a variable die allows it to achieve up to 210 tons of pressure per foot. “If you’re bending short lengths of HSS, the ability to focus 20 percent of total tonnage in that small area is crucial. The machine is designed to take concentrated loads in those areas,” Schwantje says.

The Ursviken press brake makes processes like bump bending (air forming and bottoming for larger radiuses) simpler because it has a 6-axis backgauge, making layouts easier for operators.

“If you’re working with a 14-in. bottom die and 5-in. top punch, we press down with the understanding that it will take multiple hits in different locations to achieve the final inside part radius we need,” Schwantje explains. “It’s like taking a piece of flat paper and forming it into a semicircle. You can’t just press it down once and be done. You program the machine to bend at a given angle multiple times in different locations. After each press cycle, you bring it up and check with a radius gauge. Then, the operator calculates what adjustments are needed to the ram stroke in order to achieve the necessary inside radii.”

Automated tooling

Bending AHSS results in increased springback. An operator could load and bend the material only to find the part is 20 degrees off its target. The Ursviken angle measurement system measures the angle of the formed part in real time to the programmed target angle by using laser optics underneath the part itself. After reaching the programmed angle, the ram slowly reverses upward until almost no more springback is detected. The spring calculation automatically detects how much to compensate to reach the new target angle. The ram then comes back down to the new calculated angle, all while maintaining the track of the bend line, “thus producing a nearly perfect formed part,” Weidgraaf explains.

“If we’re bending certain parts, this feature helps prevents us from over bending,” adds Schwantje.

Operators at General Kinematics previously performed manual tooling replacements. For 20-ft.-long upper tooling and also on the bottom die, operators had to untorque the bolts holding the bottom die and manually adjust the bottom die and then retorque those bolts.

FFJ 0519 bending image2

An Ursviken adaptive optical angle measurement system integrated on a CNC Variable Die Tool with 6-axis backgauge, including a dual CNC plate support with swing axis.

Lowering setup time

“It has been common practice to associate larger press brakes with heavy four-way dies and long and heavy tools,” Weidgraaf says. “In many cases, some of the larger radius tools are homemade from straight bar or round hollow or solid bars. In the case of General Kinematics, we recommended a straight upper holder and a large variety of larger radius adapters. A typical setup from a 1⁄4-in. radius to a 2-in. radius takes only a few minutes to set up.”

With the Ursviken equipment, General Kinematics operators can program the CNC controller for the bottom die width. “If I want an 8-in. bottom die, I run the program and the CNC die automatically makes the adjustments in less than a minute. Short punch segments can also be slid onto the upper ram.” Two-ft.-long sections can be slid on easily compared to before, when it was a 20-ft. changeover, Schwantje says, adding, “Operators aren’t grunting about all the change-ups they have to make. It’s a lot easier for them.”

Ergonomic considerations

Ursviken designed the tool rack to be able to store press brake tools safely. “The tool rack prevents operators from lifting heavy tools and therefore is extremely ergonomic and easy to use,” says Weidgraaf. Operators must turn the hand wheel or use motorized positioning.

General Kinematics uses Ursviken’s patented CNC Variable Die Tool (VDT), where the die opening is obtained through a gradual horizontal movement of the die jaws in 1-in. increments. The VDT is a real axis, programmable from the CNC control system sequence by sequence.

“The different openings of the die, along with contours, are stored in the CNC die tool directory on the control system, enabling computer simulation of the bender sequence and automatic setting of selected die openings in the program,” Weidgraaf says.

Since installing the line, Schwantje says follow-up has been easy. When there were questions, he was immediately able to speak with a service technician, who pulled the drawings on the machine and walked the team through the schematics. “When we figured out an auxiliary valve needed to be replaced, that technician was here the next morning with the right part and got us going again.”

General Kinematics uses proprietary information and translates it into the custom equipment it builds for customers—delivering more than 40,000 installations worldwide. General Kinematics can tool up the Ursviken press for a 3⁄4-in. bottom die with a 1⁄8-in. top punch and all the way up to a 14-in. bottom die with a 5-in. top punch.

“With this machine we can handle anywhere from light-gauge work to parts with an insane amount of tonnage,” Schwantje says. FFJ


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