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Stamping/Presses

Trend toward thin

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Nidec Minster’s EV 350-ton electric vehicle lamination press gives LH Carbide the bed length and low deflection needed to process tools running ultra-thin materials.

Manufacturer uses bed length and low deflection to perform factory acceptance testing on large, complex tooling

October 2019 - Fort Wayne, Indiana, is known as the city of churches. It is also home to LH Carbide Corp., a family owned company that got its start in 1966 producing precision dies. Barry Lee, vice president of technology for LH Carbide, says Midwestern values and a mantra to “keep up” with technology have fueled steady growth.

Today, LH Carbide, an ISO-certified division of LH Industries, owns more than 50 U.S. and foreign patents. It designs and builds progressive lamination tooling for industrial, automotive, appliance and electric motor manufacturers. In addition to lamination and progressive tooling, LH Carbide offers spare replacement parts, rebuild, prototyping and product development services.

“Ten to 15 years ago, we considered 0.35 mm sheet material thin,” says Lee. “Now, 0.27 mm material is pretty standard in the industry with talks of going thinner.”

FFJ 1019 stamping image1

LH Carbide is able to perform factory acceptance testing on progressive dies up to 3.7 meters long.

Complex geometry

The trend toward thinner materials and more complex part geometries compelled company leaders to inquire whether any press could handle longer die lengths with lower deflection.

“In general, part intricacy dictates tooling length,” Lee notes.

In the electric vehicle/hybrid electric vehicle segment (EV/HEV) in particular, “high-volume suppliers are asking for double-row dies, which makes the tooling even larger. We perform factory acceptance testing on each die before shipping it to a customer for site acceptance testing.”

The company was limited, however, to a 300-ton machine with an 84-in. bed length. “For handling reasons, these large EV/HEV dies are typically two-piece construction. We had been relegated to running each piece separately, which was not ideal,” Lee says.

LH Carbide’s search for the right press led it to Nidec Minster Corp. “They are in our backyard,” says Lee. “We have many other Minster presses dating back to the 1980s. We’re used to their outstanding service. At the end of the day, we felt their product was superior,” says Lee of the EV press series Nidec Minster introduced in 2016.

FFJ 1019 stamping image2

Pressure monitoring of the slide and real-time monitoring of vibration levels supports Industry 4.0 practices.

Ultra-thin capability

“The upfront price of electric cars will continue to drop,” says Mark Prenger, general manager of Nidec Minster’s Energy/Electrical Product Division. “We believe that evolving battery technology and global regulation will continue to push growth for this market. The EV press series was designed specifically to process ultra-thin materials used in electric and hybrid models.”

Similar to aluminum foil, material for lamination applications requires a press with a push-pull feed system, a scrap cutter and tooling capable of stacking the laminations produced. “We identified a need for a press with a long bed in smaller tonnage sizes,” says Prenger. “Low deflection is also crucial for these types of operations. A longer bed requires stiffer die space with lower deflection in the bed and slide, because thin materials need tighter die clearance. Without these features, you could chip your punches.”

Nidec Minster used the rugged characteristics of its PM4 press line as a template to engineer and build an EV-250 ton and EV-350 ton electrical lamination press. Each has a bed and ram length of 146 in. Hydrostatic/hydrodynamic gibbing for precision slide guiding is pressure monitored and engineered to shut down if problems are detected.

FFJ 1019 stamping image3

Interior permanent magnet (IPM) rotor for EV application.

Stiff requirements

“Pressure monitoring of the slide and real-time monitoring of vibration levels also support Industry 4.0 practices,” says Prenger. “The EV press is the first electrical vehicle lamination machine capable of accurately accommodating material down to 0.20 mm in this bed size.”

LH Carbide installed an EV 350-ton press in May 2019. The line includes a Nidec Vamco push/pull feed system, Nidec Vamco scrap chopper, PRAB in-floor scrap conveyor, plus material handling equipment built by Machine Concepts. The new press can handle dies up to 3.7 meters.

“Minster Machine Co. was born in 1896,” Prenger says. “Becoming part of Nidec gave us some key advantages. We are not trying to sell only presses. Joining Nidec and partnering with Machine Concepts for material handling allows us to provide a true turnkey system.”

Dynamic balancing of the slide was one of the technology features that LH Carbide adopted. “We bought the option because it allows us to run the press at speeds up to 350 strokes per minute,” says Lee. “Setting up this press system allows us to get a jump on competition.”

The company is also counting on Nidec Minster’s responsive service technicians to help it sustain greenlight on time. “A big EV design/build program takes about 20 weeks,” notes Lee. “We can’t afford down time.”

LH Carbide’s new line resides in an enclosed space the company calls its EV/HEV Focus Room. It plans to add a conference room for customers.

“This capital equipment investment sets us apart,” says Lee. “Building the types of dies that will run on this press—there are only a handful of people in the world that can produce tooling at this high level.” FFJ

Sources

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