Press Brake Tooling

Time bender

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Wilson Tool’s Bend3D offers lower cost and shorter lead times than conventional tooling.

Printed tooling gives fabricators quick turnaround without sacrificing function, quality and mechanical properties

December 2019 - In James Cameron’s 1991 film “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” John Connor, future leader of the human resistance against the Machines is targeted by Skynet’s liquid metal, shapeshifting T-1000 cyborg assassin. But science fiction isn’t just for the movies. Wilson Tool International is using 3D printing technology that is eerily redolent of a scene from “Terminator” where the T-1000 rises from a puddle of molten mimetic polyalloy.

Carbon Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) uses continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) technology to make high-quality, durable parts through a photochemical process that works by projecting light through an oxygen-permeable window into a reservoir of UV-curable resin. A sequence of UV images is sent to the printer.

FFJ 1219 pressbrake image1

Wilson Tool’s Corner Former bends finished corners and eliminates secondary operations.

“The printing process pulls the part out of the liquid resin, like the Terminator,” says Steve Brown, press brake tooling and additive manufacturing product manager for Wilson Tool. The technique offers several advantages compared to 3D printing processes like fused deposition modeling (FDM), which lays down layers similar to hot glue being dispensed from a glue gun. This method can lead to ribbing, making the lines from each layer visible. To remove the lines, an extra step of polishing or sanding is required. FDM parts also don’t have isotropic strength. “Our DLS system is fast compared to other printing methods,” Brown says. “A steel press brake special tool can normally take up to 30 days to build. We can print a special from composite material in five days and the cost is about half of what it would be for a conventional tool. If you are printing steel, you don’t get a huge cost break but it is faster. A smooth finish is another advantage of DLS. Also, we can dictate mechanical properties such as strength.”

New horizon

Wilson Tool launched its 3D printing division when it introduced its Bend3D and Solv3D lines at Fabtech 2018. But the company has been prototyping functional parts since 2012.

The decision to enter additive manufacturing was a simple one for the tooling and clamping supplier. “We saw customer lead times shrinking to as little as five days,” he says.“When tooling is made with subtractive manufacturing, there is lots of wait time between ordering material, processes like grinding and other finishing work. Wait time is a non-value add for customers that delays delivery,” says Brown

Wilson Tool’s Bend3D line can print bending tools to make forming, air bending or cosmetic tooling. Bend3D is best suited to low production runs with jobs requiring up to 1,000 hits or more in materials such as 14-gauge cold-rolled steel and thinner. The Solv3D line can replace end-use parts traditionally manufactured from steel or plastic.

“With this method, a company can quickly and cost effectively replace shop items such as jigs and fixtures that previously required an expensive mold,” Brown notes. “Prototyping is another application.”

FFJ 1219 pressbrake image2

Brake Partner allows shops to use new or existing punch press tooling to make forms in the press brake.

Wilson Tool has a selection of resin composite materials and colors with special attributes such as flexibility and heat resistance.

The tooling and clamping supplier has a Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) 3D printer for steel. “Our steel material results in a product that is 99 percent pure,” Brown says. “If you buy a block of steel and start milling it, it’s going to have more air pockets than our finished printed materials. Different 3D printing approaches allow us to maximize materials and combinations for superior finish and strength, and lead time to ship is 10 to 15 days.”

How to get a new tool

Customers can access 3D printing at Wilson Tool in one of two ways. A fabricator can order a tool online in just a few simple steps. The user uploads 3D models of a part design in one of several different file formats and receives a cost quote and a delivery date.

“With a press brake tool request, a customer often has a part to make and a drawing of that part but needs help selecting the tool,” Brown says. “They don’t know what tool they need to bend and fold that part. A die or punch is fairly easy but it becomes more challenging when you get into efficiency-based tooling such as channels or multi-bend dies.”

He says other criteria might include high part volume or the need to modify a product design. “In those cases, a customer can call us. We can ask the right questions and plug that design into the process that is best suited for the application.”

Smaller than a bread box

According to Brown, additive manufacturing in the tool and die arena is introducing a different mindset for job shops. Traditionally, due to the financial investment, job shops tend to hang on to press brake tooling in the event a job crops up that may require it.

“It wouldn’t be uncommon for a company to have press brake tooling stored on their production floor that will never be used again,” Brown says. “And their operators are taking extra steps to walk around racks of tooling to get to their equipment. So we talk to companies about the expense of warehouse space and travel or non-value-added time and how they can reduce costs on low-volume special tooling additively produced versus traditional specials.”

FFJ 1219 pressbrake image3

Wilson Tool’s additive manufacturing division is using an arsenal of 3D printing equipment to give fabricators cost-cutting solutions.

For parts roughly the size of a loaf of bread or smaller, Wilson Tool has several options to ensure a company gets the correct fit for a project. 3D printing can produce a finished tool faster without taking production and tryout time away from a traditional press brake.

Wilson Tool’s Corner Former helps operators gain higher throughput by providing finished corners in three steps. Traditionally a four-sided tray or door is folded, the corners welded and the joints ground to produce an acceptable finish. It’s a costly and time consuming process. The Corner Former allows an operator to use an existing press brake to bend, form and crop corners for a clean appearance without the need for secondary finishing steps such as welding or grinding.

Working smarter

For efficiency seekers, Brake Partner is another option. An operator can use new or existing punch press tooling in a press brake to produce holes and forms that otherwise would require a punch press. The tool holder, engineered to fit almost any press brake, has spring pads that absorb impact and can be used with or without guide posts, depending on the application. It’s especially useful for fabricators that have replaced punch presses with laser cutting machines or that have punch presses running at full capacity. Brake Partner means a job shop can expand the capabilities of its existing press brakes and eliminate the need to invest in new equipment or outsource punch work.

“The ability to print tools and develop solutions like Corner Former and Brake Partner has helped us capture business we would not have seen before,” says Brown. “We are one of the only suppliers that can offer ground steel or composite press brake specials, clamping and all common tool styles to the metalworking and fabrication market. This versatility allows us to optimize how we will build a tool based on its performance requirements. At the end of the day, it’s about plugging a customer’s job into the right application.” FFJ



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