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Automation and software together to increase press brake productivity

November 4, 2021 - ATA is a proprietary Salvagnini, Hamilton, Ohio, solution, which is unique on the market, and makes it possible to automatically adjust the length of the bending tools of the B3 press brake to the part being processed. This automatic tool adjuster makes it possible to make full use of the press brake to produce batch-one or kits without compromising on productivity. We met with Nicola Artuso and Stefano Cera, respectively Salvagnini Product Managers for bending technologies and software solutions, to speak about this with them.

OEE is the measure of the total efficiency of a system. In traditional press brakes, depending on the production, it can drop to 30% because, even in the case of advanced, precise and fast technologies, manual press brakes are limited by factors such as re-tooling and set-up times as well as downtimes for sheet metal feeding and part handling and checking. To improve the OEE of the B3 press brakes, Salvagnini has introduced a modular and scalable concept of automation that can increase their flexibility and independence, allowing them to adapt when re-tooling and managing the tools according to production. The aim is to reduce the impact of process variables on bending and to provide greater certainty in terms of machining times, costs and budgets.

“The ATA device makes it possible to automatically change and adjust the length of the bending tools,” explains Nicola Artuso, Salvagnini Product Manager for bending technologies. “It is available on many of the models in our range of press brakes, and can be configured according to the customer’s specific production needs: it can be used only for the upper tools, can be integrated with the MVM (the variable opening die up to 51 mm which automatically adapts the V opening) or can be used on the upper and lower tools. It can also interact with the automatic AU-TO tool changer. Re-tooling is fast, takes place in a few seconds, and makes it possible to save time and regain production efficiency. The reaction of the market is truly interesting: ATA is a relatively recent device, introduced in 2016, and which today is a component of 25% of the B3s installed.”

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What does efficiency and productivity mean for bending?

Thinking of a traditional press brake and its normal use, efficiency and productivity are not absolute values, rather they are relative values that must be calculated on the basis of the total process time.

“Let's try to analyze the use of a press brake,” continues Artuso. “Its total process time is the sum of the bending, handling, re-tooling and programming times. The bending time is the time used to make the actual part, whereas the handling, re-tooling and programming times are downtimes during which the machine is on hold. Our analyses indicate variable downtimes of between 30% and 60% of the total operating time: this is data that our customers and the market tend to confirm. This means that a traditional press brake remains unproductive for between 2.5 and 5 hours a day.”

Starting from the assumption that the press brake is a manual technology that does not permit working in masked time, how can we reduce these enormous downtimes?

“The bending time is obviously necessary: it depends on the performance of the press brake and the reference standards. I like pointing out that our B3, whose maximum ram descent speed arrives at 250 mm/s, is one of the fastest solutions on the market. The handling time depends on the experience and skills of the operator, and we can therefore consider it a constant. So there are two activities left whose impact we can reduce: re-tooling and programming. This is why ATA devices can be truly crucial: they reduce the downtimes of the press brake, increasing its availability for production. But the best way to substantiate the benefits ensured by ATA is to analyze an actual case. A few months ago, I received a production report from a customer, a large European subcontractor whose machine inventory includes numerous traditional press brakes from different manufacturers and two Salvagnini B3s featuring the ATA tool adjuster for the upper tools and the variable V die MVM. The report compares the performance of machines with similar measurements and tonnage, and the data is interesting: the B3 has average productivity that is approximately 50% higher than traditional press brakes, even though the customer admits that it is dedicated to producing small batches that require constant re-tooling,” concludes Artuso.

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Parallel programming with STREAMFORMER

In general, we can start from the assumption that, in the press brake market, offline software is not very common. If for 2D technologies, such as laser, the ratio between machines and software is practically 1 to 1, in the world of traditional press brakes, it is more realistic to consider a much higher proportion.  First of all because the press brake is a manual machine, able to work even without software, but also because an expert operator is generally able to make the required parts.

“In reality, we are noticing a clear trend reversal in the world of 3D programming,” says Stefano Cera, Salvagnini Product Manager for software solutions. “An increasing number of customers are purchasing our CAM software STREAMFORMER, also to face the increasing difficulty of finding expert operators. Today, 65% of our B3s, and practically 100% of the press brakes with ATA automation, are supplied with STREAMFORMER. STREAMFORMER integrates the press brake in a complete process because it is part of STREAM, the totally integrated programming suite for Salvagnini systems. When STREAMFORMER is installed in the office, it makes it possible to perform activities in parallel, because while one technician is working on the programs, the operator can continue to bend - which also reduces to zero the impact of the programming time on the production efficiency of the press brake. Our main objective, and I think this is also our customers' objective, is to make the press brake produce as much as possible, and not see it waiting to be programmed. In addition to automatically creating a bending sequence, STREAMFORMER automatically defines the bending stations and tool set-ups; in other words, it integrates perfectly with the ATA devices and enhances their performance. When the software is not available, programming can be carried out directly on the machine, using the FACE man-machine interface, which not only permits numerical programming but also graphical programming with PRESSTUDIO.”

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