Hydraulic Presses

Faster fasteners

By Russ Olexa

January 2011 - When Bloomer’s Metal Stamping, Valencia, Calif., used high-tonnage presses to install screws and nuts into stampings, the process required a lot of labor for tooling and press time that detracted from other more-lucrative production.

Bloomer’s had been using standard OBI punch presses to install fasteners and hardware, such as nuts and bolts, that needed to be pressed into stampings. "We’ve always done this type of work inside punch presses, and we would generally create a custom tool to install multiple styles of hardware at one time, but it all had to be done in a punch press," says Matt Holland, CEO.

This typically required two operators for one punch press. One person would load the tool, and another would move the stamping into the press and cycle it to mount all the hardware. "It was a fairly effective way to do it, but it somewhat created a bottleneck problem and tied up a production machine for hardware insertion, which wasn’t the most efficient use for it," he says.

Bloomer’s production department is equipped with an array of punch presses ranging from 5 tons to 400 tons. The facility has material-handling equipment for sheet metal production, including coil feeders, levelers, rollers and shears. "We provide many secondary operations such as part tumbling, deburring, spot welding, seam welding, sanding, tapping, reaming, countersinking, machining, piece marking, silk screening, hardware installations and assemblies. We also provide services for heat treating, plating and painting," Holland says.

Founded in 1976, Bloomer’s Metal Stamping is a job shop metal-stamping facility. "We pretty much do a little bit of everything and anything as well as manufacture per print," says Holland. "We are very diversified in the industries we serve. Our larger customers are computer and electronics along with some aerospace, telecommunications, automotive and machine tools."

Finding an alternative
Holland says the company looked at lower-cost fastener installation machines that one person could operate to free up the punch presses. He evaluated equipment, including machines from Haeger Inc., Oakdale, Calif. When Bloomer’s was producing a job that had a lot of inserted hardware, Holland ended up purchasing two Haeger 618s 6-ton presses from Adam Smelewski, Haeger sales manager.

"The one thing I wasn’t completely sure of was whether or not we needed an automated system that could do multiple insertions in one setup or whether we could fill our needs with a standard machine," says Holland. "But after talking with Smelewski, we figured that a standard machine would fit the bill. Haeger’s equipment allowed us to free up a more-expensive punch press by getting a less-expensive hardware-insertion press."

Holland says the company is mounting TR-style fasteners often composed of sheet metal nuts, screws and studs along with other types of hardware into stamped holes with the Haeger equipment. These fasters use a self-clinching knurl around the base that is squeezed into the stamped part for a secure fit. This type of mounting for hardware is used instead of welding, extruding, drilling or tapping.

Bloomer’s ended up buying a standard tooling package from Haeger "that pretty much has all the basics that would handle all the standard sizes we need. When we do need some custom tooling, we create it ourselves using our in-house tool and die shop. In the few instances where we needed to create a custom tool, they were pretty simple to make," says Holland.

"Primarily precision fabrication shops are where our equipment is sold," says Smelewski. "But other companies have been finding uses for our machines outside of the typical precision fabrication shop. Bloomer’s is a metal stamper using typical stamping presses for fastener insertion that needed to find a better way to do it. Our equipment was more cost-effective than using stamping presses to insert fasteners."

Better production
Some companies insert hardware on a stamping press or even a press brake. Operators will hand-load fasteners onto a plate, create a fixed die and hit the plate with the machine’s ram, says Smelewski. "However, this gives them a lot of inaccuracies because the press is coming down to a fixed location and using a fixed pressure versus squeezing a fastener into a metal stamping using the proper tonnage. If there is a fluctuation in the height of a fastener and the press is using a fixed stroke to insert it, there could be a variation in the insertion. By using a Haeger fully hydraulic press, the stroke uses a certain amount of tonnage regardless of the fluctuations in the material and the fastener height to properly set the hardware," he says.

Haeger’s equipment is easy to use, says Smelewski. It ensures the piece of hardware is in the correct hole, the proper tool is used and the hardware is inserted at the right pressure. The press also measures the length of the fastener before it gets inserted to make sure the wrong length of fastener wasn’t accidentally used and verifies a fastener is in place prior to cycling.

Haeger’s WindowTouch and OneTouch fastener insertion machines use a Windows touch-screen control along with a turret insertion system that gives a customer four different lower tools for single part handling, or an automatic tool-changing system, depending on the model. It also can be set up with multiple auto-feed systems when high-volume fasteners are used.

The machine’s insertion turret locations are color-coded along with the fastener bins and the part’s hole positions. These are displayed on the computer screen, giving the operator a digital picture of the part so he or she knows how to hold it and which hole to put the hardware piece into.

Haeger’s WindowTouch insertion press is able to insert four different styles of hardware within a single part handling, such as 632 standoffs, M4 and M3 studs, and M3 nuts, says Smelewski. The computer will change the insertion pressure from station to station once this is programmed into it. Then it makes sure it produces the right pressure for the correct fastener in the proper hole.

Writing a program to insert hardware is very simple, says Smelewski. After initiating a new program, the operator inputs the part’s fastener types. Then the fastener type is selected along with the style. For instance, is it a stud or standoff? The hardware diameter is input along with the hardware’s length. Then the material the hardware is mounting into is selected, and the machine will preset the pressure. The fastener is selected, and the control will ask for the style of tooling.

To begin the hardware insertion, the operator will call up the program, and the control will show a photo of the part and where each piece of hardware needs to be placed using a numbering system and color coding.

Holland says the presses have "worked out great for us. I don’t think there’s been a day gone by that we haven’t used them. As far as service is concerned, we haven’t needed it. They are pretty simple machines to service." FFJ

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  • Bloomer’s Metal Stamping
    Valencia, Calif.
    phone: 661/257-2955
    fax: 661/257-2956

  • Haeger Inc.
    Oakdale, Calif.
    phone: 209/848-4000
    fax: 209/847-6553


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