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Stamping

Continuous operation

By Lynn Stanley

A gap press production system increases output, reduces costs

February 2011 - "The art of manufacturing is leaving this country, but we’re taking steps to keep business right here," says Mike Hinson, operations manager for Langley Wire Cloth Products Inc., Collierville, Tenn.

The company’s strategy, which began nearly two years ago at the height of the recession, includes aggressive pursuit of business and plans to purchase press technology that could increase output and versatility. "Investing in up-to-date technology that can expand capacity and contribute to cost reductions in your work processes is a key component to maintaining manufacturing and a competitive edge," Hinson says.

The supplier’s efforts netted business in the refrigeration market. "In addition to increasing our output to support the jobs coming in the door, we wanted a press system that would allow us to run a continuous operation so we could move our operator to work that carried a greater value-add for us," Hinson says.

Langley Wire Cloth Products specializes in wire cloth and perforated metal products, from simple strainers to micron rated filters. Producing more than 3,000 part types, the supplier serves a diverse customer base. Able to handle small and large part quantities, Langley combines an in-house tool and die shop and engineering design expertise with the ability to take a customer from prototype to production.

"We were looking for the right production line," Hinson says. "Speed of delivery was also attractive to us." Langley’s search led it to Stamtec Mechanical Presses, Manchester, Tenn. In August 2010, Langley commissioned a Stamtec OCP-60-L 66-ton mechanical gap press with a Tomac TGL/TNC-400 15-in. servo feedline, Forwell quick die change system and an OmniLink 5100-MPC press control.

Stamtec is a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest press builders. Its U.S. headquarters serves North America and Mexico. With a stock inventory of mechanical presses ranging from 25 tons to 660 tons, Stamtec’s capabilities include stand alone, progressive, transfer and turnkey press integration. The press builder also offers ancillary components, including quick die change and feed lines based on customer requirements. Stamtec recently teamed with Link Systems to offer the OmniLink 5100 as the standard control on new presses.

Stamtec’s inventory allows the press builder to respond quickly to customer purchase requirements. "It’s not always convenient for customers to wait roughly 14 to 18 weeks for a factory-ordered press," says Todd Helms, regional sales manager for Stamtec. "Our inventory allows us to offer the shortest delivery in some of the most critical applications. For Langley, Stamtec was able to provide a turnkey production solution that included integration of ancillary components in a compact configuration. From start to finish, the project was commissioned in less than three weeks," he says.

"With the new economic business landscape, industry trends show that manufacturers have become more stringent than ever about practicing just-in-time measures to offset overhead and inventory costs," Helms says. "Because Stamtec has the resources in-house to provide both press and ancillary components, companies like Langley that capture new business don’t have to scramble to meet production and capacity demands."

Myriad benefits
Langley’s space-saving line was installed in September 2010. "The entire system takes up just 16 linear feet," Hinson says. The press has become a workhorse for Langley, delivering more than 1 million strokes and running more than 40 different jobs for customers in the refrigeration market. Parts include block head caps, screen holders, support discs and spring retainers. The press also produces parts for the automotive, appliance and agricultural markets. Materials include aluminum; cold-rolled steel; tin plate cold-rolled steel; epoxy-coated, laminated and stainless steel wire cloth; stainless steel; brass; perforated metals and copper strip.

The gap’s die height provides a larger opening for parts to be ejected out the back of the press or dropped through the bottom of the bolster. This has allowed the supplier to increase stroke speed on production runs. "The gap press can operate between 40 and 85 strokes per minute. Our stroke speeds range from 55 to 80 strokes per minute depending on the job," Hinson says. "The press runs stamping, forming, blanking and perforating processes and can handle both compound and progressive dies in small to large sizes up to 2,500 lbs. Because the press allows us to run the die sizes our parts require at different stroke lengths and speeds, we have the flexibility to form a wide range of parts quickly."

The gap press also is able to support production of complex parts like the support disc Langley makes for a wire cloth strainer used by a customer in the refrigeration market. The part is formed from 1/8-in.-thick aluminum that is 5 in. in diameter. Requiring 20 perforated holes and formed ribs, the part leaves the press for a secondary operation where 100 or 200 mesh wire cloth is attached. "We run very close tolerances, ± 0.005, so press accuracy is critical," Hinson says.

Constructed of a heavy, one-piece welded steel frame, the gap press is designed to resist deflection and provide accurate stampings and longer die life. Extra-long gibs ensure slide alignment control and support accuracy throughout the entire stroke. "Part quality and accuracy has improved," Hinson says, "and part burrs have been virtually eliminated. We’ve also observed that die life has been extended by at least 30 percent."

In addition to press accuracy, feedline accuracy is important. "Whether you’re dealing with wire cloth or perforated metal, large or small dies, feedline accuracy has to be perfect," Hinson says. "The servo feedline has the capability to adjust to different materials and processes. We run a lot of very small-diameter parts. The feedline can adjust to material thicknesses ranging from 0.012 in. to 0.125 in. and material widths from 0.875 in. to 8 in. This gives us a lot of versatility. It’s also increased our delivery capacity because set-up and operation is faster and lead time is reduced."

Enhanced function
The gap press can stamp parts at high single stroking rates or in continuous mode, using either blanks or coil stock. Langley’s gap press and feedline are programmed to run in continuous operation with the press control. "The Link control was an important feature for us," Hinson says. "It can store up to 99 jobs and is expandable." The control features enhanced diagnostics, die protection and process monitoring as well as functions relating to maintenance and operation of the overall line. "Previously, an operator was required to watch part ejections on even the shortest press runs," he adds.

Langley also can perform less-traditional operations using the press control. "Typically, the feedline is a slave to the press," Hinson says. "With the control, we can make the press a slave to the feedline to meet certain part requirements. For example, if we have a long, perforated part, 19 1/4 in., we set the feedline to dictate to the press when the material is ready and properly placed for processing. Without the press control, this type of part production would require an operator to manually single stroke the press because even its slowest stroke length would be too fast for this application."

The gap press line’s continuous operation mode is complimented by its quick die change system. "If we have a 200,000-piece order, we set it up and run it. The next job might only be 20,000 parts or even 2,100 parts," says Hinson. "That’s where the quick die change really makes a difference. The smaller part runs involve additional tooling changeover. The quick die change allows us to make these transitions easily and quickly because it eliminates the need to manually clamp the tool in place. And since we already have information for repeat jobs stored in the control, we are realizing a large time savings. Our die changeover time has been cut by almost 50 percent. Operations costs have also been reduced." Hinson expects the press system to pay for itself in two to three years.

The company’s efforts to increase output, implement cost-reducing technology and continue capturing work are already helping to boost its manufacturing velocity. "We’re looking at adding another complete gap press production system," Hinson says. FFJ

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Sources

  • Langley Wire Cloth Products Inc.
    Collierville, Tenn.
    phone: 901/853-0748
    www.langleywirecloth.com

  • Stamtec Mechanical Presses
    Manchester, Tenn.
    phone: 931/393-5044
    fax: 931/393-5050
    www.stamtec.com

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