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Strategies For Successful Punching

Strategies For Successful Punching

Particularly sophisticated machining problems can often no longer be solved with standard tools. Rather, the manufacturing of highly complex components in shorter and shorter amounts of time require special tools and using the right tooling is the prerequisite for successful punching. Contributed by Trumpf

The Right Tooling

For punching there exists different tooling options. The Classic punching tool system is the leading tool system for punching and punch laser machines. Due to the broad range of forms, shears, coatings, and accessories, you can use it with flexibility. Another tooling option is the MultiTool that integrates up to ten different punching and die inserts in one tool.

Using the MultiTool increases productivity as different punching operations can be carried out by one tool. Additionally, forming and embossing can be carried out. The MultiTool possesses up to ten different inserts in one tool adapter, which increases flexibility and high efficiency. Another benefit is the reduction of non-productive times due to reduced setup and tool change times.

The Right Process

Scratch free processing

When it comes to punching, the end result heavily depends on the right process and it is crucial that the products are scratch free at the end of the process.

  • Support tables for scratch-free workpieces: The basis for scratch-free processing is the use of brush tables, which provide soft support to the sheet and thereby preventing scratches and reduces noise. During positioning, the sheet slides over the brushes, which, due to their length, bend in the direction of movement.

Also, through raising brush field and laser cutting support plates around dies, the contact between sheet and die will be reduced leading to less scratches during the punching, forming and laser cutting.

  • Solutions for punching-tools: Adhesive pads are pre-formed, self-stick polyethylene film and can be attached to dies, strippers and intermediate rings to prevent scratches on the workpiece. To avoid imprints and scratches on the sheet surface, a specially coated stripper can be used. The coating is also is wear-resistant and keeps material abrasion chips from sticking to it.
  • Special die solutions: To reduce scratches for intermediate rings and dies, brushes or Ampco can be used. Ampco is a soft alloy that avoids scratches on the bottom of the sheet because of its softness and lubricant effect. Another option are descending dies that by moving downwards during the positioning of the sheet, eliminate the contact of metal between workpiece and processing station. Active dies additionally operate a second punching head able to perform an active forming stroke from below, broadening the rage of processing strategies and tool usage and enabling new forming sizes and heights.
  • Gentle material handling through intelligent automation: By using different automation solutions, scratches can be easily prevented before and after production. A conveyor belt with soft surface, where finished parts are ejected from the punching machine, ensures gentle handling. Loading, unloading, stacking can be automated as well and by using a vacuum technology during these steps, scratches during part pick up, transport and deposit can be eliminated.

Material Usage Optimisation

Scratch Free processing | Image Source: Trumpf

Skeleton free processing

Material usage optimisation not only boosts your production but also helps you save – a lot. By implementing skeleton free processing companies can increase their sheet utilisation by 10 percent on average which reduces material costs. Additionally, smaller bits of residual material simplify logistics and yield higher scrap prices. Another advantage is the enhanced process-reliability achieved through the safe unloading of finished parts and small parts even when the part chute is open and through the automatic cut up and removal of residual pieces of sheet metal. Working without a scar skeleton also increases safety and is operator-friendly. Residual pieces of sheet metal can be sorted by material and good parts and scrap are sorted to different containers.

Other benefits of implementing skeleton free processing are savings in operational time by 14 percent on average and energy needed for the process itself: Operating a punching machine instead of manufacturing a metal sheet, consumes about 30-80 times less power which in turn leads to energy savings equal to the power needed to operate a punching machine for 40 years. Simultaneously, companies increase output rate through smaller workpieces and enhance their production and hence significantly boost their return on investment.

Skeleton-free processing relies on common slit cuts, which enable the sheet layout to be optimised, so parts are initially processed in sequence and then freely punched prior to discharge and removal. Parts or scrap are rotated using a separating tool with a bi-level stripper for ejection via the parts chute.  The remaining strips are then crushed.


Automation can save costs and boost production but it has to be reliable and safe to do so.

Automation can be applied to the loading of raw sheets or blanks and or pre-cut parts and the consequent unloading of finished parts, micro-joint sheets and scrap skeletons. Also disposal of scrap skeletons and remainder strips and sorting of small parts and punching slugs can be automated with the right machinery.

There are plenty benefits that automation in punching operation offers for example the increase in productivity due to high machine utilisation and reduced factory lead times. Additionally, automation increases process reliability, enhances efficiency and improves safety during the punching process.  Automated systems typically perform the manufacturing process with less variability than human workers, resulting in greater control and consistency of product quality

Integrated Tool Management

Automation can come into play even before the punching process is carried out. Before punching, suitable tools have to be selected and set up in the machine. Tool availability, proper assembly and accuracy of tool data in the machine control have to be checked, which is all very time consuming. With integrated tool management these steps can be automated which reduces search times and setup times. The central data management make data available—anytime and anywhere- and enables direct data transfer between machines. Tool management automation also increases efficiency of inventory management, productivity and process reliability, as the tools and tools lengths and changes are recorded and punch-stripper and –die combinations and tool suitability are checked by system automatically.


The software used to execute punching operations has a great impact on success and efficiency. Technology offers many different processing options and the right software should support users to make use of all these possibilities. A good software should simplify the nestling process and thereby optimise material utilisation and save costs. It should also reduce the effort required to generate the NC program for example by applying automatic repositioning and trimming.

Choosing a software that has the option for offline programming can reduce machine down time as programmer can prepare the next programs already while the machine is running. Additionally, settings can be predefined and adjusted to the specific needs of the company. If industry 4.0 is a topic for your company, a software with the ability to automate processes and integrate systems to make use of IoT should be chosen.

Skeleton Free Processing | Image Source: Trumpf

The Right Machine

A successful punching operation obviously depends on the selection of the right machine. To determine which machine is “right”, it is important to look at the nature, complexity and material of the items that will be processed. The type of material and sheet thickness play the dominant role in determining the punching force that is needed for future operations and therefore influence the decision on which machine should be purchased.

Another important factor that can influence which machine is right for you is the productivity needed. If speed and efficiency are of high importance in your production, a high-end machine that offers these benefits may be the best solution.

Additionally, it needs to be considered whether automation is of significance in your company or will be in the future. Not all machines offer the possibility to add on automation options and equipment, whereas other machines are especially well equipped and adapted to support automation functions and add-ons.

Lastly it is important to keep in mind that the purchase of a punching machine is a long-term investment and its functionality can affect your business success. When deciding which punching machine to buy, not only the differences in options and quality of the machine should be considered but also the supplier that you purchase the machine from.

The supplier should be reliable and trustworthy. A good supplier will support you with expertise and knowhow and provide proper consultation to find the optimal solution for you. It is essential to choose a supplier that provides after-sales services to ensure that your machine will be well maintained and to avoid downtimes and malfunctions in the future.

Gaining A Competitive Edge With Additive Manufacturing

Gaining A Competitive Edge With Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is transforming the way engineers build and design engines, fuselages, landing gear and thousands of other components.

APMEN speaks to Dr -Ing Simon Merkt-Schippers, industry manager additive manufacturing for aerospace and energy, Trumpf, on additive manufacturing is impacting the aerospace industry, as well as other manufacturing sectors.

The aerospace industry was one of the first industries to embrace additive manufacturing (AM). What new AM developments can we expect to see in this area?

AM is in the transition state from rapid prototyping to series production. The industrialisation of machines, respectively their reliability, is increasing, as well as the productivity of the process through multilaser processing. Multilaser machines are able to improve the productivity of the AM process by a factor of more than three in the short term, while at the same time lowering the costs dramatically.

The most successful adapters of AM in aerospace are able to create smart interfaces along the whole process chain and offer quality systems adapted to the characteristics of AM. The integration of AM in existing process chains and certification are not often straightforward, but very important because a majority of costs (up to 70 percent of the finished part) are related to pre- and post-processing and the quality assurance of AM parts.

Machine manufactures like Trumpf have a deep understanding of how to support AM part manufacturers with smart interfaces (for example, zero clamping systems), monitoring solutions or automation components to improve reliability of machines and to decrease the overall costs of AM. Process simulation software and in situ-monitoring solutions will further increase the competitiveness of AM processes compared to conventional manufacturing technologies. Moreover, more materials specifically developed for AM will appear in the market.

All together, we will see a lot of more applications where conventional manufacturing technologies will be replaced by cheaper, lighter and more functional AM parts.

With the number of Asian travellers forecast to significantly increase over the coming years, how will this impact the AM industry for the aerospace sector in the region?

The increase of Asian travellers will have a significant impact on the production numbers of aircrafts. More players, beside the existing ones like Airbus and Boeing, will appear and market competitiveness will further increase. AM opens big opportunities for relatively new companies and startups.

If they consider AM from the first beginning, they gain competitive advantages compared to existing players, who may have a more difficult time considering AM in their operations due to entrenched cost in existing technologies and capital.

Maintenance and repair operations (MRO) will also increase worldwide based on the higher amount of travellers from Asia, which leads to higher market penetration of AM, especially for laser metal deposition. AM means a big chance for companies based in Asia to improve their competitiveness in supplying parts for aerospace.

What is the range of materials available with your AM systems and which sectors are they best suited with?

In regards to aerospace, Trumpf offers a range of materials capable of being used in various application sectors like hydraulics, aero engines and aero structures. The main materials are nickel based superalloys like IN718 / IN625, Titanium alloys like TiAl6V4Eli and different aluminium alloys.

For other industries like medical, dental, tooling and automotive, we also offer suitable materials depending on applications. We have our own process and parameter development team that offers high quality powders to our customers.

Where do you see the biggest challenges in additive manufacturing technologies?

The biggest challenges from my point of view in AM are still the relative high costs of implementation of AM and the integration of AM in robust process chains. You also need to find the right skilled personnel, such as design and application engineers, to leverage the potential of AM. Machine robustness, digitalisation components and the degree of automation degree of AM machines are key to produce parts for Aerospace.

A hot topic in regards to aerospace is certification of AM processes. Certification is still quite complicated due to a lack of standards and prejudices against AM, which are mostly outdated. Convincing internal stakeholders like quality assurance, material and purchase departments can be challenging and time-consuming, but is key in finding real business cases for AM in series production.

Manufacturers want to minimise milling post-processing of parts. How can they achieve this?

AM should not be seen as a single production process. To produce high-precision components, milling post-processing of functional surfaces is mandatory. Nevertheless, it helps to know the requirements of the application in detail to consider milling post-processing of parts upfront in the design process.

The placement and build-up direction of parts in the build chamber directly influence the quality of parts and define the efforts of milling post-processing. Be smart and choose the right orientation to reduce the amount of post treatments. We also offer specific application services and our application experts can help to get the maximum out of your part.

I have seen super fancy parts with outstanding functions, which were useless, because the designer forgot to think about milling post-processing. As a consequence, no mounting of the part for milling was possible or milled surfaces were not accessible. You than have to start from zero! Keyword: design for additive manufacturing.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with our readers?

I want to encourage all OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers to consider AM when designing and manufacturing aircrafts, aircraft systems and components. AM has outstanding capabilities to manufacture functional parts, which were not possible before.

Do not let prejudices against and the initial implementation efforts of AM scare you from innovating in this technology. It helps to speak to experts, to involve all internal stakeholders from the very beginning and, last but not least, to convince your top level management with a demonstration part, for example.

Tapping The Potential Of Automation In Sheet Metal Processing

Tapping The Potential Of Automation In Sheet Metal Processing

For Dolanit in China, automating its production chain helped it gain new major customers and projects. Contributed by Trumpf

Qi Wang from Dolanit not only recognised the trend toward automation, but is already reaping the benefits from it. The company is located in Shijiazhuang, in China’s Hebei Province, about 300 km from Beijing. Here, Mr Wang is carrying on his father’s legacy: his father Jianyun Wang founded the company in 1986.

At that time, the company had approximately 30 employees and they used simple tools such as guillotine shears and hand welders to manufacture primarily sheet metal cladding for switch cabinets. Mr Wang now has a staff of 150. The company was the first in the entire province to introduce a linked automation solution with a large-scale storage system and three connected machines. That the company would grow, however, had already become apparent long before this.

Realising The Potential Of Automation

In 2004, the young businessman joined the company his father had spent several years building and expanding. A new business area emerged just a short time later, in 2005, when the Chinese government began subsidising railway development in order to speed up technological advancement and modernisation. Mr Wang recognised the potential of this market early on and was open to it.

“Our focus was on the stainless steel covers for the air conditioning in the trains,” said Mr Wang. To manufacture these components, Dolanit’s machinery would have to be modified—not only did it take too long to transport material between the punching and laser machines, but the quality could not always be guaranteed.

After conducting in-depth research, he found the solution: a punch laser machine from German machine tool manufacturer Trumpf. Even in Shijiazhuang, an 18 hour flight Ditzingen, Germany, Mr Wang had heard about the machine tool manufacturer.

As a result of rising payroll costs, Mr Wang was also looking for ways to continue running and expanding his company profitably. In the course of a business trip in 2013, he was able to take a closer look at automation, which was prevalent in Germany, and the resulting advantages: companies that had fewer employees than his, but that achieved higher productivity. That was the solution to his problems.

In 2014, he took a great leap. He fitted not only his TruMatic 7000, but also a 2D laser machine, the TruLaser 5030 fibre, with loading and unloading units. He connected both of these machines and the next link in his sheet metal process chain, the TruBend Cell 5000 automated bending cell, to a Stopa compact store.

Automation In Sheet Metal Processing

With this significant transformation, Mr Wang boosted his company’s productivity by 30 percent while halving his payroll costs. “At that time, automation was considered a luxury in sheet metal processing, so this quickly and significantly boosted our reputation,” explained Mr Wang.

To ensure not only that his machinery was up-to-date, but also that those who operate it, as well as the rest of the staff, were regularly updated on the latest technology, Mr Wang introduced special internal training courses for all employees. He modeled this change on the experts at Trumpf, who had offered similar courses right after the machines and storage were installed, making it possible to bring the automated factory unit online much more quickly.

Competitive pressure is intense, which is why the consistent and high quality of his products is decisive for Mr Wang. Since automating his company’s production, he was able to acquire many follow-up orders and also gain new customers. Mr Wang hopes to tap new markets—like he first did with the trains. Openness by tradition, you might say.



Marked By Laser

Marked By Laser

Laser marking has significant advantages in terms of productivity and costs. It does not hurt when it produces good quality as well. Contributed by Petrina Heng, sales manager, Laser Division of Trumpf Asia Pacific.

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