Unlike other sheet metal fabricating technologies that have advanced significantly in recent years, punching is a relatively mature technology. In this interview, Joshua Tan of LVD (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd talks about where the advancements are happening in this industry.
Established in 1952, LVD Group is a global supplier of sheet metal fabrication equipment and software. The family-owned company—named after its founding fathers Jacques Lefebvre, Marc Vanneste and Robert Dewulf—gained recognition as a precision press brake manufacturer. Significant growth in the 1990s, which included the acquisition of U.S. based Strippit Inc. in 1998, and the addition of laser cutting technology to its portfolio, helped position LVD as a global leader in laser, punching and bending technology. Based in Gullegem, Belgium, the company has production facilities in Belgium, United States, France, Slovakia, and China, and is active in more than 46 countries around the world.
In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Joshua Tan, general manager of LVD (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, talks about the challenges in punching technologies, and how LVD is helping customers improve their processes.
WHAT ARE YOUR COMPANY’S KEY COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES?
Joshua Tan (JT): Our competitive advantages come in the way of innovation, products, and agility. Year over year, we invest in R&D projects handled independently, and also in partnership with KU Leuven University. Our commitment to R&D ensures that our products and technology are leading-edge, addressing the needs of our customers and helping shape the industry we serve. As a result, LVD is a technology leader. We offer one of the most comprehensive product portfolios on the market. We are also recognized globally for our leadership in the bending field and for award-winning products like our Synchro-Form press brake. As a family-owned business, we operate independently and are able to set our strategic direction. This is fundamental to our corporate culture and future. Our strategy emphasizes in-house design and development of new metal forming equipment and processes: laser, punching, bending, and integration; and also to provide customers with integrated sheet metalworking solutions based on a three-tiered price-performance balanced product line structure.
WHAT SORT OF CHALLENGES DO YOUR CUSTOMERS USUALLY EXPERIENCE?
JT: We are in an age of small batches, complex parts and tight margins, fuelled by the use of 3D CAD systems. Fab shops are forced to turn around jobs in days or hours as opposed to weeks. As a result, fabricators are driven to increase production efficiency in order to stay competitive. From a punching perspective, more fabricators are forming in the punch press, whether it’s to add value to a part or to eliminate secondary processing. Forming operations range from countersinks, tabs, and knockouts, to louvers and even continuous embosses. The right punching equipment can help eliminate secondary operations by completing multiple processes, including complex, three-dimensional parts, on a single machine.
WHERE DOES LVD COME IN? HOW ARE YOU HELPING YOUR CUSTOMERS ADDRESS THEIR MANUFACTURING ISSUES?
JT: Finding the right technology for the application is key. We guide our customers to the solution that best fits their need. The modern CNC punch press provides a high cost-per-part efficiency and productivity when it comes to batch runs and producing 3D or formed parts. But, as with any other technology, it’s critical to make the right choice. With today’s single-head, hydraulic and servo-electric-drive turret punch press offerings, fabricators need to choose wisely to make the best investment for their business. The advantage that LVD has is two-fold: we offer the broadest array of punching technologies available—single-head and turret style, hydraulic and servo-electric-drive machines. This gives us the objectivity to properly evaluate a fabricator’s requirements and match their needs to the right type of punch press; and, we have a legacy of punching innovation. Our Strippit brand of punching equipment is acknowledged as market leader, having introduced a number of industry firsts, such as the first fully guided, self-stripping, self-contained tools and the numerically controlled single-station punch press.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LATEST TECHNOLOGIES OR INNOVATIONS IN PUNCHING TECHNOLOGY?
JT: Unlike other sheet metal fabricating technologies that have advanced significantly in recent years, such as fibre laser, punching is a relatively mature technology. Advancements have come in the form of more flexible punching equipment—machines able to handle a broader range of applications primarily through tooling and software advancements and through the addition of automation. Case in point, we’ve recently introduced our Extended Tool Magazine (ETM) for the Strippit PX punch press. This external magazine houses 40 additional punch/die combinations in a wheel configuration for easy access. The ETM can be loaded/unloaded while the machine is punching. It also includes tool life monitoring by recording the number of hits for each tool. This feature allows the operator to monitor when it is time to sharpen the tool. Also new to our punching line is our Strippit E servo-electric press drive machine, which delivers more precise control of ram positioning, with the capability of handling a larger range of operations, high reliability and energy efficiency. This type of punch press is especially attractive for companies with high electricity usage needs (operating many machines), for those with a maximum amperage limit, or in countries where electricity is at a premium.
WHAT MAKES YOUR PUNCHING TECHNOLOGIES UNIQUE COMPARED TO THE REST IN THE MARKET?
JT: With a punching legacy that dates back to the 1928, our Strippit brand has led the industry in punching technology advancements. We patented the industry’s first fully guided self-stripping, self-contained tooling that changed the industry, as well as the first NC turret punch press, the process of contour nibbling and auto-indexing, and the industry’s first punch/laser combination machine in 1978. Because of this innovation history, our punching products include features like a high-efficiency ram that provides full tonnage throughout the complete stroke, indexable multi-tool, Energy Reduction System that reduces average power consumption, and programmable, relocatable clamps that automate clamp movement, to name a few.
With our acquisition of Pullmax in 2010, we became the only worldwide punch press builder that offers a complete range of punching technology—electric-drive, hydraulic, single-head punching equipment. This allows us to be fully objective when discussing a punch press solution with a fabricator. Because we offer all technologies, we can truly find the best solution for the application.
WHAT NEW TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS HAVE YOU SEEN EMERGING OVER THE PAST YEAR OR TWO?
JT: We’ve seen interest in electric-drive equipment, in automation, and in reducing the direct cost per part through value-added processes like forming and tapping. In response, we’ve introduced products to address application requirements.
Our electric drive punching machines use 20% to 40% less energy than their hydraulic counterparts. The variable charges are 20% lower than hydraulic systems. Noise is also reduced and is about 15% less than hydraulic punch presses. In addition, accuracy in forming is enhanced. The use of a planetary gearbox technology and direct drive to the ball screw makes the electro-mechanical system the counterforce of punching cycle more reliable and robust. This punch press has only 19 major components, and features shoulder bearing to absorb all forces.
WHAT CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES ARE YOU SEEING?
JT: In Southeast Asia, there is a demand for punch press equipment of high quality, flexibility and with unique features. Fabricators want a workhorse of a punching machine with the added flexibility of forming. In this region, a single-head punch press has a competitive advantage over a turret punching machine. The challenge comes in making the investment for this technology—shops don’t always have the margins to justify the investment. That’s why we work with fabricators to help them balance equipment price and performance and realize the true cost of ownership.
WHAT FORCES DO YOU SEE DRIVING THE INDUSTRY?
JT: In the Southeast Asian market, the sheet metal industry is primarily driven by infrastructure projects initiated by local government as well as some private companies. This region is still developing, so there is a continued demand for construction needed to build the area’s infrastructure.
WHICH INDUSTRY SEGMENTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA ARE YOU SEEING STRONG GROWTH IN 2020?
JT: For ASEAN, we anticipate growth in the telecommunication-related market segment as companies will be upgrading from 4G to 5G technology. This will, in turn, contribute to all related industries, including those companies manufacturing enclosures, rack systems, cable trunking, etc. In addition, we see the oil and gas market making a comeback given the Brent crude oil pricing is gaining positive momentum. The automotive market should also experience growth, but it may not be strongly positioned due to a weaker market segment.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE CUSTOMERS WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING THE PUNCHING TECHNOLOGIES FOR THEIR APPLICATIONS?
JT: For fabricators looking to punching technology, we say look outside of the box. Wheel tools, forming tools, and bending tools are more exact and precise with the monitoring equipment that’s now offered. Today’s punching machines can do so much more—they can tap, bend, down form, up form, coin—this versatility can help expand a fabricator’s business. It’s also important to recognize that the choice of punch press is as individual as the application. Now, with more machine designs on the market and greater capabilities across a range of punching machines, it’s important to take a closer look at what each punching technology offers and consider the system that can deliver the best all-around solution for the requirements. It may not be as clear-cut a choice as you think.
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