Here’s a look at punching technology innovations and and the benefits like helping manufacturers toward their Industry 4.0 journey. Article by Trumpf.
Punching encompasses far more than just making holes in sheets. You can manufacture complete parts on a punching machine. Reshaping processes open up new dimensions for you. The versatility of the technology is the result of the wealth of tools used. With appropriate loading and unloading aids, you can even automate your production.
Monotool Punching Head Principle & Rotating Tools
The monotool punching head principle means that different tools can be exchanged into the punching head, and all of them can be rotated 360 deg.
It offers higher process reliability as the punches are always connected to the punching head in a form locking manner. Not only does it perfectly guide the tools down onto the sheet metal, it also guides them off the sheet metal in a controlled manner after the punching process.
Its reduced setup outlay provides easier handling. Tools can be used for multiple applications due to their rotational ability, resulting in fewer tool change and setup operations.
And fewer punching tools mean lower costs. Imagine the ability to create an oblong hole with every conceivable orientation in the sheet metal—with just one tool! This is really easy if the punching head is 360 deg rotatable, this works with all contours that you have a tool for, regardless of whether it is a standard or special tool. The ability of all your tools to rotate multiplies your processing options and reduces your tool requirements, and therefore your costs.
Tooling for Punching
With the increasing complexity of market requirements, sophisticated components can no longer be solved with standard tools. The need for manufacturing highly complex components in shorter amount of time require special tools, and using the right tooling is the prerequisite for successful punching.
For punching, there exists different tooling options. The Classic punching tool system is the leading tool system for punching machines. Due to the broad range of forms, shears, coatings, and accessories, you can use it with flexibility.
Another tooling option is the MultiTool, which integrates up to 10 different punching and die inserts in one tool adapter, increasing flexibility, efficiency, and productivity as different punching operations can be carried out by one tool. Additionally, forming and embossing can be carried out. Another benefit is the reduction of non-productive times due to reduced setup and tool change times.
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.
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 support plates around dies, the contact between sheet and die will be reduced, leading to less scratches during the punching and forming.
- 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.
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 utilization by 10 percent on average—thereby reducing 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 the 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, hence, significantly boosting their return on investment.
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 optimize material utilization 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 Internet of Things (IoT) should be chosen.
Automation for Punching Machines
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 of benefits that automation in punching operation offers, for example, the increase in productivity due to high machine utilization, 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—reducing search and setup times. The central data management makes data available anytime, 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 tool lengths and changes are recorded, while the punch-stripper and die combinations and tool suitability are checked by the system automatically.
The Future of Punching
Punching technology has continuously developed in the last few years, and high-quality punching tools now do not leave any punching burr. Set up, sorting and removal is easier than ever before.
The demand for customer’s quality requirements is increasing, while the batch sizes are decreasing. It is therefore important to make precise calculations, but this is not exactly easy when a part is manufactured on several machines. The solution? Combining two technologies: punching and laser cutting into a single machine. And the benefits are below:
- A combination that pays off
The punching head reaches standard contours and formings, while the laser cuts more complex contours, allowing you to produce a wide range of parts and even complete challenging orders on a single machine.
- Lean logistics: Gain freedom
Integrate cutting, punching and forming processes on a single machine will reduce your calculation risk and the floor space required. Reduced waiting times and workflows such as setup and handling allow you to make multiple savings.
- Combined processing: Best quality
Combining fits or forming with laser cutting not only reduces the waste you produce but allows you to manufacture high-precision components in a quality that was not possible to achieve when processing on several machines.
- Short process chain: Simple logistics
With the right automation, your machine handles all parts automatically—loading, producing, sorting, stacking, unloading, and storing. There are virtually no limits to its loading and unloading capacity, therefore your machine works around the clock as needed.
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