Brian Smith, president, and KC Lesch, COO, at Albina Co. Inc. discuss the reasons why they selected DAVI Promau for their steel bending, rolling and fabrication processes.
Albina Co. Inc. is a family owned business servicing the steel industry since 1939. Located in Portland, Oregon, they serve all United States and Canada. Steel bending, steel rolling and steel fabrication are their bread and butter, since they curve structural steel members, various sizes of round pipe and HSS material, and plates.
With a big angle roll (MCP) and a 3 roll variable axis plate roll (MAV) purchased in the last two years, Albina started partnering with DAVI. This led us to the chance of talking with Brian Smith, president, and KC Lesch, COO, at Albina.
For starters, Brian told us about the history of the company and the recent rolling needs. “Our first angle rolls were homemade and started us on our 81-year adventure as a bending company. After many years, when we started rolling plate, our equipment allowed us to bend small and medium sized material. Last year, then, we decided to take the leap and go into the large plate rolling market and purchased a DAVI MAV, allowing us to bend 64 mm x 3 mt wide plates,” he said.
Then, he explained which criteria they use when they select a new rolling machine. Being downtime a schedule and reputation killer, quality is the first feature, since the equipment must be dependable and operational 24/7, as well as it needs to be innovative in some way. Secondly, an unmatched customer support—that is, they look for a company wanting to team up and having longevity in the industry. Moreover, easy access to spare parts and tooling and, last but not least, price (reasonable and within budget).
Do you remember getting your first cellphone? What was the first thing you took out of the box and spent time with? It was probably the user manual. The cellphone was a new technology, and you needed time to understand and learn to use it. It wasn’t intuitive, and you absolutely needed that manual.
What happens when you get a new smartphone today? You unwrap the well-designed package, admire your shiny new device, turn it on, and get started. It’s probably already charged and just waiting for you to use it. That’s it. It doesn’t have any buttons or dials; the entire surface is a human-machine interface, or HMI. And it probably doesn’t have a manual. A pop-up notification shows you received a new message, and you just tap to see what it is. It’s intuitive.
Press brakes last much longer than cellphones, of course. That’s why in many job shops today you might find both mechanical and hydraulic press brakes with old controls. They can last 30 years or longer and still bend parts. Of course, just because a machine turns on does not mean it can produce parts efficiently. If you see less seasoned operators attempt to run the shop’s oldest brake, you’ll probably hear them say, “Does anybody know how to operate this machine?”
Learning and understanding bending theory is probably as challenging as learning to be a good welder. It takes time and patience to learn the differences between every machine. Those differences can be significant, especially in a bending department with both old and new equipment. They require different training strategies, all driven by technology that has literally changed how operators learn about sheet metal bending: the software and machine control.
The Pre-Smartphone Era
Imagine starting a new job as a press brake operator around the same time that you received your first cellphone, before the smartphone era. You spend most of the time going through the manual, guided by a veteran who knows the machine inside and out. You read the blueprint and adjust the machine settings as necessary. You learn how to adjust the position of each axis, determine where the backgauge needs to be, dial in the part, make other adjustments by typing nominal values into the controller, then run production until you need to switch over to the next part. Once you understand the basic concept of one machine, you walk to the next press brake and learn this process from the beginning again, with your experienced tutor and the manual right next to you.
You receive a printed blueprint, and you write the program at the machine control. You determine the material type and thickness, define your bend angle, then position your backgauges manually for each bend. If not provided on the print, backgauge positions are defined as an actual absolute value that needs to be calculated manually
Overall you spend 10 minutes (or longer) getting the press brake ready to make the first bend—and that old machine control gives you no indication of how to do this. By looking at the control alone, you don’t know which tools to pick or how to set them up. That’s why you need an experienced operator by your side. He knows the setups and best ways of doing it by memory. Still, even with all his knowledge and experience, he pays very close attention to his choices so he doesn’t make any mistakes. Setup is time-consuming, and the old machine control doesn’t give much if any assistance.
At some point, you’re on your own. You position the peripherals of the machine first so you know where to place the tools. What tools do you select for this job? You’d better have a quick guide or “little black book” close to the press brake to know which tools to pick.
The Smartphone Era
The control shows other relevant information, including raw material location, customer information, and due date.
Fast-forward to today. Imagine you just graduated from school and you’re now looking for your first real job in the sheet metal industry. Thing is, you aren’t on the shop floor with an experienced employee who has operated just one machine his entire career.
Instead, you’re in a classroom environment. You sit by a desktop PC with the press brake operating software installed. You don’t have a printed machine manual, and on some days you might not work with someone with decades of press brake experience, especially if they’re needed on the floor. But that’s not a problem—and here’s why.
In this article, Steven Lucas of LVD highlights the key factors that have changed bending automation.
Today’s bending automation software has considerable intelligence built in. Depending on the software, the operator can create and simulate 3D-designs.
The landscape has changed for robotic press brake bending. Advances in machine, software and robot technology have made bending automation more practical for a broader range of fabricators across Asia Pacific as they look for ways to optimize workflow, shorten turnaround time and lower their per-piece cost.
Just a decade ago, bending automation meant a significant investment—in the cost of the automation and in the support required to realize an efficient and consistent bending process. Six key factors have changed bending automation:
Today’s programming software for robotic bending is more powerful and much easier to use than the software of 10 years ago. This has resulted in simplified CAM program preparation, creating robot trajectories, machine setup and operation. Programming a robotic press brake can be handled completely offline with no need to physically teach the machine setup or bending of the first part. In contrast, in some automated press brake operations, robot teaching required approximately one hour per bend. This eliminates considerable downtime and ensures that the throughput of the bending cell is not interrupted. The software automatically generates the robot’s movement, directing it from one bend to the next to form the part and then to offload or stack the part. The software is able to calculate a complete collision-free path – generating the robot’s trajectory through all positions.
More than programming the robot, software with CAM 3D virtual production simulation capability provides a complete walk through of the robot and press brake functions so the user can check and visually confirm the bending sequence before bending begins. Before a piece of metal is formed, the process is verified, avoiding costly mistakes and material waste.
Flexible Robot Gripper
An example of a bending cell that permits both robot and manual operation for greater flexibility.
The robot gripper is a critical component of a robotic system. Gripper designs of the past did not have the flexibility to accommodate the many part geometries of bending. That meant investing in a number of different grippers to handle different part geometries and taking the time for gripper changeover, which could involve multiple changeovers per part. New gripper designs are much more adaptable. The gripper in Figure 1 is a patent-pending universal design that fits part sizes from 30×100 mm up to 350×500 mm and handles a maximum part weight of 3 kg. This adaptive design enables the user to process a series of different geometries without having to change the gripper. It’s possible to make bends on three different sides of a part without regripping. Use of a universal gripper not only saves on investment cost but also saves costly change over times between grippers, keeping production continuous and uninterrupted.
Capable Industrial Robot
The use of industrial robots worldwide is on the rise. The International Federation of Robotics estimates the supply of robots to be 521,000 units in 2020, more than doubled in just five years. While the automotive and electronics industries are the leading users of robots, the metals industry is a growing application.
Robots themselves have also improved in terms of capacity and reliability. One of the world’s leading robot manufacturers offers more than 100 industrial robots with a payload from 3 kg up to 2.3 tons and maximum reaches up to 4.7 m.
Fast “Art to Part”
This universal gripper (patent-pending design) makes it possible to bend on three different sides of a part without regripping.
Another advance in robotic bending is a faster design to part process. The press brake bending cell in Figure 3 takes 10 min for CAM generation of the bending and robot program, and 10 min for set-up and first part generation—a total of 20 min from “art” to “part.” That’s a result of the tight integration between the press brake and robot, and easy to use, intuitive software.
Better Process Control
Real-time in-process angle measurement technology adds advanced process consistency to robotic press brake bending. An angle monitoring system can adapt the punch position to ensure precise, consistent bending. In the system pictured,
digital information is transmitted in real time to the CNC control unit, which
processes it and immediately adjusts the position of the punch to achieve the
correct angle. The bending process is not interrupted and no production time is lost. This technology allows the machine to adapt to material variations, including sheet thickness, strain hardening and grain direction, automatically compensating for any changes.
In the past, fabricators have tended to “over automate.” Despite advances in function and flexibility, a robotic bending cell still represents a sizable investment. In order to generate a healthy ROI, it’s important to ensure that the ratio of the cost of the automation is not more than twice the cost of the stand-alone machine. Getting this ratio right keeps the direct cost of the part at a sensible level—the direct part cost is not “loaded”—and the user does not need large volumes to make the process cost-effective.
Also, worth considering is the versatility of the system. A bending cell that has the flexibility to operate in stand-alone mode when batch sizes are too small to benefit from robot automation will be more productive and profitable and, therefore, easier to justify. In this scenario, the user can operate the robotic bending cell lights-out overnight or after-hours and during normal business hours, can choose to work in either mode (with the robot or with the robot parked). In the bending cell shown (Figures 5 and 6), programming is handled with 3D bending software so that the same program can be used for bending with the robot or for manual bending.
Is Bending Automation Right for You?
What jobs are best for a robot? Surprisingly, it’s a fairly broad range of applications, including high-volume repeat jobs, low-volume jobs that are reoccurring, and jobs that are heavy duty. The flexibility of today’s bending automation technology makes it possible to run a variety of bending jobs profitably.
New bending automation products, such as LVD’s Dyna-Cell, eliminate the need to teach the robot, which greatly simplifies robotic bending. Current bending cell designs are also much more affordable than past models, both in the cost of the press brake and robot and the cost of operation and maintenance of the cell.
In the Asia Pacific region, as manufacturers are encouraged to adopt automation and Industry 4.0 initiatives through government loans and grants, bending automation offers fabricators a way to address issues such as shortage of labour, higher cost of wages and quality control. If you think bending automation may be your solution, it’s best to consult with your equipment supplier.
Manufacturers are now adopting artificial intelligence (AI) to further create value for the customers. But how would AI be applied to sheet metal bending? In this article, Melvin Tham, Regional Technology Expert – Bending, for TRUMPF, explains.
Using conventional press brakes to achieve high accuracy for sheet metal is challenging due mainly to the property of the material, where its elasticity varies according to its composition and grain direction. Therefore, the process would usually take a longer time as it requires more knowledge and skill in order to achieve higher accuracy.
In today’s industrial environment, machines are loaded with functions to ensure that the manufactured parts are precise and consistent with minimal human/operator intervention, and manufacturers are now adopting artificial intelligence (AI) to further create value for the customers. But how would AI be applied to sheet metal bending?
Automatic Set Up
Given the current high-mix, low-volume market demand, the system must be easily set up within minutes to cater for a job change over. Therefore, a self-centring tooling system would be most ideal. With an automatic tool changer, there is no longer a need for alignment as the tools are automatically placed in position and integrated into the machine. It has three to four times more storage capacity than the machine’s bending length, all just to ensure a quick changeover and without the hassle of tool shortage.
Positioning and Angle Accuracy of Part
Since the bending process is now automatic, the quality of the parts has to be checked automatically as well. Such system would require high dynamic functions such as the backgauge. The backgauge with an axis tolerance of ±0.02 mm and the angle sensor tool with tolerance at ±0.5 deg are required to ensure that the part is placed accurately in position and angle tolerance is achieved by an angle checking device.
Sensors of the backagauge are necessary for the identification of the part in position. Without this, the part would not be able to achieve its desired flange length.
An automatic detection of the angle needs to be equipped to determine the correct angle to be achieved for each bend. With Automatic Controlled Bending (ACB), the total completion time to bend, calculate and adjust will take less than a second!
Identification of Parts and Positioning Compensation
The system must be able to detect the correct part to pick up and automatically determine the datum point to compensate positioning error. It is important to define the datum point so that all bending sequence and positioning accuracy can be referenced.
Although a structured stand that pre-fixed the part datum point can be achieved, the best possible solution will be with a high-resolution and precise camera profile detection that is flexible and automatic. This camera device could detect the sheet stack, height and fine profile of the part for single sheet without the need to specifically prepare sheet in a fixed position. With such function, a lot of time is saved from the preparation for defining, picking and loading of parts.
The grippers picking up the parts are of critical importance as well. Our grippers are designed with the concept of holding the parts as firmly as a human hand would. The gripper can be used for multiple parts and the suction cups can be pneumatically turned on or off to cater to different profiles and gripping area.
CAM-assisted Offline Programming
Software plays a very important role in automation. It should be able to strategically control all movement offline with intuitive graphical teaching.
In the past, robot movements are codings that are entered line by line in order to perfect a smooth travel path. With advanced software like TruTops Bend Automation, not only are we are able to graphically teach the movement from one point to another, we can also teach the robot to flip, load and unload the part. The software enables us to run a simulation prior to the actual process.
Robotic Movement and Payload
There are many robotic equipment in the market, with some having more than eight axis of movement and payload of more than 1,000 kg! So how do we know which is suitable?
In bending, it is always the working area within the press brake and robotic system. The bigger the working capacity means there is a better flexibility on the type of profile that can be bent.
The longer the trackway of the robot arm, the more parts can be prepared for loading and unloading. This is to ensure that the machine is always filled with part for continuous production and not idling or waiting for parts. There are also possibilities that the finish part can be stacked in cage or drop box.
The higher the payload means a bigger robot arm would be required. When the arm gets too big, there is a minimum distance of limitation due to the kinetic movement, therefore small parts cannot be picked up. Hence, it is important to define the size of the product before the selection of the automatic bending cell. This will make it easier to select the type of press brake and robotic arm for the job.
With all the necessary functions that are in place to ensure the output quality of the parts, the production is all ready for artificial intelligence bending!
Bystronic is advancing into a new customer segment. The Xpress offers concentrated bending technology at an attractive price-level. Thanks to the newly developed press brake, even users without prior experience achieve professional results.
For many companies, a high-quality press brake is prohibitively expensive. Hence, small workshops and beginners often revert to second-hand machines or low-budget models. But the low purchase price is often offset by poor quality. Bystronic’s new entry-level model, on the other hand, is a much more sustainable investment. With its attractive price-performance ratio, the Xpress sets a new quality benchmark in the lower price segment.
With the Xpress, Bystronic’s innovative bending technology is now accessible to a new segment of customers. Small job shops, family businesses, and medium-sized enterprises no longer have to accept compromises in terms of quality. Entry-level users can rely on high-quality equipment. And for those companies whose core competencies previously did not include bending, the Xpress allows parts to be manufactured in-house instead of having to be subcontracted at high cost.
Simple operation, high precision
The intuitive operation of the Xpress enables a quick entry into bending technology. All the process steps on a single screen – this is the idea behind the ByVision Bending software. The 22-inch touch screen enables users to design parts with just a few swipes of the finger. The software provides valuable support for the programming of bending sequences. ByVision Bending determines the suitable tools and the ideal bending process for every material thickness and bending angle.
Precision is the most important performance benchmark of a press brake. Hence, the ByMotion drive control, a Bystronic in-house development, ensures that the upper beam and backgauges of the Xpress are accelerated with high precision. The press force required at any given time is distributed with high precision over the entire bending length, both when coining and when air bending. This ensures bending results with a high degree of repetition accuracy.
Modular design offers high degree of flexibility
The closed O-frame design of the Xpress guarantees high machine rigidity and offers sufficient space for applications along the entire bending length. In addition, the modular design ensures a high degree of flexibility. Different tool clamping and backgauge systems allow individual customization to adapt to the production environment. Compatibility with all other Bystronic bending systems makes it easy to expand production.
This makes the Xpress predestined for small businesses that want to grow. The versatile bending technology lays the foundation for a high quality standard upon which a successful business can be built. Bystronic’s comprehensive know-how and customer-oriented services make the Xpress a carefree package for future bending experts.
In time for EuroBLECH 2018, Bystronic is systematically driving forward the vision of “World Class Manufacturing”. This is based on a comprehensive range of new products and services with which Bystronic is gearing its users’ process landscape towards networked production. “We accompany our customers step by step on the path to the smart factory,” explained Bystronic CEO Alex Waser.
With “World Class Manufacturing”, Bystronic has described the matching supporting programme as one that features innovative solutions that go far beyond the conventional idea of a machine tool. It’s about fusing the individual processes relating to laser cutting and bending into a network of intelligent components, said Mr. Waser. Users can thus achieve a higher degree of flexibility and transparency in their production environment. Both are important prerequisites in order to manufacture products faster, more cost-effectively, and more intelligently than ever before.
In future, thanks to new software solutions, users will be able to create quotes more rapidly, plan their production processes in an efficient manner, and make the best possible use of their resources. Live monitoring systems represent an additional building block. They provide users with real-time information about the running processing steps from their production environment. All this will result in the optimisation of costs and processes. And this in turn, is the prerequisite for growth and sustainable competitive success.
With flexible system solutions, Bystronic is expanding the rules of the game in the field of sheet metal processing. Until now, there was always a trade-off between fast and versatile. In future, users will be able to produce small series or individual mass-produced products at conditions similar to a standardised high-volume series. As commented by Mr. Waser, “With the new generation of our cutting and bending systems, users can adapt their processes much more easily and thus respond more quickly to their customers’ requirements.”
The integrated automation of production steps is another key success factor. To achieve this, Bystronic uses modular solutions for the material handling in the field of laser cutting. Automation systems that grow with the customers’ requirements and with increasing laser output. In the field of bending, the company is driving forward the development of flexible automation modules that enable fast transitions between automated and manual manufacturing.
Service remains another key issue for Bystronic. Within the networked production environment, network steps are interdependent. This makes process reliability and the preventive maintenance of all integrated systems more critical than ever before. New service solutions help users increase the efficiency and process quality of their production.
Learn more by visiting Bystronic at EuroBLECH 2018 from October 23 to 26, 2018 in Hanover, Germany. Hall 12, Booth B66.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Sheet metal processing companies in Southeast Asia are growing with Bystronic technology. In response, the company is expanding its local infrastructure in Vietnam for all aspects relating to consulting, sales, and customer services for latest technologies in the fields of laser cutting, bending, and automation.
The sheet metal processing industry in Southeast Asia is developing rapidly. Here too, an increasing number of users are relying on technologies such as the fibre laser, automation, and suitable bending solutions.
In order to provide its customers with even better support for their manufacturing processes, the company is strengthening its sales and service structures in the Southeast Asia market region. Recently, it enhanced its local presence here with the opening of an additional subsidiary in Vietnam.
Bystronic Vietnam held the official opening ceremony for the new subsidiary in Ho Chi Minh City in April 2018. In addition to sales and service areas, the new subsidiary is complemented with a demonstration centre, where it provides its customers with advice during live demonstrations in the fields of laser cutting, bending, and software.
Thus, the company now offers its customers in Vietnam two local points of contact for the consulting, sales, and service relating to the latest metal processing technologies at its business locations in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.