Fitted with an intelligent punching head and the right tool, your punching machine will also demonstrate its talent for forming. Article by Vincent Tan, TRUMPF.
Your punching machine can do more than just punch. Fitted with an intelligent punching head and the right tool, your machine will also demonstrate its talent for forming. This allows you to fully process a great diversity of sophisticated components on one machine—and even burr-free if required. It is also efficient for small quantities as tool costs are low and setup times are short.
The ability to produce burr-free sheet-metal parts directly on punching or punch laser machines saves you the time-consuming process of retrospectively removing the punching burr. This considerably reduces the throughput time, in particular for coated sheet metal and formed parts. Furthermore, the improved edge quality lowers the risk of injury when further processing the parts.
Roller Deburring Tool
The roller deburring tool is mainly used for simple, large-surface contours. The punched edges are thus perfectly rounded off, which is a decisive advantage for visible edges in particular. A high-quality result is obtained with all of the sheet thickness ranges by adapting the roller contour to the modified burr and to the width of the separation gap.
Ball Deburring Tool
You can get an even better edge quality if you use the MultiShear slitting tool in addition. For shapes with contour radii of less than 20 mm, the deburring MultiTool is to be used. The ball deburring tool is suitable for smaller contours, holes and workpiece corners. Specially hardened balls press the punching burr into the base metal. In doing so, a chamfer is produced on the upper side of the part. Thanks to the tapered punch head, deburring near formed areas is also possible.
TRUMPF’s deburring MultiTool, with its three embossing inserts in the die, excels on radii of less than 0.8 in in particular. The tool presses burrs flat in a single stroke or in nibbling mode, even in corners and small contours.
The MultiTool makes your machine more productive by integrating up to 10 different punches and dies into one tool. The strengths of the MultiTool are particularly notable in processing sheet metal parts with small punches of different sizes.
Shorter production times through complete processing on one machine
Lower risk of injury
Deburring of all geometries, whether simple, complex, small or large.
Also for coated sheets and for parts with formed areas
Vincent Chai of Bichamp Cutting Technology talks about the landscape for bandsaw products in Southeast Asia, the latest challenges facing manufacturers when it comes to cutting, and how they are helping customers improve their processes. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Established since 2003 , Bichamp Cutting Technology (Hunan) Co. Ltd manufactures high-performance bandsaw blades. Based in Changsha in Hunan Province, China, the company—one of the leading bandsaw manufacturers worldwide—is the only bandsaw maker in China that is listed in the stock exchange.
The company manufactures blades in its latest advanced production equipment and facilities in Changsha, Hunan. Bichamp uses top global raw material components and currently have the biggest production capacity in China.
In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News, Vincent Chai, Regional Sales Manager ASEAN at Bichamp Cutting Technology, talked about the landscape for bandsaw products in Southeast Asia, the latest challenges facing manufacturers when it comes to cutting, and how they are helping customers improve their processes.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE YOU SEEING IN SOUTHEAST ASIA?
Vincent Chai: The Southeast Asia market is not as big as China or Europe, or even Japan, but we can see that over the past decade, there has been consistent growth in this market. That means there is potential for further growth here—not to the extent of what you are seeing in North America or Europe—but it is still a reasonable market.
I would say that Bichamp now is in the same stage as the other players worldwide. We are providing sawing solutions, and we are growing our technical team in this region to better service our customers. One concern with Southeast Asia is that you need to work with the right distributors in each country, and assists them in building their customer base moving forward.
Vietnam is now the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia. Due to affordable labour and government incentives, investments are coming in more and more, especially from Japan, Singapore, they are setting up more factories and manufacturing here.
The automotive industry is also growing. Big automotive companies are setting up manufacturing plants here, as a duplicate of Thailand, and even Indonesia. I would say, maybe in five to 10 years’ time, we would see Vietnam overtake certain countries in ASEAN. As we know, Thailand is still the number one in automotive sector, followed by Indonesia.
WHAT TECHNOLOGY TRENDS ARE IMPACTING THE BANDSAW INDUSTRY?
VC: Bandsaws have been here for a few hundred years already. There are not too complicated in terms of investments in technology. The only thing is that we are now seeing different types of sawing application—from bandsaw, people are shifting to circular saws as an alternative, which we might be looking into this application in the future as we do see these kinds of trends moving toward circular saws. Of course, circular saws and bandsaws are two different things. They both have limitations—there are things bandsaws can do, which circular saw can’t, and vice versa.
It has been said that circular saws will take over bandsaws in the future. But I have been hearing this since I first started in the industry. And bandsaws are still moving up, and sales have been increasing. I don’t think there will be much difference for now but who would know what future lays ahead.
In circular saws, the limitation is the thickness of the size you can cut. At the moment, we would say that the most common size are below 200 mm in diameter; but with bandsaws, you can cut up a wide range of sizes and shapes. The range is unlimited; it depends on the type of machine you have. The bigger the machine, the bigger materials it can cut. In South East Asia, we don’t have very large cutting capacities compare to China.
But with circular saws, the bigger the machine you use, the higher costs you have. There are limited companies that would invest in this kind of big circular saws, unless they are steel manufacturers. If they produce steel, yes, I do see circular saws as big as 3m to 5m. But in the manufacturing industry, circular saws are used for machining parts, where you have consistent parts of, like, diameter 80, and you need thousands of pieces per month. Then you use circular saws—they are faster and cost effective. But if you are in an industry where you process multiple sizes to cut, and multiple materials, bandsaw is still the best.
WHAT ARE THE USUAL CHALLENGES YOUR CUSTOMERS EXPERIENCE?
VC: At present, we now have more advanced technologies, so the materials used to manufacture a product are getting more advanced as well. They get tougher and more wear-resistant. So, workpiece materials tend to be harder to cut, especially in industries like oil and gas and aerospace; they have titanium, Inconel and other superalloys. Also, we usually hear people saying they still don’t understand a lot about bandsaws. They always think that bandsaws are just simple pieces of band that cuts materials. We are here to educate users the right way to maximize their sawing operations.
VC: It’s not as technical as compared to cutting tools. We already have products that are suitable for cutting superalloy materials. Besides provide the right cutting parameters; to understand further their sawing operation, we would arrange appointments to learn more and gathered details information from machine type, workpiece materials and sizes as well as other requirements so we could further assist their operation.
WORKING CLOSELY WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS IS A VERY BIG FACTOR TO SUCCESS.
VC: Yes, and also with distributors, because they are the frontliners. We don’t do direct sales. Most of the bandsaw manufacturers appoint distributors, they are the frontline. They go out to do the selling and servicing . How we support them is by constantly doing joint visits with them, as well as updating their training to improve their technical competency. The more I get involve in the market, the more we could understand the market demands.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FINAL COMMENTS?
VC: In the future, I would believe that companies from China would be a very strong competitor to those forerunners because bi-metal bandsaw is not a sophisticated technological advance product. It is more about customer service. I am sure that we would be strong globally moving forward, because we have a team of global sales that understands. Bichamp believes in investing in the right people.
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.
Here’s how one company addressed the challenges of wind tower manufacturing. Article by Stefano Santoni, DAVI Promau.
MAM Maschinen, part of the ENERCON Group, processes more than 33,000 tons of steel per year. Employing around 300 people, MAM Maschinen is currently one of the most relevant players for the fabrication of heavy-duty components for several industrial sectors, in particular, wind towers and steel bridges.
In line with the trend towards higher efficiency in manufacturing, MAM has been improving its degree of automation as well as internal know-how to provide the highest quality products to their customers with the maximum respect for the environment.
In this framework, MAM Maschinen became in need of a plate roll technology partner that could support their serial and intensive production of wind tower sections. Evaluating different plate roll manufacturers, the company aimed at identifying the optimum technology in terms of performance, repeatability, and reliability to comply with the strict tolerances imposed by the end-users.
“From the initial contact in 2017 to the final purchase, dealing with DAVI has been satisfying in every respect,” says Andreas Kühn, Innovation Leader at MAM Maschinen. “The negotiation with the company was fair and they managed to meet our requirements. Now, we are happy with the machine that is working properly and quick. We are carrying on the foreseen works on our DAVI plate roll that entered our production flow, making it smoother and with no issues caused.”
MAM Maschinen selected a four-roll plate rolling machine with a capacity of 3,000 x 96 mm, equipped with dedicated accessories for the highest level of flexibility. The DAVI machine now constitutes a major fabrication asset to MAM, being utilized to roll wind tower sections as well as other components for the mechanical industry, in general.
Leveraging 50 Years of Experience and Know how
With over 50 years of experience in delivering high quality three- and four-roll rolling machines, DAVI’s R&D developed high-value patents deployed in unique product lines specifically designed for the wind energy industry. DAVI also developed a proprietary Wind Energy control system capable of providing full automation as required by the Industry 4.0 standards.
DAVI’s High Productivity Line introduced to the market innovative CNC-controlled features such as the possibility of executing exacts first pre-bending at the beginning of the rolling process, thanks to the patented infeed lifting conveyor. By lifting together with the bending rolls, the conveyor supports the plate while pre-bending, completely eliminating the distortions which would otherwise occur due to counter bending forces generated by the plate own weight.
While rolling large diameter workpieces, the front edge would “close” under its own weight and adjustment operations would be needed in order to avoid overlapping with the trailing edge. As part of the High Productivity Line, DAVI’s patented pushers with hooking fingers installed on the lateral supports completely eliminate the risk of overlapping as well as allow for perfect positioning and alignment of the two plate edges at the end of the rolling process in preparation for on-machine tack welding. The two features combined can increase the operation speed by 25%/30% (compared to manual process).
Addressing the Cone Forming Challenge
Cone forming is recognized as the most challenging rolling process. Forcing the plate edges to travel at two different speeds, the process generates high stress on the rolling machine as well as on the plate itself. On a typical wind cone application, it is of paramount importance to protect the integrity of the bevels, which must be realized prior the rolling process (due to high costs involved in beveling the plate after it is formed into a cone or can). For this reason, the state-of-the-art Wind Towers & Foundations cone rolling involves a step-by-step forming process where, at each step, the plate must be repositioned in order to make sure that the cone generatrix overlaps the top roll axis. Depending on accessories installed, this repositioning would both take a very long time, deplete the final workpiece tolerances and potentially put the operators at risk
DAVI responded to the industry needs by introducing a ground-breaking fully automated cone forming system. This is achieved by positioning and guiding the plate while cone forming without damaging the bevels (wide contact surface) for plates up to 100mm. This system allows for a complete cone forming executed by a single operator, with maximum repeatability, highest accuracy and the shortest possible floor-to-floor time (30 percent–50 percent faster compared to manual process).
The whole process—consisting of plate positioning, squaring, pre-bending, rolling and aligning for tack-welding—can be completed in less than 20 minutes, even for high-thickness plates.
“The positive experience we are having with DAVI leads me to believe that, for future needs, we will certainly make contact with them again. The plate roll shows a high quality and an impressive mechanical stability. A relevant aspect we really appreciated about DAVI was the customer support we can receive in our own language, that made the troubleshooting easier and faster. The aftersales care we received from DAVI is really appreciated,” says Kühn.
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!
To develop pioneering process solutions that will drive forward the vision of a smart factory environment, Bystronic is now working with software specialist Kurago within the framework of an innovation partnership. In this venture, Bystronic will be able to rely on Kurago as a strong partner with extensive know-how in the field of consulting and software development for smart production management.
The demand for automation and digital process solutions is increasing across the complete field of sheet metal processing. This trend is having a major impact on our customers’ business models and strategies. The sheet metal processing world will face a fundamental change in the near future and software will play a key role in this transformation. Digital solutions will support users with the planning, interlinking, monitoring, and optimization of all their production processes. All this will boost the sheet metal processing industry to new levels of productivity and transparency.
By joining forces, Bystronic and Kurago will be able to fast-track solutions to make a powerful vision come true very soon.
The first important step of this partnership will be the development of a brand new enterprise operational environment for the sheet metal processing sector, where all the processes relating to the day-to-day business of customers will take place, enabling them to achieve operational excellence and gain a competitive edge. Cloud technology will enable customers to expand Bystronic solution as their company grows, thus reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO). In addition, this solution will allow tech companies of all sizes to develop and offer new products and applications designed specifically for the sheet metal processing sector.
Together with Bystronic, Spain-based Kurago will conceive, create, promote, and implement software that will optimize the manufacturing of metal parts. As a centre of excellence for software, Kurago will develop manufacturing systems that will make the smart factory vision a reality and guide and structure sheet metal processing throughout the entire value chain—with all types of machines from any manufacturer.
“We are convinced that this partnership will allow Bystronic and Kurago to pool their expertise and energy in order to achieve a sustainable impact on the future trends and demands in the sheet metal processing industry. Our shared goal is to offer our customers pioneering solutions that drive them forward on the path towards a digitally extended manufacturing environment,” said Alex Waser, CEO of the Bystronic Group.
Jesús Martínez, CEO of Kurago, said, “We are grateful and delighted to be able to seize this opportunity to make the digital factory come true together with Bystronic, an innovation leader in the sheet metal processing sector. The enterprise operational environment we will develop will constitute an open space where many market players, who currently still view each other as competitors, will start cooperating. This environment will be a fully digital ecosystem, which is the only way we can make this revolution a reality. Cloud computing enhances the capabilities of all players and levels the playing field, opening up the same opportunities to everyone, while also preserving the differences and competitive advantages that make each of them the best choice for their own customers. This will benefit all Bystronic customers around the globe.”
In today’s dynamic manufacturing world, flexibility and versatility is the name of the game. Those shops that adapt and succeed are those that have moved beyond a single-purpose machinery mentality and embraced highly versatile multi-purpose technologies. Article by Joshua Swainston, OMAX Corp.
Innovation dictates how and what we machine. Steel and aluminum are standards, but new alloys are changing how we construct everything, from key rings to airplanes. On top of this, customer demands continue to change. When they do, your machine shop must adapt and change as well.
In today’s dynamic manufacturing world, flexibility is the name of the game, and those shops that adapt and succeed are those that have moved beyond a single-purpose machinery mentality and embraced highly versatile multi-purpose technology such as abrasive waterjet cutting.
Abrasive waterjet is a method of material cutting using a high-pressure stream of water to erode a narrow cut in the part stock material. To cut a wider range of materials from tool steel to titanium to foam, a granular (typically garnet) abrasive is added to the waterjet, increasing its cutting power.
Waterjet manufactures, such as OMAX Corp., often offer an array of additional features and specialized software that further enhance waterjet machining with such capabilities as beveled cutting and taper compensation, among others. With the versatility of an abrasive waterjet, you and your shop are ready for whatever part material changes may happen in the future.
Figure 2: Waterjets come in an array of sizes to meet your shop’s needs and capabilities.
Controlling workflows and costs
Most machine shops will tell you cost control and short turnaround times are the most important aspects to running a profitable operation. One of the major reasons a shop decides to purchase an abrasive waterjet is to bring advanced cutting capabilities in house, which has the potential to pay huge dividends. Outsourcing metal cutting and near netting eats into turn-around times and profit margins. By having a waterjet on your own shop floor, you control your workflow and costs, and no other shop knows this better than Titan Boats in Vancouver, Canada.
Titan Boats was spending time and money outsourcing its waterjet cutting, and according to Jennifer Michell, Organization Development Manager for Titan Boats, the reason was logistics. “Living on Vancouver Island means that the proximity to a waterjet machine that would meet the size requirements of our vessels, would have to be done off island,” she explained. “With that bears shipping costs and lead time waits. We wanted to eliminate those added expenses by the purchase of our waterjet.”
By adding its own abrasive waterjet, the shop was able to streamline its workflow and cut production times from several weeks to a few days.
In terms of types of material cut, an abrasive waterjet is the most versatile cutting method available. Where EDM specifically cuts electrically conductive materials, and laser is limited to thin, non-reflective metals, abrasive waterjet cuts virtually every metal on the market. Abrasive waterjet machines cut steel, aluminum, brass, copper, titanium, Inconel, chromel, cupronickel, and basically every other type of metal.
In particular, abrasive waterjet is excellent at cutting titanium (over other methods of manufacturing) as the jetstream of the waterjet never dulls, eliminating the need for time-consuming tool changes. Cutting metal on an abrasive waterjet is particularly attractive as the cut product has no heat affected zones (HAZ) or material distortion, often removing the need for secondary machining.
Venable Machine Works is another shop that now benefits from abrasive waterjet cutting for its part production operations. The Saskatoon, Canada, shop bought its OMAX 55100 in 2011, and Dan Wingerak, Venable’s machine shop foreman, explains his thinking when purchasing a waterjet. “When deciding between a flame, plasma, laser, or waterjet, we decided to go with the waterjet due to the precise cutting, option with no heat or heat affected distortion, and the ability to cut almost any type of material,” he said.
Lasers are typically extremely expensive and require extensive training for operators. Plasma can produce noxious fumes (depending on the material cut) and leave a rough-cut surface. For a machine shop weighing its machine tool options, a waterjet is a relatively inexpensive, clean and useful alternative.
In addition to its versatility in materials, abrasive waterjet handles the full spectrum of part sizes. For instance, abrasive waterjet is pushing the extremes when it comes to micro and macro machining. Used in medical, national defense, and circuitry applications, the MicroMAX JetMachining Center from OMAX, for example, is capable of a positioning accuracy within five microns. On the larger side, the OMAX 120X series, offered with a customizable cutting bed that can reach up to 40 feet by 10 feet, is being used in large tank fabrication as well as architectural metal and glass. The size of the finished product is only limited by the size of the waterjet’s cutting table, allowing a manufacturer to work as small or as large as needed without additional specialty equipment.
For K&W Tool from Michigan in the United States, the durability of its two abrasive waterjet machines is a huge benefit for the contract fabrication shop. “We use both of our OMAX 120X waterjets at least ten hours a day; if we are busy, we run them both 24/7,” said Camren Kring, Project Manager at K&W. “The ease of use and low maintenance associated with abrasive waterjet make them nearly capable of non-stop machining.”
K&W also added the OMAX A-jet accessory to its waterjets. With a cutting range from 0° to 60°, the A-Jet can easily cut beveled edges, angled sides, and countersinks. Advanced features in OMAX’s IntelliMAX Software Suite allow the A-Jet to compensate for taper and easily create complex 3D shapes. The A-Jet is a completely software-controlled multi-axis cutting head that greatly expands K&W’s versatility.
The versatility of an abrasive waterjet is only as good as its software. Using underperforming software with an off-brand waterjet will result in off-spec parts. On the other hand, using software programmed with the unique characteristics of the waterjet in mind, coupled with a superior machine, results in excellent machining.
OMAX has made its software easy to use. With OMAX’s IntelliMAX software, the operator enters the material type and thickness, then the software calculates and controls the cutting. The machinability is already factored into the software. If an operator entered in a new design into the IntelliMAX MAKE program—the program that controls the waterjet—for instance, they will be prompted by a screen with a dropdown list of various material types. This dropdown list contains over 60 different materials ranging from red oak to Inconel to PVC and everything in between. Additional materials can be entered in manually, and after an operator enters the material and thickness, they are ready to cut. At any time, an operator can reset the material by a simple click of a button.
With the development of its ProtoMAX, OMAX incorporated all the versatility benefits of large abrasive waterjet cutters into a sleek and economical small abrasive waterjet that is perfect for job shops, engineering classrooms, makerspaces, personal use, and people like Dan Dumphy.
Dumphy started his own business, Dumphy Cycle Machining, in 2018 with the aid of the ProtoMAX, the first personal waterjet on the market.
What convinced Dumphy to use waterjet to start his business was the software. “The programming software is so easy to learn if you have general machining experience or use of CAD software. We can simply load an image and adjust it as needed, where CAM software on CNC mills and lathes can get a little tricky and time consuming. Plus, it’s simple to draw up a part from scratch,” he said.
The right cutting tool
Any shop machining metal needs a machine tool that can adapt to changing markets, that is easy to use, and that can produce precision parts. For fabrication shops, single purpose machines can be a deal breaker; and for manufacturers, it can be limiting. Shops don’t want to turn away work due to inadequate capabilities, nor do they want to suffer the cost of retooling with every product change.
In the rapidly changing world of machining, you need a tool that can accommodate any metal variation. With abrasive waterjet, you can be assured you have the right cutting tool to easily work whatever metal your company may come across tomorrow or in the future.
Here’s how Inoue Kouzai improved its productivity using Hypertherm’s X-Definition plasma system. Article by Lester Lee, Hypertherm.
In today’s fiercely competitive manufacturing environment, the ability to maximize productivity while lowering costs is what sets companies apart from their competitors. Businesses are increasingly looking to the most cost-efficient solutions that also enable them to deliver the best quality products.
For manufacturers in the metalworking industry, investing in cutting technologies that are capable of producing high-quality cut parts at fast speeds, and requires little or no post-production processes, is one of the most crucial management decisions.
Based in Kofu, Yamanashi, Japan, Inoue Kouzai Co. Ltd manufactures steel and non-ferrous parts for a variety of companies, including those from the construction and machinery industries. Since its inception in 1964, Inoue Kouzai has gained a solid reputation due to its emphasis on maintaining customers’ trust and keeping a good record. Inoue Kouzai is also constantly in pursuit of ways to respond to its customers’ diversifying needs, in the interest of retaining its competitive edge.
The search for a better option
To raise its operational efficiency, Inoue Kouzai decided to invest in Hypertherm’s latest X-Definition plasma system, the XPR300. This move allowed the team at Inoue Kouzai to attain optimal productivity, coupled with lower operating costs and better cut quality.
Inoue Kouzai works with several types of metals like mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum to produce parts for construction and machinery companies. It was important for the company to invest in a cutting system that could perform well on a variety of metals and different types of thickness without compromising on cut quality.
Modern plasma cutting systems have been proven to produce high-quality cuts in the most cost-efficient manner on a myriad of metal types and thicknesses. However, with the recent technological advancements, the X-Definition plasma technology enhances the XPR300’s ability to tackle high-precision applications. When installed on a high-quality cutting machine and equipped with linear ways and elliptical racks, the XPR300 is capable of maintaining ISO 9013 Class 1 and 2 tolerances, and ISO 9013 Range 2 and 3 cut quality. When compared to the XPR300, other alternatives like laser systems required a significantly higher initial investment outlay, while oxy-fuel systems were unable to match the cutting speed and accuracy that the XPR300 offered.
In addition, what Inoue Kouzai found attractive was also Hypertherm’s high level of service standards. The Hypertherm team offered timely response and support to address Inoue Kouzai’s every concern, right from the early stages of decision-making through to after-sales assistance.
Commenting on the company’s reasons for choosing Hypertherm, Shigeyoshi Inoue, CEO of Inoue Kouzai, said, “Hypertherm stood out from everyone else that we were considering mainly because of the rapport we felt with the representatives right from the start, as well as the team’s sincerity and warmth.”
Within just months of adopting the Hypertherm innovation, the manufacturer began to reap numerous benefits. Having previously used Hypertherm’s earlier high-definition plasma cutting system—HPR260XD—Inoue Kouzai immediately noticed the improvements the XPR300 has made over the earlier system.
With the XPR300 system, Inoue Kouzai can deliver an edge surface finish that is smoother than that produced with the HPR260XD and extremely consistent edge quality over the full life of a consumable set. The team at Inoue Kouzai now has the ability to fabricate parts with significantly improved edge angularity and cut quality at a lower cost using the XPR300 system, when compared with other plasma or laser cutting systems.
The significantly improved cutting speed and cut quality raised Inoue Kouzai’s ability to fulfil their orders dramatically. In fact, due to increasing demand from their customers over the last couple of years, the manufacturer had been tackling the issue of backorders, and the addition of the XPR300 provided a much-needed boost to their production process.
“With the new XPR300 plasma system, our production team has been able to catch up with the back-orders,” said Yuji Komatsu, factory manager. “The quality of our products is also of utmost importance, and the precise cutting that the XPR300 allows for helps us to ensure we can maintain our excellence while improving our yield.”
Another significant benefit was the improved consumable life, which in turn reduced operating costs for Inoue Kouzai. The highly sophisticated design of the XPR300 includes an Arc response Technology with automatic torch and ramp-down error protection. Sensors in the power supply deliver refined diagnostic codes and enhanced system monitoring information that reduces troubleshooting time and provides proactive system maintenance data for improved system optimization. As a result, the lifespan of consumables is increased by three times, through eliminating the impact of ramp down errors.
“We’ve been using Hypertherm’s industrial cutting solutions for some time now and it has worked well for us, providing us with exactly what we needed to satisfy our customers,” said Inoue. “Our investment in the XPR300 has given us consistent and quality results at a production rate that we’re tremendously pleased with.”
A positive experience
Today, the Hypertherm XPR300 has become such an integral part of Inoue Kouzai’s production process that the team uses it every day of the week.
Inoue concluded, “We’ll continue to leverage on Hypertherm’s XPR300 system as it has worked well for us. In addition, we’ll definitely recommend the X-Definition plasma cutting systems to others looking for a cutting solution that provides improved cut quality, cut speed, and system run time.”
For nearly as long as there have been cars, people have been collecting and customizing them. Until recently, however, if classic-car aficionados wanted to replace a damaged hood or fender on an out-of-production vehicle, they had to hire a craftsman to make a replacement or trudge through junkyards. Now, thanks to a new technology called dual-sided dieless forming, Nissan plans to offer original specification pieces at mass-production prices.
Automakers traditionally form body parts by pressing sheet metal against specially created dies. Designing and building multiple dies for each part is expensive and only pays off after stamping a large volume of parts. This basic process has remained largely unchanged since the early days of mass automaking. It remains a stumbling block that prevents low-volume production of inexpensive parts.
Nissan’s new dual-sided dieless forming technology presents a compelling alternative to the investment-intensive industry norm. It does away with dies and stamping machines altogether, removing one of the most costly and time-consuming steps in auto body manufacturing.
Two Robots are Better Than One
The process involves two robots working on opposite sides of a flat sheet of metal. By syncing their movements precisely and using diamond-tipped tools developed by Nissan, the robots can shape the metal to a high degree of accuracy and detail. Working in tandem, two robots can produce intricate concave and convex shapes that could not be created if one robot were working from a single side of the sheet.
“About five years ago, we started thinking about ways of forming sheet metal without relying on dies,” said Keigo Oyamada, an assistant manager in Nissan’s vehicle manufacturing element engineering department, who oversaw the project. “Our goal was to solve the cost issues related to creating dies for small-volume production. We want to put this technology to use to create spare parts for old models whose dies have already been thrown out, or potentially even to let people order custom parts from Nissan.”
Performing a 3D scan of an existing part creates data that can be used to “teach” the robots to build the scanned part—although some human guidance is still required. This approach will allow Nissan to produce parts that haven’t been made in decades, simply by scanning existing examples of those parts.
Custom Parts–In Just One Week
Dual-sided dieless forming can be used to create custom body parts in less than a week, instead of waiting as long as a year for dies to be designed and manufactured. The process is also inherently adaptable, and can be used to produce small and large parts alike, as well as car parts other than body panels.
For now, Nissan plans to use dual-sided dieless forming to produce replacement parts for cars the company no longer sells. Looking further ahead, the company sees potential for creating customized parts for those who are looking to add a little uniqueness to their future rides.
Langen CNC Metalltechnik GmbH & Co. KG has been successfully processing metal for 30 years. Here’s how the company was able to further increase its cutting capacity by 35 percent by phasing out two equipment, while simultaneously reducing energy consumption. Article by Vanessa Salbert.
Franz Langen (right) in conversation with the operator of the ByStar Fiber 8025. The quality of the cutting edges is essential for the further processing of the parts. A high-quality laser cut eliminates the need for costly reworking.
In northern Germany, Langen CNC Metalltechnik GmbH & Co. KG has been successfully processing metal for 30 years. The family-owned company has continuously invested in state-of-the-art laser cutting technology and infrastructure. Recently, their production hall has become home to a ByStar Fiber 8025 with a customized automation solution from Bystronic.
A green light behind a tinted window, the laser cutting head whizzes around in all directions. With precise and agile movements, it cuts contours out of a metal sheet. The ByStar Fiber 8025 has been in operation at Langen CNC Metalltechnik in the German municipality of Hilkenbrook since February.
“We wanted a machine that cuts efficiently and that is capable of processing large formats. We bend metal parts with lengths of up to eight meters and we, thus, also wanted to be able to cut parts of this size,” explained Franz Langen, Managing Director of Langen CNC Metalltechnik.
Since such a large laser cutting system in combination with an automation solution did not yet exist on the market, a lively exchange was initiated with Bystronic in Switzerland. The result is a powerful 10kW cutting system that cuts 8×2.5-metre metal sheets up to a thickness of 30mm like butter.
An operator from Langen CNC Metalltechnik monitors the cutting process on the ByStar Fiber’s two touch screens. Depending on the configuration, the screens show when which parts will be cut and display all the relevant details of the cutting jobs that are in progress.
Technology and on-site service
Another requirement Langen CNC Metalltechnik had for their ByStar Fiber solution was an automatic loading and unloading system that could handle the large-dimension parts cut by the laser cutting system. And that at any time, the huge cutting table should be able to accommodate either one large metal sheet (8×2.5m) or two standard metal sheets (for example, in the 4x2m format).
“With the Bytrans Cross 8025, we have a system that fulfils precisely these requirements,” said Langen. “The sheets are loaded onto the shuttle table in a fast and reliable process. This increases efficiency and ergonomics throughout the cutting process.”
However, not only the laser cutting machine is important, but also the production environment into which it is integrated. “We needed an alternative solution for the unloading of the trucks that deliver the sheet metal. Before we had the ByStar Fiber 8025, we used forklift trucks,” Langen added.
In order to save time and effort in the future, the company invested in a special magnetic handling technology that can lift sheet metal bundles of up to 5.0 metric tons. “We can now unload 25 tons of sheet metal in just 30 to 40 minutes,” he said.
The integration of the new laser cutting solution took several months. “We formed a working group for this phase,” Langen said. This was important to ensure everyone involved was on board to help achieve the optimal result for both the staff and the company.
The effort and motivation have paid off. The company currently cuts some 200 metric tons of material per week, which corresponds to 40,000 to 50,000 individual parts.
“Thanks to the new fibre laser system from Bystronic, we have been able to increase our capacity by 35 percent, in spite of phasing out two CO2 laser machines, while simultaneously achieving tremendous energy savings,” Langen said.
Langen CNC Metalltechnik has been manufacturing for more than 30 years. For the past 20 years, the company has relied on cutting technology from Bystronic. The company currently has some 220 employees at its 40,000 square meter site and trains apprentices in six different professions. Most of the parts they produce are used in the special machinery, vehicle, and shipbuilding industries.
“We work for approximately 20 large customers, but we are also pleased to accept small jobs,” Langen said. “We never decline an order.”
In general, the company maintains sustainable, long-term business relationships. “We have been supplying to our oldest customer for almost 30 years,” Langen concluded.