Say So Long to Secondary Processes
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To gain insight into the products emanating from the creators of such tooling, we visited the brand-new home of Amada America in Schaumburg, IL, to speak with Amada Midwest tooling manager Scott Bowerman. We also visited nearby contract manufacturer Genesis Inc. to learn how the $30 million company leverages technology to continue its impressive growth pattern even in difficult economic times.
30-yr. Customers, 30-yr. Pricing
“For some of our customers that we’ve maintained since our early days, back in the mid-1970s, we still make their parts for the same price we charged 30 years ago,” shares Bill Stringfellow, owner and founder of Genesis Inc., Roselle, IL. Since founding the company in 1976, Stringfellow has led its consistent growth from sheetmetal fabricator and metalformer to the inclusion of powder coating, silk screening, CNC machining, welding and other processes, including wire-cable assembly and electromechanical assembly. Impressively, it’s grown by at least 5 percent per year for the last several years by strictly following this Stringfellow directive:
“No one industry can comprise more than 20 percent of our business,” he preaches. While Genesis manufactures parts and assemblies, and in some cases complete OEM products such as gaming machines and cooking appliances, for as many as 10 different markets, its busiest customers at the moment are those in the food-processing, communications and medical industries. Typical annual order sizes average 3000 to 5000, which the firm manufactures in quarterly run sizes and warehouses for customers in a 30,000-sq.-ft. building near its 60,000-sq.-ft. main plant. The firm also inhabits four other buildings nearby, where it performs powder coating, machining and assembly operations. In all, 150 employees work over two 10-hr. shifts to meet customer demand for 2-week lead times.
Along with his commitment to diversification to immunize the company from a downturn in any one end-user industry, Stringfellow also insists that his sheetmetal-fabrication shop operate with 20-percent open machine time. To continue meeting that requirement, late in 2007 it purchased the latest-greatest CNC turret-punch press from Amada, an EMK 3510NT press. It boasts twin AC-servo direct-drive technology and adjustable control of ram motion—speed, stroke length, hover height and hold time.
New Tools, Better than the Old Tools
An important and innovative feature of its EM series of machines is what Amada calls Power Vacuum die technology, used on 0.5- and 1.25-in. tool stations. The press directs a continuous stream of air through the die to the slug chute, which effectively draws any slivers and slugs out of the die and away from the work surface. This allows die penetration to be reduced to just 1 mm, less than half of the typical die penetration required. Reduced penetration allows hit rates 30 to 50 percent faster, as well as reduced tool wear. It also, according to Amada’s Bowerman, allows tool designers to develop tools for the press that otherwise could not be used in production. Hence the firm’s introduction, a few years ago, of several new tools it calls Innovation Tools.
“New tooling concepts developed in recent years for the state-of-the-art CNC turret punch presses aim to reduce or, in many cases, completely eliminate the need for secondary operations,” says Bowerman. Among the new tool offerings is the Safety Inch Bend Tool, in use at Genesis and which allows the 90-deg. forming of short flanges in the turret press. The tool proves perfect for forming very small parts that otherwise might prove difficult to safely and efficiently form in a press brake.
“The tool bends the flange downward into the press bed,” explains Bowerman, “in one or two strokes, or it can bump-form in a series of indexed hits to make radius bends. Then it separates the formed part from the sheet to exit through the slug chute.” The tool runs in a 2-in. station and has a minimum flange length of three-times material thickness, up to 1.378 in. (See the sidebar for more information on new tooling for turret punch presses.)
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Where the New Technology Pays Off
“Since we’ve had the new turret press, of course our employees want to run every job in the shop on it, since it’s so much faster than our other equipment,” says Stringfellow, thanks in part to its use of vacuum-die technology. “So we’ve analyzed our turret-press work to look for opportunities to improve productivity as well as quality by moving the work to the EM machine.”
Citing one example of such a move, Genesis special-project engineer Gerry Luptak showed us a small hinged door panel fabricated on the EM to take advantage of the machine’s infinitely adjustable stroke length.
“Dowel pins are used as hinge pins, and we can’t swage them,” explains Luptak. “In the past, forming the knuckles in the turret press all to the same dimension required our assemblers to pound the pins into place inside of the knuckles. Achieving a press-fit proved a timely and difficult manual operation as operators forced the pins through both knuckles. Now we run the parts on the EM, where we can program a slightly wider opening on one of the knuckles. This allows for a slip fit through the first knuckle and a press fit only through the second knuckle, which makes assembly much easier and quicker.”
Luptak also showed us a new job being run on the EM press using a hemming tool. “Typically, we’d have to form the hem in a press brake. Now we can do it in the turret,” he says, “eliminating the secondary operation and the required material handling.”
Asked what’s next for the firm’s newest turret press, Luptak has his eyes on Amada’s contouring tool, another of its Innovation Tools. This tool nibbles contours not achievable with standard tools, at pitches less than material thickness.
“It results in a near-laser-quality edge,” says Bowerman. “And metalformers can avoid the purchase of special shapes.”
“We think that tool will offer us opportunities to do more prototype work,” adds Luptak, as the firm eyes opportunities to win more jobs from its 40 or so active customers. “And since it can run at nearly 800 strokes/min., we’ll be able to use it in production runs as well.” MF
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