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Sharp Tools Prepared for Punching Duty

Saturday, November 1, 2014
 

punch press tool sharpening
Johnson & Starley Ltd. manufactures energy-efficient heating and ventilation equipment. Sheetmetal panels, the majority 0.9- and 1.2-mm mild steel, are punched using semi-shearing, hole-punching and embossing tools.
At Johnson & Starley Ltd. (J&S), Northampton, UK, a manufacturer of energy-efficient warm-air heating and ventilation solutions, new CNC punch-press tool-sharpening equipment (a Premia model from Mate Precision Tooling) has brought about major improvements in tooling maintenance, while increasing the readiness of tooling for ongoing punching projects.

Not much of a headline grabber in fabricating circles over the years, tool sharpening was an activity fabricators performed merely to “keep on punching.” All of that is changing, at J&S and other fabricators, as they focus more attention on sharpening as a way to make the punching process faster and more precise and repeatable.

This new era in tool sharpening also meshes well with continuous-improvement programs, and J&S exemplifies that ideal by experiencing measurable results that translate into bottom-line improvements. With its new tool-sharpening machine in place, J&S has realized many benefits, including reduced maintenance time, extended tool life and making the sharpening chore far simpler for workers to perform.

 new tool-sharpening system
J&S employs its new tool-sharpening system to return dies and punches to near-new condition. Shown are the Mate cluster die and Rapidset (adjustable punch length) tools used in the firm’s sheetmetal-fabrication shop.
“Our continuous-improvement program had us looking at all areas of our fabricating operations, and tool sharpening came under scrutiny,” says Chris Yates, J&S managing director. “When we discussed this with our Mate Tooling representative, Craig Letty, he recommended upgrading to the Premia system.

“Previously, we used a surface grinder to sharpen tools,” continues Yates. “While it did the job, it was a slow process. When compared to how we sharpen now, we realize how difficult the job really was. Also, the old surface grinder was located in a factory area not easily accessible.”

Upon Further Review

The new sharpening machine includes a 12.60-in.-dia. rotary table that tilts from 0 to 12 deg.; 3.3-kW motor; 7.8-in.-dia. grinding wheel with through-the-wheel coolant delivery; and a dual-stage filtering process. Among the punch-press tools used at J&S: shearing, semi-shearing, hole punching and embossing. Workpiece materials comprise mild and stainless steels, with the majority being 0.9- and 1.2-mm mild steel.

“Upon delivery of the Premia, Mate conducted a two-day review of our punching operations, evaluating our work practices and tool usage,” Yates adds. “Examining our overall tool use and maintenance processes helped a lot. Because we sharpen daily, easy access to the sharpening system is important to minimize moves. We located the sharpening machine in a central area near our tool-storage and punching operations to facilitate efficient tool planning and use. Mate trained our operators on how to sharpen the tools to improve part quality and extend tool life, and they were up and running with the new machine by mid-afternoon of the day the machine was installed.”

Premia tool-sharpening machine
J&S’s Premia tool-sharpening machine handles large station dies (left) as well as small-diameter punches (right).
Using the Premia, a typical tool-sharpening process at J&S has been reduced from an average of 25 min. to just a couple of minutes.

“And, we have been really surprised to find that the quality of the sharpened finish is nearly equal to that of new tools,” adds Yates. “Compared to using a surface grinder on the tools, quality is improved by as much as 50 percent.”

The new tool-sharpening system has eliminated burrs on part edges, and the Premia system accommodates even the smallest punches without danger of breakage—a problem previously experienced at J&S.

Menu-Driven for Easy Setup

The Premia system features a touchscreen interface that simplifies tool setup and maintenance operations. Menu-driven, the interface offers three standard programs for small, medium and large tools, plus two customizable programs. J&S operators use the small and medium programs plus an additional program for tool diameters less than 0.8 mm. And, they can use the machine’s manual operating mode if required.

Operating the sharpening machine, an operator mounts the tool in a universal fixture that accommodates all popular tooling styles. Essentially, all he needs to do is insert the tool in the fixture, select the appropriate program from the menu and press the start button.

During operation, the software tracks several datapoints. J&S records data on all of the tools sharpened; monitoring wheel and coolant life, motor history and grind depth. And, the software can provide an estimated time to completion.

“We operate the Premia every work shift,” concludes Yates. “Our operators learned the system quite easily and are glad that it contributes to our company’s continuous-improvement program. Tooling is expensive, and maintaining it with the best, cost-effective sharpening process represents a sound investment that ensures quality products.” MF

Article submitted by Mate Precision Tooling: www.mate.com.

 

See also: Mate Precision Tooling

Related Enterprise Zones: Fabrication, Tool & Die


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