Scott Ottens Scott Ottens
Product Manager

Justifying the Purchase of an Automatic-Tool-Changing Press Brake

February 27, 2020

1. What types of fabricators can benefit from the addition of a press brake equipped with an automatic tool changer (ATC)?

The factors to consider are not so much the types of parts or operation (OEM or job shop), since an ATC can handle a wide range of parts and can fit well into any fabricating environment. The main consideration when justifying an ATC is lot size. In a high-mix low-volume operation, conventional press-brake setup times easily can last longer than the actual part-processing time, making it more about how many jobs can be run in a shift rather than the number of parts. In this case, an ATC’s extremely quick setup times can make the difference between profit and loss.

2. Is the learning curve of an ATC press brake longer than that of a conventional press brake?

At first look, an ATC can appear complicated to learn and operate. However, less-experienced, and, therefore, lower-cost, operators easily can operate ATC-equipped press brakes when compared to conventional standalone machines. Why? To maximize productivity on the ATC, nearly all shops use a knowledgeable press brake setup person to create programs for the ATC press brake offline, and then load them onto a network. Then, less-experienced operators at the machines can pull the programs down from the network onto the plant floor and, in the case of an ATC machine, the tool setup loads automatically. This leaves very little for the operator to do setup-wise, which means that a new operator can be up and running very quickly with minimal training--shortening the return on investment (ROI).

3. What is the typical ROI of an ATC press brake?

Noting that an ATC machine functions well in a small lot-size environment, to calculate ROI on an ATC we measure productivity based on the number of jobs processed, rather than the total number of parts. Although there still are some advantages to an ATC machine processing lot sizes greater than 50, the ROI will be shorter with smaller lot sizes, even down to one-piece runs. The price of an ATC machine, with tooling, can be 2 to 2.5 times that of a standalone machine with tooling. However, the typical ATC machine can process three to four times the number of jobs per shift than a conventional press brake, which correlates to a labor cost of one lower-cost operator on an ATC machine compared to three or four higher-cost setup/ operators on a standalone press brake. If we assume a burden rate of $15/hr. for an inexperienced operator compared to $30/hr. for an experienced setup/ operator, the ROI on an ATC press brake averages around 18 months.

4. In addition to increased productivity, what other benefits can fabricators realize when using an ATC press brake?

As noted above, fabricators can assign less-experienced operators to ATC-equipped machines, addressing the struggle to find experienced (and higher paid) bending/setup operators, while also reducing overall labor cost. In addition, an ATC adds flexibility to production scheduling by allowing a fabricator to quickly and easily break in and out of a production run to process a rush job without greatly affecting the schedule.

5. Is an ATC press brake the right choice to run every job? If not, how can fabricators decide which jobs to run on the ATC?

When considering adding an ATC to your bending operation, carefully consider what tooling to load into the machine. While special tools can be built for use in the ATC, we recommend only using tooling capable of running a large number of jobs. The ATC has a finite number of tools from which to draw; carefully select the tool package based on the flexibility to run the widest possible range of jobs. Run jobs requiring special tooling on standalone machines, leaving the ATC available to run primarily short-run jobs. Doing so will optimize the efficiency of the ATC as well as conventional press brakes. MF

Industry-Related Terms: Bending, Case, Draw, Run
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: AMADA Press System America Inc

Technologies: Bending


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