Lou Kren Lou Kren
Senior Editor

Time-Saving Tooling Tricks for Punching Machines

November 1, 2018

Job-shop fabricators face a formidable task in serving customers who need quality parts quickly, now more than ever in smaller quantities with custom features, and at the right price. Remember when two out of three—quality, delivery speed and price—was good enough to maintain business? We’ve entered into the “three out of three is a must” world. 

Features such as tool-free punch-length adjustment and simplified punch-tip removal, as offered in the tool shown here, help reduce downtime for time-challenged job shops.

To address such challenges, while struggling to find and retain skilled employees, fabricators have adopted automated production machinery and software that can oversee plant-wide operations. And, searching anywhere to remove wasted time—and the resultant wasted money and lost work—they’ve focused on punch-press tool storage and replacement to save precious minutes, and found new ways to employ existing tools.

John Johnson, punching product manager for Wilson Tool International lays out this scenario, then forwards punch-press-tooling timesavers for the readers of MetalForming.

“Lean manufacturing continues to be a large focus for fabricating companies,” Johnson says, noting that Wilson Tool conducts numerous lean seminars, with attendees often challenged to maintain momentum along the lean path. “Many struggle with this commitment and end up in a stop-and-restart situation. But the benefits of lean are so appealing that they continue to strive.”

Given that, Johnson offers solutions for those looking to stay on the lean path by streamlining punch-press operations via tool techniques.

Employ Quick Tool Change

Tool maintenance and setup provide numerous opportunities for lean initiatives and increased productivity.

louver with a tab
Employing tools in new ways can eliminate secondary assembly. For example, marrying a louver with a tab, each produced by common tools, provides a tight, secure fit when assembling panels for cabinets and chassis.

“Traditionally, when a punch became dull, it had to be removed from the assembly, sent to a grinding operation for sharpening and then placed back into the assembly, all done manually,” says Johnson. “Over the years, timesaving features have been added to punching-machine tools to improve the process. For example, Wilson Tool provides tool-free punch-length adjustment in our HP2 line of tooling, where a spring-pack assembly delivers punch-length adjustment within or outside of the machine.”

Another timesaver, simplified punch-tip removal, can be found in newer punching-machine tooling. Johnson points to Wilson Tool’s EXP exchangeable-punch-tip technology.

“There’s no need to remove the whole punch from the assembly,” he explains. “Just use a torque wrench to remove the tip.”

Tool technology such as this enables punch-tip removal in about 10 sec., and has made insert-style tooling a popular option. Prior to these types of innovations, removal of punches could stretch past 5 min., hindering productivity.

“With skill levels an issue among fabricating operations,” Johnson says, “products that make a task easier to accomplish have been popular.”

Reduce Assembly Time via Connecting Forms

Anything that reduces secondary operations contributes directly to the bottom line. Even better when existing tools can be employed in new ways to accomplish just that. Johnson has made it his mission for the past year to educate fabricators on how punching-machine tools, many already purchased and in use, can also help reduce assembly time.

specialized tools offer an alternative to screws or welding for assembly applications
Specialized tools offer an alternative to screws or welding for assembly applications.

“I call them connective forms,” he says, noting that he came up with the term in order to create conversation with fabricators on how punching-machine tools can serve other purposes. “They can use common punch-forming tools such as louvers, extrusions and half shears to aid in the assembly of cabinets and chassis. Connective forms allow users to simply snap panels together, replacing screws and fasteners.

“We mentioned to a fabricator employing conventional assembly techniques,” he continues, “that using a simple louver tool, and marrying that tab with a blanked rectangular hole, would, by sliding the pierced hole over the louver, lock the panels together. He ordered a louver tool the following week and now, this 130-yr.-old company has changed its entire assembly process.”

In addition to standard forms for assist in assembly, Wilson Tool also supplies tools dedicated to the task, Johnson reports, noting that form tools also can be used as locators when assembling panels.

Revisit Time-Tested Techniques Such as Punch Tapping

Though a common practice, punch tapping remains an unknown in some quarters of the fabrication industry, explains Johnson. Traditionally undertaken as a secondary operation, tapping in the punching machine is a tried-and-true procedure, with tools—capable of extrusion as well as straight-through threads—able to achieve speeds from 20 to 180 threads/min.  

“Tapping tools are not a low-cost investment,” says Johnson, “but for those that perform the process often and in large quantities, such a tool provides huge time and money savings. And, most nesting and programming software has tapping instructions built-in, so no extra programming is required.”

Mind the Basics

Keep in mind that simple changes can pay big dividends, according to Johnson.

“We’ve noticed an increase in fabricators ordering tool-storage cabinets,” he says. “The cabinets provide better tool organization, and awareness of tool location helps reduce job setup time and cuts down tool searches and replacement of misplaced tooling.”

That leads to a suggestion by Johnson that fabricators employ a related lean component.

“5S the work area,” he says.

Straightening the workbench and identifying specific locations for hand tools is a simple task that produces immediate benefits.

“Who wants to pay someone to wander around looking for a tool?” he asks. “In addition, 5S in the work area ensures a smooth transition from shift to shift. Everyone knows where everything is.”

Shop-floor automation can be filed under the ‘Basics’ heading only because manufacturers have made it easy, given capital-equipment funding, for job shops to employ automated punching machines and related components. The list includes machines with intelligent, powerful software and controls; storage and retrieval systems; and automatic tool indexers. Automation enables job shops to tackle more work more quickly, reducing setup time while freeing employees for other tasks. 

“Also, newer punching systems employ tool-ID codes whereby they can monitor tooling and indicate when maintenance or replacement is needed,” Johnson adds.  MF

Industry-Related Terms: Form, Grinding, Nesting, Tapping, Torque
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Impax Tooling Solutions, A Div. of Wilson Tool International

Technologies: CNC Punching


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