Six Criteria for Making the Move to FourslideAugust 1, 2009
Named for the four tool slides that perform stamping and forming operations, the fourslide process offers several potential benefits over the traditional mechanical stamping press. Among its advantages: the cost-effective manufacturing of complicated forms, reduced production expenses, speedier product delivery and wide latitude to modify forms without a steep monetary penalty. The following considerations can help an engineer determine when to consider the use of the fourslide metalforming process.
Fourslide manufacturing begins with the raw material in flat strip off of a coil, which is stamped or blanked in the progressive die section of the fourslide machine. The strip then feeds into the forming section, where four tool-carrying slides approach the part and form the material around a central tool or mandrel. The setup of the machine cams determines the sequence, timing and number of tool strikes.
The fourslide forming tools can be machined for a fraction of the cost of complicated stamping dies. As a result, the price for fourslide tooling typically registers at just a fraction of that for stamping tools. Says Anthony Viggiano, co-owner of Autotether, Inc., Rocky Hill, CT, which manufactures multi-functional wireless alarm switches for boating safety applications:s
“People become reticent about spending a lot of money on a stamping tool because the payback could extend to 10 years due to slow sales. But with the fourslide process, the cost of the tool isn’t that great, so our up-front capital investment isn’t high.”
Don Schmidt, a manufacturing engineer with Kaba Mas, Lexington, KY, which makes high-security locking devices that employ fourslide parts, adds: “We have had situations where we’ve quoted a metallic part with some forms, both from conventional stamping houses and from fourslide houses. We’ve als done better with fourslide in terms of cost. I als look at the complexity of the part, and for complicated forms and spring-type parts it makes sense to utilize a fourslide operation.”
Because of its unique integration of compound forming operations, the fourslide process can execute multiple bends, bends beyond 90 deg., twists, cylindrical forms and tapped holes before the part is ultimately ejected.
“You can’t bend a part beyond 90 deg. with a mechanical stamping press unless you add something to the tool that has actuating mechanisms,” explains Jim Richards, director of marketing for Fourslide Spring and Stamping, Inc., Bristol, CT. “With all of the extra cams, lever arms and cylinders, a stamping die can become complicated, expensive and costly to maintain. On the other hand, the fourslide process can easily perform additional bends with the second, third, fourth or even a fifth slide, each of which carries a tool block.”
Making part revisions also proves relatively simple with fourslide tooling. Viggiano recalls a case where the firm had to revise a fourslide tool, to the tune of only about $1000. “This is typical for fourslide tools,” he says. “If it had been a progressive die, the revision would have cost more like $10,000.”
Adds Schmidt: “With a progressive die or conventional stamping tool, you have only one cycle at the press, so all of your tooling has to be timed within the die in that one stroke—a change might require retiming the entire tool. However, with four separate slides, the metalformer can easily adjust each station individually. This provides flexibility in controlling the different operations to effect any necessary design changes.”
As a general rule of thumb, any material less than 2 in. wide, less than 0.075 in. thick, and within 15 in. in blank length can be formed using the fourslide process.
Fourslide Spring and Stamping Inc.: 800/832-6405; www.fourslide.com
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