Servo-Electric Press Brakes Support Fab-Shop Growth

Friday, May 1, 2015

servo-electric press brakes Prima Power
Champion Tool Storage finds its servo-electric press brakes (Prima Power eP-1030 models) fast, accurate and versatile, and able to reduce power consumption and maintenance compared to its hydraulic brakes. For nearly a year it ran its first servo-electric press brake two shifts per day, 10 hr./shift, five days per week. To ease its growing pains, the firm added a second eP-1030 in December 2013.
Garin Buckles began his career in fabrication as an apprentice at the age of 15. In 2006 he realized his dream of starting his own product line when he launched Champion Tool Storage out of a garage in Oregon. Buckles retained his full-time job to cover expenses and worked afterhours and weekends to launch his fledgling company.

In 2007 Champion obtained its first large order from a division of Snap-On’s military group. Buckles subcontracted the manufacturing while he managed all of the engineering and financing. In 2008 Buckles left his full-time job, moved Champion into a 2000-sq.-ft. facility, and began to hire employees and acquire fabricating equipment.

“I would do all the design and develop the flat patterns, and then have local fabricators perform the laser cutting and forming,” Buckles recalls. “I then would have the parts shipped back to Champion and I would perform the welding, finishing and packaging operations.

“Soon after we moved into our new building,” Buckles continues, “we decided to bring production inhouse to control our own destiny and not be bound by our subcontractors. At that point I purchased more equipment.”

Buckles purchased basic machines, including an 8-ft. CNC press brake and additional welding equipment, all the while striving to meet deadlines and grow his company. “I had a short amount of time between testing, approval and production,” he says with a grin.

Used Equipment Goes Only So Far

In 2009 Buckles moved yet again, to a 20,000-sq.-ft. building in Hood River, OR, and purchased yet additional used machinery “to save money,” he says. “I hired additional employees (the firm now employs 40) and finally started to produce the complete product line, as well as fulfill our military contracts.”

By 2011, Buckles determined that his company was ready to invest in modern bending technology.

Prima Power press brakes
Champion fabricates 150,000 lb. of material each month, and nearly all of it routes through the Prima Power press brakes. The firm manfuactures fixed and mobile storage cabinets, workbenches, tool boxes and carts, wall systems, and more, including 14 different drawer heights for its modular series of products.
“We had old CNC press brakes,” says Buckles, “and we were doing an unbelievable amount of production on those machines. However, they required a lot of expertise, press-brake knowledge and training to make them perform. If the operators weren’t at their best each and every day, productivity suffered. So I sought equipment solutions that would allow us to expand our horizons—our capabilities, quality and speed.”

Buckles shopped around and researched the latest bending technology on the market. “We narrowed it down to three machine builders, deciding eventually to invest in a servo-electric press brake (an eP-1030 model from Prima Power),” he says. “We purchased the machine in July 2012.”

Servo-electric press brakes are fast, accurate and nonhydraulic bending solutions. They’re versatile yet deliver reduced power consumption and require less maintenance than do hydraulic brakes.

“For almost a solid year we ran the eP-1030 two shifts per day, 10 hr./shift, five days per week,” says Buckles. “We needed more capacity, so in December 2013 we installed a second eP-1030.”

Ease of Programming

Buckles is impressed with the press brakes’ ease of programming. The eP-series utilizes a Windows-based control that includes two separate processors, one for real-time operations and one for bending-application tasks.

“The eP-1030 lends itself to very easy operation,” explains Buckles. “We were able to train one of our lead operators in our powder-coating department who had an interest in learning to operate the press brakes. In fact, we cross-train a lot of our people.”

press brake control
At the press-brake control, operators download bending programs and pull up matching part numbers, which gives them the setup sheets—no need to figure out tool lengths, what tools to use or the bend sequence. That process, combined with quick-change tooling and a hydraulic top clamp for the press brakes, has enabled Champion to reduce setup times from 20-30 min. to just 5 min.
Included AutoPOL offline-programming software allows programmers to perform bending simulations, shortening setup times and ensuring that bending tasks can be performed. Programmers can develop 3D models with AutoPOL, or models can be imported in 2D and 3D from a separate CAD program. AutoPOL’s bend-allowance algorithm accounts for bending tools to obtain correct radii and also calculate accurate unfolding dimensions.

“We download the bending program to the press brake, the operator will scan it and pull up the part number, and that gives them the setup sheet,” says Buckles. “The operator does not need to figure out tool lengths, what tools to use or the bend sequence—all of that occurs offline. When we pull programs from the server to the machine, it’s extremely quick.”

Buckles also invested in quick-change tooling and a hydraulic top clamp for the press brakes. “Altogether, the software and tooling have allowed us to reduce our setup times from 20 to 30 min. to just 5 min.,” he says.

Speedy Workhorses

Champion processes 150,000 lb. of material each month, and nearly all of it routes through the Prima Power press brakes. Buckles also notes that the speed and flexibility of the new press brakes play a vital role in supporting the firm’s growth.

“The stroke length is huge for us because we form a lot of parts that are too deep for our traditional hydraulic brake,” Buckles says. “And the extra bed length (10 ft., compared to the 8-ft. hydraulic brake) also is important, allowing us to bend some parts in three of four stages in one part handling. That can save a lot of time, increasing productivity and profitability.”

Quality also has improved, due to eased setup and the repeatability provided by the new brake. “We no longer have to make setup parts,” says Buckles. “We produce only the blanks that we need (from the firm’s punching and laser equipment), and when it comes to forming, every part is a good part. So the days of making setup parts are gone.

“The tolerances that the press brakes hold is incredible,” he continues. “We can bank on it every time. If we have to go down to ±0.005 in., we can easily do it. And it doesn’t take five or 10 parts to achieve this—we just need one part.” MF

Article provided by Prima Power North America, Arlington Heights, IL;


See also: Prima Power North America, Inc.

Related Enterprise Zones: Fabrication

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