RV Industry Supplier Ramps Up Production Using Fiber Laser, Brake and Bender

By: Joe Jancsurak

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Rock Run Industries’ Prima Power 2.0 fiber laser with a 10-shelf tower. The compact tower server allows for easy loading and unloading of blanks and processed sheets.
North American recreational-vehicle (RV) shipments hit their highest level ever in 2017 (472,200 units), according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, marking the industry's eighth consecutive year of gains. Those shipments should grow even more in 2018, according to the group.

That is great news for Rock Run Industries, LLC, Millersburg, IN, a manufacturer of RV parts (waste-tank supports and chassis-prep components) for more than 150 RV OEM plants. Located near Elkhart, IN, known as the RV Capital of the World, Fritz Schlabach founded the company in 2007 after quitting his full-time job as a plumber in the mobile-home industry and purchasing an old punch press and other used equipment. Today, Rock Run, with its 51 employees and 84,000-sq.-ft. fabrication facility with powder-coating capabilities, is riding the RV wave, having doubled its sales since 2013.

It also has expanded its production capabilities to include outdoor kitchen cabinetry that utilizes galvannealed steel for the countertops and doors. Until recently, Rock Run outsourced the production of this product.

“We are cutting a large amount if 16-gauge galvannealed steel every week,” explains Schlabach. ”We had our CO2 laser, but it did not do a good job on coated materials such as galvannealed steel. As a result, we were outsourcing all of this work.”

That changed, he says, when Rock Run purchased a Platino 2.0 fiber laser with 10-shelf tower from Prima Power, Schaumburg, IL, which in 2015 supplied Rock Run with an E6x servo-electric turret punch press.

“The RV industry is very demanding,” explains Schlabach. “We are a high-mix, low-volume industry with short lead times, less than two weeks most of the time. In order to meet the just-in-time demands of our customers, we began searching for new equipment. We had an older punch press. In 2014, we saw the Prima Power E6x turret punch press run at the FABTECH Show in Atlanta, bought it, and had it installed in January 2015. Because of the excellent service on the turret punch press, we selected Prima Power for the fiber laser and servo-electric press brake.”

Fiber Laser a Versatile Addition

This Prima Power eP press brake eliminates upper-beam deflection under load while also eliminating the need for bed crowning. The closed frame eliminates side-housing deflection, a common occurrence with c-frame designs.
Rock Run uses the fiber laser and compact tower it acquired in March 2016 to cut a range of steels and aluminum, including highly reflective materials of various thicknesses (11 to 16 gauge) for its RV products as well as the 16-gauge galvannealed steel for its outdoor kitchen cabinetry.

Rock Run also benefits from the 10-shelf tower for loading and unloading blanks and processed sheets. The tower has an elevator for loading and unloading the pallets on and off the tower, and features single-sheet separating and sheet reference. In addition, because the machine is fully independent, it is suitable for lights-out operation. Once programmed, the fiber laser automatically manages settings, tip replacement, sheet change and storage, etc.

“We bought the 10-shelf compact tower because we don’t have a lot of room in our shop and also wanted to perform lights-out production,” says Schlabach. “The fiber laser and tower have a small footprint (30 by 30 ft.) that fits our shop. It has allowed us to bid jobs and be confident that we have the capacity to complete the job on time. If needed, we can run the unmanned extra shift on the laser without adding people.”

Servo Press Brake Provides Cost-Effective Accuracy

Also in 2016, Rock Run Industries installed the Prima Power eP servo-electric press brake. The high-precision brake’s design, based on the company’s experience in press brakes and servo-electric machine tools in the metalworking industry, reportedly reduces operating costs, increases productivity and reduces setup time.

The eP press brake eliminates, according to Prima Power officials, the following:

  • Upper beam deflection under load;
  • Need for bed crowning; and
  • Side-housing deflection, common with C-frame designs.

Its servo-electric drives evenly distribute bending forces in the upper beam for improved bending accuracy, increased productivity, lower operating costs, high reliability and fewer maintenance requirements.

“This press brake is very accurate,” says Schlabach. “In fact, the repeatability is so great that the welders request that any jobs in lighter gauges run on the new brake.”

Latest Addition: BCe Smart Panel Bender

Following FABTECH 2017 in Chicago in November, Rock Run added the Prima Power BCe Smart 220 panel bender for producing small volumes, kits of components and individual parts calling for high-quality bends and high repeatability. Also, the servo-electric actuators reduce energy consumption and maintenance costs.

“We purchased the BCe Smart to run galvannealed product,” explains Schlabach. “We have many 6-ft.-long panels that are 21⁄2 ft. wide, and weigh approximately 40 lb. When making these on the press brake and placing a flange on a 6-ft.-long part, the operator lifts the part past his head, and then flips it. You cannot do this type of work year after year and not create some type of physical problem for yourself. Instead of buying another press brake, we decided to go with the panel bender for its ergonomics and effectiveness. The BCe Smart can perform bends that press brakes cannot, such as radius bends, hems, etc. It will allow us to offer more options and versatility to our customers.” MF


See also: Prima Power North America, Inc.

Related Enterprise Zones: Fabrication

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