Tooling Article



Turret-Press Tools Create Works of Art

Friday, August 1, 2008
Turret-Press Tools Create Works of Art
A. Zahner Co. produced more than 9000 copper panels that clad the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, CA. The company employed special turret-press tooling to cut the embossed and tapered panels, allowing for a perfect fit during installation.
The Fabricating/Manufacturing Division of A. Zahner Co., Kansas City, MO, and its 250 employees occupy of facilities in Kansas City, Oklahoma and Texas to produce custom architectural panels used throughout the country for clients as varied as museums and airports—including 14 miles of roofing for the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport.

The Kansas City fabrication shop, filling three buildings, boasts turret punch presses, press brakes, a waterjet cutter and CNC routers to cut and shape material from 0.010 to 6 in. thick. Materials include stainless steel, copper, brass, aluminum and zinc alloys, with some material precolored. No production work here, as all jobs are custom, and usually each panel in a job—with jobs typically consisting of thousands of panels—is unique.

Obviously, exterior architectural products demand blemish-free surfaces, so A. Zahner must be careful to avoid marring costly material during production. That is the main reason why the company, according to Scott Hidy, A. Zahner production manager, began about 12 years ago purchasing Wilson Wheel turret-press tooling from Wilson Tool International, White Bear Lake, MN. The Wilson Wheel line includes the Rolling Shear, Rolling Rib, Rolling Offset and Rolling Pincher. The tools provide high-speed production of slits, ribs and offsets on a range of materials, according to Wilson Tool officials, and produce no burrs or nibble marks.

The Proof is in the Cladding

Zahner provided thousands of eccenrically shaped panels
A. Zahner provided thousands of eccentrically shaped panels made from various materials for the exterior of the Experience Music Project, a museum of musical history in Seattle, WA. Turret-press tooling produced the panels without leaving nibble marks or other imperfections along panel edges.

The tools have paid off for A. Zahner on a number of jobs, according to Hidy, who provided a host of examples. For one, the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, A. Zahner fabricated the entire exterior envelope: the roof, walls and glazing systems. The company spent one year designing the complete system, including producing parametric 3D computer models of each component prior to fabrication.

“The de Young project was one that really benefitted from us using the Rolling Pincher,” he says. The museum boasts 1.1 million lb. of copper, a hefty portion of that in the exterior architectural panels. “Each panel was different, and the job included more than 9000 panels (totaling approximately 220,000 sq. ft.), not including those for the roof. Some of the 0.062-in.-thick panels tapered and had special embosses to form a design meant to shade the ground underneath like the canopy of a tree. Being that the panels were unique, tapered and embossed, shearing would have been difficult. Instead, after embossing the panels we cut them using the Rolling Pincher, which allowed us to fit them together perfectly, as each individually numbered panel had to go in a specific spot and fit flawlessly with the panels around it.”

Detailed architectural panels fabricated by A. Zahner on turret presses
The exterior of the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum boasts more than 1.5 million lb. of copper, including detailed architectural panels fabricated by A. Zahner on turret presses using unique tooling.
Another A. Zahner project, one of many the company has undertaken with famed architect Frank Gehry, necessitated thousands of eccentrically shaped panels forming the exterior of the Experience Music Project, a museum of musical history in Seattle, WA.

“The panels comprised five different materials, including aluminum and colored stainless steel, with the exterior of the building an intricate assembly of panels,” Hidy explains. “Again, each panel was shaped differently, and the Wilson Wheel family of press tooling helped define a lot of edges without leaving nibble marks or other visible imperfections that we would have had to file afterward.”

The abundance of artistic and decorative work undertaken by A. Zahner also benefits from use of the turret-press tooling.

“Being able to place ribs in material to make a design is a great help to us,” says Hidy. “We did a job just across the street from us here in Kansas City, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where the copper exterior was supposed to resemble strokes from an artist’s paintbrush. We used the Rolling Rib tool and that turned out very well.” MF


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

Related Enterprise Zones: Fabrication, Tool & Die

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