Open-Architecture Press Controls

By: Brad Kuvin

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

While many, myself included, had enough of the white stuff last winter, companies like Ariens that manufacture snowblowers were saying, “Bring it on,” and joyfully singing “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

Minster automatic press
Before its rebuild, this 150-ton Minster automatic press had run at a mere 20 strokes/min. on some jobs. Newly rebuilt and outfitted with a new control, the press now runs no slower than 45 strokes/min., and as quickly as 85 strokes/min. on parts that had been running at 30 to 40 strokes/min.
Now that the snow has settled and the Ariens manufacturing plant in Brillion, WI, has adjusted some of its focus to lawnmower production, we had a chance to speak with tool and die department leader Brad Paplham about initiatives the pressroom has taken to keep up with burgeoning demand. Specifically, says Paplham:

“While snowblower sales have increased dramatically in recent years, the company also has introduced shorter runs, a lean-manufacturing initiative and a focus on quick change-overs. In the pressroom, our challenge was to accomplish all of that while avoiding setup errors that might lead to die crashes.”

Paplham and his team started their pressroom upgrade by installing, beginning in 2010, “speed-up” packages on the plant’s hydraulic presses—new hydraulic circuits, pump-power units etc. The Ariens pressroom houses 11 hydraulic presses from 250 to 2000 tons, and another 14 mechanical presses—four of which are automatics that Paplham calls “the backbone of the pressroom.”

Fortifying that Backbone

Stamping these clutch handles in a two-out die once caused huge headaches for the Ariens pressroom.
Stamping these clutch handles in a two-out die once caused huge headaches for the Ariens pressroom. By adding a dual-part-out sensor, with data managed by the newly added Toledo press control, the firm expects to save $250,000 per year in scrap and die repairs on this press alone.
“With the Toledo upgrade,” says Ariens tool and die department leader Brad Paplham, “we also were able to add programmable limit switches to the tool and use air cylinders to knock the parts out; before we could just use air. The switches allow us to customize the setups and add cylinders where needed.”
It is these four automatic mechanical presses, which together run 25 percent of the company’s 500-plus dies, that have received Paplham’s  recent attention, starting with the refurbishment of a 150-ton 1976-vintage Minster.

“That press,” says Paplham, “is our guinea pig. To refurbish it, including upgrading its control unit, we developed a checklist of 30 ‘to-do’ items. We looked at sensor technology and tonnage monitoring, rewiring the press, subplating of our tools, upgrading the feed line, our load and unload procedures, and the press control, among other areas.”

The press-line overhaul, completed late in 2014 with the help of local equipment distributor BDC Machinery LLC, Nekoosa, WI, has made the press “by far our most productive,” Paplham says. “Now we’re focused on applying the same type of performance upgrade to our other automatic presses.”

When Paplham speaks of performance, the first things that come to his mind—pre-press overhaul—are the long setup times and pesky (and often costly) die crashes that plagued the press.

“Crashes and resulting die damage kept our die-maintenance team busy, even on Saturdays,” he recalls. “We had (on the 150-ton Minster) an outdated press control that was an Achilles heel…a ticking time bomb, and it prevented us from implementing the in-die sensing that we needed to support the expanding requirements of the pressroom.”

The Timebomb Goes Off

In May 2013, the timebomb exploded. Paplham describes how the fuse was lit.

Customizing the press-control screen is huge," says Paplham.
“Customizing the press-control screen is huge,” says Paplham. “As we add complexity to the dies—more lube nozzles and sensors, for example—we can label everything and create easy-to-follow instructions to help guide setup and troubleshooting routines for the operators and maintenance technicians.”
“We had just repaired a die used to stamp clutch handles, and the first time we placed the die back in the press we experienced a short feed and a crash,” he says. “The old press control prohibited us from adding a short-feed sensor. So I finally said ‘enough is enough’ and went to management to propose a capital-expenditure plan. It covered not only upgrading the automatic mechanical presses (starting with the 150-ton Minster) but also the addition of in-die sensing as well as quick-die-change equipment, such as magnetic clamping.”

To manage all of the new communication between press and tooling, as well as oversee a new Dallas servo feeder with a new straightener-drive package integrated into the existing straightener, Paplham opted for a new press control from Toledo Integrated Systems, Holland, OH. BDC Machinery president Rick Wenzel touts the benefits of Toledo’s open-architecture setup, based on an Allen-Bradley platform:

“The control has standard screens for die protection, programmable limit switches, tonnage monitoring, etc… however, Ariens also can modify the look and feel of the interface screen to its liking. Paplham and his team were able to customize where each piece of data appears on the control screens, and the types of charts and graphs used to display the data.

“We also find that the Toledo interface simplifies feed-line integration,” Wenzel continues, describing the special servo-feed interface developed for use with the Dallas ProfileSelect feed control. The control was modified, he adds, to perform basic mathematical functions for Ariens operators, to simplify setups.

BDC also installed, as part of the press-line overhaul, a new Spra-Rite die-lubrication system from Industrial Innovations.

Justification a Snap

The Toledo servo-feed interface
The Toledo servo-feed interface, developed for use with the Dallas ProfileSelect feed control, eases feed-line integration. The control was modified to perform basic mathematical functions for Ariens operators, to simplify setups.
Now the upgraded Minster runs 55 different tools for the Ariens press shop. Each is equipped with part-out and short-feed sensors. “And we’re looking at adding in-die part measurement to some of the tools as well,” says Paplham.

Since upgrading the press, die crashes nearly have been eliminated, Paplham says, and the control makes troubleshooting a breeze. The control communicates information that allows Paplham’s maintenance team to quickly diagnose any issues and get right to work addressing them.

“As a result,” says Paplham, “the press runs more hours per day, and it’s running more quickly—on some tools, hit rate has tripled.”

In all, Ariens invested $220,000 on the press-line upgrade, justified easily, Paplham says, just by being able to protect the press from damage from short feeds and other faults. Add in the eliminated die-repair costs—replacement punches, labor, etc.—as well as the increased production and “we’re way ahead of where we thought we’d be in terms of speed and press uptime,” Paplham continues.

“That press will stamp 4.5 million parts this year, a 50-percent increase over last year. And we believe that as we continue to integrate new functions to the Toledo control, we’ll increase production by another 15 to 20 percent.”

Five Levels of Access

When installing and setting up the refurbished press line, BDC worked with Toledo to establish five levels of access to press-control parameters via the Toledo control. Employees use unique ID cards rather than access codes, which can too easily be learned by others over time, says Wenzel. Operators cannot adjust the press—only a tool and diemaker can access settings such as shut height. And the maintenance group at Ariens also has its own unique level of access.

At the top of the food chain is the technician at Toledo, who has access to the Windows interface to make major programming changes to the system. “Toledo also allows the end user, with the required software, to make high-level changes themselves as their needs change,” adds Wenzel, “essentially allowing the customer to alter the look and feel of the control screens based on operator input and skill level.”

On the horizon for Ariens, according to Paplham: “Creating reports from our desktop computers, using Ethernet access to the press control. That added integration and access to data will help us pinpoint additional paths to improved productivity.

“And, starting later this summer,” he adds, “we’ll be performing similar upgrades to our other automatic mechanical presses, with support from BDC and Toledo.” MF


See also: Dallas Industries, Nidec Press & Automation, Toledo Integrated Systems

Related Enterprise Zones: Coil Handling, Presses, Sensing/Electronics

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