Stamping Simplified via Controls

By: Louis A. Kren

Friday, November 1, 2019

The new control package on this 1500-ton mechanical press at Omni Manufacturing in St. Mary’s, OH, features remote-I/O junction boxes that save greatly on machine wiring. The coil-fed press stamps aluminum engine lid covers.
Opening its doors in 1983 as a provider of stamping tools, Omni Manufacturing, within two years, found itself in the stamping business as it began providing stamped parts in partnership with its customers. Starting off supplying parts for the appliance, hardware and construction industries, the St. Mary’s, OH, company then took on automotive-part production and also became a major supplier for a name-brand manufacturer of garage-door openers.

Today, Omni Manufacturing, with 200,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space on 25 acres and 125 employees, boasts inhouse expertise not only in tool build and stamping, but in welding, powder coating and nylon coating applications.

Forty-two active stamping presses in capacities from 50 to 1500 tons churn out parts from hand-transfer, transfer and progressive dies at Omni Manufacturing. Stainless, high-strength low-alloy, and advanced high-strength steels along with aluminum, in thicknesses from 0.012 to 0.5 in., comprise the stamped-material mix. The material is destined primarily for automotive parts ranging from small brackets to large panels, as well as heat shields, muffler baffles and suspension components.

Controls Complement Inhouse Ingenuity

This 300-ton mechanical press also benefitted from a new control package. Control features on both the 300- and 1500-ton presses include die and tonnage monitoring, automatic shut-height and counterbalance control, and 100-job-recipe storage. The controls can be remotely accessed for troubleshooting and stamping-process optimization.
The company constantly searches for ways to boost productivity, often employing its inhouse engineering expertise to design and build its own transfer systems―and incorporating a variety of new and used equipment such as refurbished Wayne Trail and Livernois transfer units―and other automated welding and assembly systems.

Of course, press controls represent one means of seriously enhancing productivity. About four years ago, Omni Manufacturing reached out for press-control solutions, according to Kenni Dawley, director of controls and automation systems for Helm Instrument Co., Inc. Ultimately, Helm supplied a custom control, installed in January 2018―only three months from order to first production―on a 1500-ton mechanical press. This control features remote-I/O junction boxes on the press, saving on machine wiring. Omni Manufacturing added another Helm control for a 300-ton mechanical press in January of 2019. Both presses, bought used, underwent complete refurbishment at Omni Manufacturing prior to the controls installations.

These controls, each with a Rockwell Automation/Allen Bradley Compact GuardLogix PLC backbone and safety I/O modules that exceed industry and Omni Manufacturing-specific safety regulations, feature 32 channels of die monitoring as well as four channels of tonnage monitoring. The controls also provide programmable limit switches for activation of the press feed (both presses incorporate feeds with their own controls) and to address other line needs such as die lubrication. Other control features: automatic shut-height and counterbalance control. Motors are controlled via Ethernet/IP to ABB drives. And, remote monitoring through a VPN connection allows Helm access to the press control to support or address any customer-required changes to the control package. The PLC offers 100-job-recipe storage, aiding Omni Manufacturing immensely as it performs frequent die changes.

Presses and tooling at Omni Manufacturing are fully sensored. Inside of this press and in the tooling, nearly 50 sensors monitor the transfer and trimming of cylindrical automotive-suspension parts.
Omni Manufacturing’s press-control quest arose out of its heavy use of in-die sensing and other press automation, such as the aforementioned transfer systems, according to Bob Prater, vice president and tool room manager, and Craig Rupert, systems coordinator.

Benefits Evolving Sensor Program

Omni Manufacturing has employed sensors in press operations for 30-plus years, beginning with short-feed and part-out sensors, according to Prater and Rupert.

“These were pretty simple applications due to the simple press-control packages we had at the time,” says Prater. “We’ve evolved to where we not only check for short-feed and part-out conditions, we are also checking to ensure that parts are in the correct position, that trim and form cams have returned, and, in transfer applications, that we are monitoring the transfer position. The user-friendliness of the press control has simplified the process of incorporating sensors to our die/press monitoring package.”

Says Rupert: “Helm supplied basic control packages that we could customize to our needs. Up front we provided a list of features we needed, including safety features, and Helm incorporated all of them.”

The 1500-ton coil-fed press, with its new control package, produces aluminum engine lid covers—large parts that don’t require the tonnage as much as the roomy, 136-in.-wide bed, according to Prater—as well as suspension components for the automotive industry.

Omni Manufacturing boasts significant inhouse engineering expertise. A tour revealed Omni-designed-and-built weld cells, assembly machines and part-transfer systems such as this one.
The 300-ton press, with transfer capability along with the new control, stamps a variety of steel parts. In an interesting display of Omni Manufacturing’s sensoring and automation capabilities, this press also performs transfer and trimming of automotive-suspension parts, a process that employs nearly 50 sensors.

After installation of the controls, production on each press took less than a week, according to Prater and Rupert, who noted that the compact setup time was a huge improvement over past installations of other controls. In practice at Omni Manufacturing, a few diesetting employees as well as Rupert are tasked with die and control setup.

“Once we set a die,” Rupert explains, “we plug in a standard die cable, which communicates the die number to the control. We find that number on the recipe screen of the control, then load the recipe and it’s ready to run. We also can make minor adjustments on the screen at the press and save the recipe, even while it is running.”

Once the controls are installed and running, “they are simple to operate,” adds Prater. “A little training for the setup people and operators, and we are good to go. They are very user-friendly.” MF


See also: Helm Instrument Co., Inc.

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