Page 34 - MetalForming May 2016
P. 34

Take a New Look at
Bending Centers
Bending and folding technology has evolved quite nicely, with today’s systems capable of producing components from small
to large−accurately, repeatably and profitably.
Time was when metalformers, especially those churning out parts in relatively high volumes, did not actively engage new customers with smaller part-run needs, or even existing customers with new jobs entail- ing shorter runs. This type of work was handed off to metalformers and fabri- cators who specialized in low volumes. But attitudes have shifted. Today, more metalformers and fabricators actively engage short-run work, hoping to build and keep customer relationships as needs evolve into requirements for high- er part volumes. Methods to achieve proficiency, in order to make this happen from prototyping to small-lot to large-lot stamping, vary.
To capture business and nurture it through to the point where hard tooling is required, perhaps automated bend- ing centers are the answer. To assess the state of the technology and how it can fill a vital role for formers and fabrica- tors, MetalForming interviewed Bill Kennedy, vice president at RAS Sys- tems, LLC, Peachtree City, GA. The company supplies bending machinery and systems, from attended centers to lights-out cells.
Saves Manpower, Frees Up Other Production Machinery
The ability to productively and prof- itably serve varying part volumes rests upon equipment and labor availability.
“In talking to manufacturers, finding and keeping quality personnel is one of their greatest challenges,” Kennedy
says. On top of that, parts makers do not have the luxury to tie up production equipment on testing and prototyp- ing, or small-lot stamping—and the frequent tool changes and setups inherent in that type of work.
“There’s a niche marketplace for stampers that have a need to perform prototyping or short-run work before they get the long-run, or big contract,” explains Kennedy. “For larger stamping companies, bending centers provide flexibility on the front end of that big order, without the need to tie up big production machinery. And, previous- ly, the industry mindset was that stam- pers cannot do the R&D and prototyp- ing, and aren’t set up to do short run, so that work goes somewhere else until it reaches a volume level where the stam- pers profitably can run it in their press- es with hard tools. In today’s world,
Bending systems can be ideal alternatives to press brakes if bend- ing radii fall into acceptable lim-
its. Systems today can easily pro- duce large and small parts with
complex bending requirements.
the thought process differs. Stampers are more likely to want to take on cus- tomers in every fashion from start to finish. They want to capture work from the beginning, satisfying customers on lower part volumes, and then be there for the evolution into larger jobs.”
Automation can be an ideal means to address labor-availability challenges and also allocate equipment more effi- ciently, dovetailing nicely with the new mindset. For its part, RAS Systems offers its MiniBend and MultiBend centers, designed to produce parts quickly with- out the investment in hard tooling. Machinery such as this can keep stamp- ing presses available for longer runs. And, modular construction of bending centers allows users to add the automa- tion they need to minimize the need for human tending and support.
“Many fabricators, when faced with new business or greater workloads, think that simply buying a new press brake and adding another operator,
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