Responding to an economy that doesn’t seem too friendly to high-volume bending work, press brake manufacturers have responded by introducing a number of different productivity increasing features.
These new developments include innovations in tooling, press brake design and software that help job shops keep up with low-volume, high-mix jobs where quick setup is needed.
Press brake manufacturers have been working to improve their products as well, resulting in other innovations such as a reduction in energy consumption and material waste.
To address the issue of high-mix, low-volume jobs, Amada introduced a new press brake called the HD. It uses a built-in bend indicator that measures the part being bent and makes adjustments on the fly to ensure it’s within target tolerances.
In this way, the operator doesn’t have to deal with different variances in the workpiece such as material thickness, hardness and grain direction. It also helps operators get a proper bend on parts that are difficult to handle, such as those that are very large and thick.
During a bend cycle, the Amada HD can make mid-process adjustments to produce a precise part, which reduces waste, as the first part is a good part.
The HD also saves on setup time in a high-mix, low-volume situation because the operator doesn’t have to worry about setting the perfect parameters beforehand. The bend indicator will automatically adjust the parameters, meaning more time spent processing parts, not setting them up.
Another development that Amada offers for its press brakes is software for off-line programming. “Even now, many people still program a part at the brake, so it’s usually the largest part of the setup for the press brake,” says Scott Ottens, the company’s bending product manager.
Amada first started promoting off-line programming away from the brake 12 years ago. And now, after several software iterations, it offers a software product called Dr. Abe Bend.
This software takes the part programming responsibility away from the operator and places it on the engineering staff. To help the engineering staff, the company added a software batch processor feature that allows a large number of files to be uploaded into the Dr. Abe Bend program, which will then automatically process the files and create bending programs.
At the press brake, the operator calls up the software program to see what bend angles, sequences and tooling he needs for the part, all of which is already programmed and shown on the CNC’s screen.
The program shows the operator where the tooling needs to be placed on the press brake’s bed. Then a feature on the machine called a tool navigator will use the backgauge to guide the operator in the proper lineup of the tooling.
“[Thanks to these processes], an operator can very quickly repeat the setup without having to put too much thought into it,” explains Ottens. “The operator can also just touch the tool on the touchscreen, and then the backgauge will move to the exact point to place the tool.”
As the job is being run, the software will show a preview of a solid model of the part and how to bend it on the computer screen.
Amada also has its own press brake tooling, called Amada Fixed Height Tooling. The company has taken different punch geometries that are usually of varying heights and combined them together into a number of fixed height tools. This allows different punch geometries to be used on the same setup.
Amada’s tooling uses a one-touch design and doesn’t have to be slid in from the end of the press brake. It snaps directly into a hydraulically actuated clamping holder. An entire tooling setup can be locked down with a touch of one button. This saves the operator setup time. Tooling is precision-ground to within +/- 0.0008 in. accuracy. The company produces tooling that is 0.5 to 1 m long.
Amada offers several different series of press brakes: the RG Series, HD Series and HDS Series. The RG Series is a three-axis economy model, while the HD Series is medium-priced.
Amada’s HDS Series is a high-end machine that features high speeds and a combination servo/hydraulic drive system. It also has a hydraulic crowning system.
Energy consumption reduction is on the forefront of Bystronic’s newest developments for its press brakes. A new feature called the Energy Saver ensures that the hydraulics are utilized only when the machine is in operation or bending.
The Energy Saver shuts off the hydraulic system if an operator is repositioning, programming or getting a blank.
“With this system, we can save between 30 to 40 percent of the energy usage of the machine, because in most shops, they’re only bending between 40 to 60 percent of the time, at best,” says John Kemp, Bystronic’s bending products manager.
The Energy Saver is available on Bystronic’s equipment up to its 1000-ton (1100-U.S.) models, and offers increasingly higher energy savings as the size of the equipment becomes larger.
The Energy Saver also increases productivity because it allows the hydraulic pump in Bystronic’s press brakes to run up to 75 Hz, instead of 60 Hz like a standard machine. Because of this, more oil can be moved through the hydraulic system, which makes it possible to speed up the machine.
Another way that Bystronic helps its customers increase productivity is through providing tools to successfully create a part from a 3-D model on the first attempt.
Bystronic’s software will assign the proper tools for the bending process while the part is still a 3-D model. This helps to determine the inside radius of the bends and what their bend allowance will be, resulting in a more precise part.
“This eliminates the need for the operator to make adjustments at the machine to account for an incorrect flat-blank size,” remarks Kemp. “He just uses the program provided from the off-line programming system to give him the first part to print.”
The company has included a pressure reference system on its press brakes that helps to eliminate angle deviations in processed parts. The system accomplishes this by measuring the pressure being exerted on the part approximately every 2 ms during the bend cycle and then making adjustments automatically.
“The operator doesn’t have to make adjustments for any of these things, so our equipment [helps] him to get a first part finished in a shorter period of time,” explains Kemp.
As part of the pressure reference system, Bystronic’s press brakes have a crowning system that is unique based on the fact that it makes adjustments for more factors than just pressure changes. Beyond pressure changes, the system also makes adjustments if the bend location on the bed or the bend length changes on the left, right or center of the brake’s bed.
Safety is yet another area that Bystronic has addressed with its press brakes. At FABTECH 2010, the company introduced a camera-based safety system that automatically adjusts itself for different tool heights.
“[The safety system] will also look at the profile of the [current] tool, and if the profile does not match what is in my bend program, it won’t allow the machine to operate,” says Kemp. “This increases the safety of the machine.”
Productivity is also increased with this system, because it allows the brake’s RAM to travel at high speed to 3 mm above the material being processed. With other systems, Kemp explains that you typically have to switch to a slower speed at a point much higher above the part.
According to Kemp, being able to move closer to the part at a higher speed adds 10 to 20 percent more bending productivity.
Bystronic offers three different lines of press brakes. The company’s mid-range market machine is the Xact series, which has a 2-D controller and a hydraulic crowning system built into the lower bed. It comes in three different sizes, up to 160 tons (176 U.S.) and up to a 14-ft. bed length.
The company’s Xpert machine features the previously mentioned pressure reference system, as well as a Bystronic-made 3-D graphics controller, and is available in sizes from 60 tons (66 U.S.) to 3000 tons (3300 U.S.) with 6-ft. to 60-ft. bed lengths.
The Hämmerle press brake, Bystronic’s third offering, uses a three-point bending process. It features a Hydro Cushion that applies even pressure across the entire bend length, which eliminates crowning problems.
“[Because we have three points of contact] on the bottom side of the material, we don’t see variation in the bends normally caused by changes in thickness,” says Kemp. The Hämmerle comes in sizes up to 250 tons (275 U.S.) and up to a 14-ft. bed length. According to Kemp, “it’s probably the most accurate machine on the market when you’re talking about bending sheet metal.”
Ermak USA’s newest press brake is called Evolution.
“Press brakes have long been ignored and perceived to be on their last cycle of technology from the perspective of builders,” says Emre Varisli, VP of sales for Ermak USA. “Of course, new controls or faster backgauges show up all the time, but the fundamentals of press brakes have long not been touched in terms of their hydraulic and electrical systems.
“Our R&D decided to take a further step in press brake evolution and spend a good amount of time on thinking how they can excel this.”
The aptly-named Evolution press brake was the result of this process. Evolution has several notable characteristics.
First, the machine is a hybrid. It uses both servo drives and a hydraulic system. It also features a 60 percent reduction in energy consumption compared to other hydraulic systems.
Evolution uses 80 percent less oil and features no oil heat-up, as well as a 63-dB noise level.
Ermak USA offers ways to help its customers increase their productivity, too. One way the company does this is by integrating technologies into its press brakes such as hydraulic quick-change tooling, dynamic crowning, built-in thickness and angle measurement features and front bending aids for handling large plates.
Another way that productivity is increased is through Ermak USA’s ER90 CNC controller, which can quickly convert DXF files and then generate bending programs from them. This shortens the programming phase of bending significantly.
With larger plants that have engineering departments for programming parts, Ermak USA offers software that can use mainstream CAD files to create bending programs, and choose optimal tooling from the tooling library.
According to Varisli, after a program is created, engineers can attach notes or pictures to it for the operator and then send it to the press brake.
“This way an engineer can quickly program all press brakes from his office and get the shop floor ready for the day’s production,” explains Varisli.
At the end of the process, once a program is loaded onto the CNC controller, the operator will be warned by the tooling recognition system if the tooling already installed on the press brake needs to be changed for that particular part. Therefore, situations where the tooling becomes damaged can be avoided.
Ermak USA offers three main press brakes lines, with each containing approximately 30 different models. Models have bed sizes ranging from 3 ft. to 60 ft. and tonnage from 35 to 6000.
LVD Strippit continues to innovate its press brake technology by adding a feature called the Easy-Form Laser. To gain and maintain angularity, the Easy-Form system uses laser technology to measure the part as it’s being bent.
According to the company’s website, these measurements allow adjustments to the bending process to ensure accurate results are obtained on the part. The system is particularly helpful when dealing with variations in material thickness and tensile strength, as measuring the material while it’s being processed helps to maintain and guarantee the angle.
“This is probably our greatest innovation for our press brakes over the last several years,” says Daniel McIntyre, sales manager for LVD Strippit.
The industry, traditionally utilizing bottom bending and coining has embraced air bending for forming parts.
“By going to air bending, the gains you get for bending are incredible,” McIntyre explains. “You now no longer have to have racks upon racks of tooling in order to develop angularity.
“[Instead], you use a much smaller set of precision ground tooling [to] link to a lot of different angles.”
The company has also added a Laser Safe System to its bending products that uses a laser system to monitor for interference. With this system, a laser beam goes over the surface of the punch, and if any interference is detected, such as an operator’s hand being in the way, the machine will stop the punch from coming down.
McIntyre points out that job shops are increasingly sensitive to carrying inventory, and that run quantities are being produced “more along the line of just-in-time.”
High-volume, low-value products have moved to other economies, leaving job shops in North America with lower-run, higher-value products. To compensate for this, press brakes have to be able to set-up, tear down and get products out the door all very quickly, and LVD Strippit has several features to help accomplish this.
In the area of tooling, the company uses quick-change tooling in the form of hydraulic clamping for both the upper and lower tool holders. McIntyre explains that with bottom bending or coining, tool changes can take a half hour, but with air bending, the change-over time is drastically reduced and in some cases is even less than a minute.
With LVD Strippit’s software, a job shop can take a 3-D model for a part and easily develop an accurate blank, resulting in an accurate initial bend as well. The off-line software program will also give an operator a graphic representation of exactly where to place the necessary tooling in the press brake.
If an operator chooses not to use the off-line software to program the part, he has the option of using LVD Strippit’s 3-D, PC-based touchscreen control to program the part right at the press brake. The interface also allows a CAD file from a designed part to be imported into the control.
“Our software has been designed to quickly process electronic information either off-line or online to get a part done quickly,” comments McIntyre.
With all of the integrated hardware and software features on the brake, McIntyre says that the time required for setup and programming is reduced. Part accuracy is increased, too, leading to less scrap.
McIntyre says that LVD Strippit sees automation as the future. The company has developed a robotic automation solution called RoboCell that combines a multi-axis Kuka robot with its press brakes. McIntyre mentions that their RoboCell, combined with their Easy Form angle-measuring system, allows job shops to automate their entire press brake system, and the end user doesn’t have to “worry about checking parts.”
LVD Strippit offers a variety of different press brake series. The introductory level is the PPS series. Its vailable in sizes from 50 to 200 tons and bend lengths from 78 in. to 157 in., according to the company’s website.
The PPEC is the intermediate series, and is available in capacities from 90 tons and 78 in. up to 240 tons and 168 in.
The other two series are the PPEB and the PPEB-H. The company also makes 2000- to 3000-tonnage machines that are 50 ft. long, depending on the customer’s requirements.
Prima Finn-Power’s latest bending machine offering is the FastBend, which, according to a press release, features innovative automatic bending technology that makes it possible to create more bends “in an automatic sequence without any manual intervention.”
This automatic process increases quality and speed, while also reducing mistakes. The FastBend’s automatic tool change feature and barcode reader make setup automatic, as well.
Prima Finn-Power’s FastBend offers greater flexibility, as it can bend complicated multiple profiles mentions the company. The machine offers a variety of key reductions: it uses 50 percent less energy, produces less noise by 68 dB and less vibration by 66 percent and requires 65 percent less maintenance, according to the press release.
Two different modes are available on the machine: standard mode and press brake mode. In standard mode, parts are “automatically fed during the bending sequence of every side,” while in press brake mode “the sheet is moved manually bend by bend,” making it possible to process very narrow profiles.
The FastBend offers bending lengths of either 2250 mm or 2650 mm, and can bend steel material up to a thickness of 3.2 mm on the FBe5-3.
TRUMPF’s newest developments in the area of bending are its TruBend 5085 and TruBend 7000, both shown at FABTECH in 2010.
According to a press release from the company, the TruBend 5085 reduces cycle times by as much as 30 percent, and uses what they call a 4-cylinder technology to ensure uniform pressure across the entire length of the RAM.
In addition, its patented ACB (Automatically Controlled Bending) system guarantees accurate bending angles from the beginning of the process. The machine also features 95 tons of press force, 107 in. of bending length and an “intelligent 6-axis.”
TRUMPF has also integrated design features into the machine that allow it to work faster. The TruBend Series 7000 can increase its bending speed by accelerating its RAM, which is three and a half times faster than a hydraulic press brake, with a rapid approach of 520 IPM and a programmable working speed of up to 59 IPM.
Its backgauge is made of lightweight carbon fiber, while the areas where the bent part touches it are made of hardened steel. According to the press release, “These design features enable the TruBend Series 7000 to set new standards for achieving accurate results.”
The new press brake also has a laser diode that provides guidance for moving the workpiece into the backgauge by projecting a bend line onto the surface of the sheet metal.
They feature a low-maintenance torque motor that has no gears and requires no oil and can also deliver power at low speeds, ensuring rapid axis movements.
An operator can sit while using the TruBend Series 7000, along with adjusting the foot and arm rests on the seat as desired. These ergonomic features help the operator overcome fatigue and ensure quality and quantity of processed parts.
Other noteworthy features include a control system monitor that can be adjusted electronically and an optional heat- and radiation-free LED lighting that illuminates the areas in front of and behind the beam, ensuring proper illumination at the bend.