Tube bending technology can vary from the most simple – strong hands – to the most sophisticated multi-axis machinery. It ranges from electric to hydraulic, single head to multi head, left to right and mandrel and everything in between.
Today’s choices are growing ever broader. While hydraulic systems are still plentiful, there is a movement to all-electric bending machinery that offers more control as well as to improved software, intuitive controllers and much more.
Unison Ltd. manufactures a variety of all-electric, servo-driven bending machines.
Software and customizing
Many companies are developing or integrating new software for simulating design. Unison Ltd., a manufacturer of a variety of all-electric, servo-driven bending machines updated its software with new programming simulation and monitoring tools. The Version 11.3 software manages the tube bending process from programming to production.
It includes a new version of the Opt2Sim 3-D simulator to help accelerate the development of control programs for all-electric tube bending machines. It employs the same embedded code that the machine runs on to help ensure the simulator always performs in the same manner as the machine.
It also includes a new version of the Unibend machine programming and control package. Version 11.3 features speed enhancements to the bending and material handling elements of tubular part programs.
In addition, the company introduced TubeWorks, a SolidWorks add-in that reduces pre-production design time to only a few minutes. Typically, extracting the required information, such as bend angles and rotations, from an imported part for quotation or production purposes is a time-consuming task. TubeWorks aims to diminish that and creates the YBC table for the CNC tube bender, X,Y,Z coordinates of the modeled tube and a drawing using a drawing template.
Unison is also known for customizing its bending machinery to fit particular customer needs. One such customer, says Jim Saynor, Unison’s senior commercial manager, is Ultibend Industries, a manufacturer of food and beverage processing systems.
“Unison’s customization capability means that we’ve been able to emulate the unique features Ultibend uses in its process and then exploit the all-electric machine architecture to enhance productivity,” Saynor says. “The result is that the two new machines have increased output while also providing much richer programming, networking and operator control facilities to open up further opportunities for progress.”
The all-electric tube bending machines were designed to suit Ultibend’s proprietary manufacturing process. The machines automate the bending of tube fitting shapes, such as elbows and U-bends, in sizes from 1/2 in. to 4 in. dia. Compared to the previous bending process, the new machinery is boosting manufacturing speeds through the inherently greater control of motion that’s possible inside the software-controlled, all-electric machine architecture.
Ultibend started in 1992 as a subcontracter that provided tube bending services, supplying architectural pipework to customers. The company found a market for tubular parts for the local food processing industry and evolved from subcontract work into offering a range of stainless steel tube fitting parts for applications including food, winery, brewery, dairy and sanitary processing.
As part of the company’s development, Ultibend designed and manufactured its own tube bending machines, but they were hydraulic systems with little programming capabilities. As the company expanded, it became interested in upgrading the bending process with more flexible all-electric machines, using a software-controlled servomotor that controlled bending. Ultibend settled on Unison for the upgrade.
Bend and cut
Schwarze-Robitec, a German-based maker of bending machines with U.S. offices in South Carolina, offers a range of machines and accessories to customize its bending machines to fit the application. Jurgen Korte, Schwarze-Robitec sales manager, says the company is happy to customize and supplement all packages to meet specific project requirements.
Whether it‘s a newly developed bending tool, a specially configured bending machine or a complete, fully automatic bending line with more than 2,400 delivered CNC machines, Korte says the company plays a major role in the success of its customers worldwide whether in shipbuilding, power plant construction, boiler engineering, the automotive industry, offshore, the furniture industry or aerospace.
“We develop and manufacture tube bending machines, fully equipped automatic pipe bending production lines and bending tools as well as tube perforating machines, measuring systems and solutions in special-purpose machinery manufacture,” he says.
One of the company’s most recent advancements is enhancing its cutting capability. Previously, three process steps were required to manufacture bent pipe components: cutting the pipe to length, the bending process itself and the final cutting of the component. To make this process more efficient and economical, Schwarze-Robitec integrated a cutting device into the bending tool.
“This makes it possible to bend and cut pipe components of commercially available lengths in a single process step,” Korte says. “The users’ benefit is a reduction in production times as well as a reduction in material waste up to 90 percent.”
In particular, this applies to high-quality materials and short, bent pipe components. Previously, it was common practice to cut commercially available lengths to fixed lengths prior to the bending process. However, this included the span and support lengths essential for bending short components.
Following the metalforming process, cutting tools were applied to cut the additional lengths. This implies that the components had to pass through three different process steps. The wasted material was enormous, he says.
“Depending on the bending system, it’s quite common during the production of manifold pipes for up to 100 mm to be wasted for every component produced,” he says. “When applying the integrated cutting tool, this drives the production cost down considerably. For instance, if interconnecting 10 pipes, the waste is reduced to one-tenth – a tremendous economic advantage.”
Right the first time
The E-Turn is an all-electric tube bender from BLM Group USA that can bend a variety of tube configurations, including round, square, rectangular, flat-sided, oval and elliptical. Tube can be automatically loaded, bent and unloaded all in one machine, says Jeffrey Ahrstrom, president of BLM Group USA.
The series consists of four models: The E-Turn 32 that handles tube up to 1.18 in. dia., the E-Turn 35 that handles tube up to 1.38 in. dia. the E-Turn 40 for tube up to 1.63 in. dia., and the E-Turn 52 for tube up to 2.0 in. dia. The standard maximum bending radius is 6.5 in. and can be increased if the need arises. The bend head incorporates a direct gearbox drive that eliminates backlash and delivers high accuracy and reliability.
The precise control and positioning of the all-electric axes provides for ideal working parameters that can be reproduced exactly – right the first time, every time. The precise control of its 15 axes movements ensures high positioning accuracy and repeatability, producing consistent quality bends.
“Because of the E-Turn flexibility, accuracy and speed, it’s ideal for the furniture, pipe and automotive industries as well as for job shops,” Ahrstrom says. “It’s environmentally friendly with extremely low noise levels, no hydraulic oils, no leaks and no filter replacement. Another key to its enhanced performance is the easy-to-use VGP3D software with advanced 3-D graphical programming. By simply inputting the bend coordinates, the software can quickly provide users with real-time simulation of the bending operation and automatically correct for possible collision points.”
VGP3D optimizes productivity while simultaneously enhancing quality and minimizing operator involvement. The software also permits off-line programming for high degrees of both automation and production planning.
The E-Turn bender from BLM allows users to automatically upload and offload materials and parts.
Eliminate difficult programming
The Ercolina Super Bender Plus rotary draw tube and pipe bender from CML USA produces consistent quality bends in pipe, tube, squares, solids and other profiles in seconds, and a new display helps to eliminate difficult programming.
Super Bender Plus has a newly improved and easy-to-read control that displays machine position and all current functions on one screen for greater convenience. The color-coded touchscreen eliminates difficult programming and indicates bend angle, springback and actual bend position in real time, says Scott Tunis, president and general manager at CML USA.
“One of the most common ways to bend tube and pipe is the rotary draw tube bending process,” he says. “Performed correctly, this process produces highly satisfactory results at a reasonable cost. The Super Bender Plus eliminates the intense labor and difficult programming associated with many entry-level benders. Bend information is stored, and the desired bend is produced in seconds.”
The Super Bender Plus works with 1/4-in. to 2-in. tube or 1 1/2-in. schedule 40 pipe with a maximum centerline radius of 8 7/8 in. The operator can initiate the bend cycle from the control panel or included foot pedal. And, it utilizes Ercolina’s quick-change tooling system with multiple radii available. The swing away counter bend die vise offers easy loading and unloading of the workpiece.
Three convenient cost-saving tooling kits are available in common tube or pipe sizes: a pipe kit, a small radius tube kit and a large radius tube kit. An efficient, three-phase drive motor operates from a 220 single-phase power source for greater accessibility and efficiency and has single bending speeds of 2 rpm. Powerful gear reduction operates quietly without the need for hydraulics. Classic Ercolina design reduces floor space requirements and stores easily to save shop floor space.