Giving Old Press Brakes New Life

Jan./Feb, 2011


As many job shop workers and managers know, sometimes old press brakes just won’t die. They were built so well that they just keep going, bending accurately, even while press brake manufacturers continue to release new models and improve technology.

As a result, it’s often not cost effective for job shops to purchase a new brake when they already have one that works fine, but workers might find themselves desiring the innovative controls found on newer models. On top of that, it’s also more difficult to train new operators on the old-style controls.

At this point, a job shop might find itself between a rock and a hard place. Do they stay the course with the old-school brake and save money, or do they cash out for a newer, more innovative model?

Robert Scott, VP of sales for Metamation, would say neither – keep the older press brake and retrofit it instead.

“Business [in the industry] has been on the rise and is increasingly competitive,” he says. “Fabricators are working hard trying to be as efficient as possible to take advantage of the changing marketplace … [and they see that bending] offers an opportunity for increased profit.”

Metamation’s retrofitting solution helps fabricators do just that.

“[Our solution] can supply fabricators with state-of-the art press brake technology while taking advantage of [their] existing dependable equipment.”

According to press releases, the retrofit is made possible in partnership with Cybelec, a Swiss manufacturer of numerical controls. Cybelec provides the ModEva RA, a state-of-the-art touchscreen flat-console control, which is then outfitted with the Metamation RA Software Interface. The backgauge of the original press brake is upgraded as well, offering full 5-axis automation.

“The [retrofitting] package can be installed on-site and will give press brake operators, programmers and engineers an integrated tool that will move their bending techniques to a high standard of operation,” comments Scott. “[It’s] currently available for Amada up-acting press brakes including [its] RG, FBD, and FAB Series machines.

“Existing 2-axes backgauges are modified to provide full 5-axes function – Z1/Z2, R1/R2, X, plus ram – and controls and electrical systems are upgraded with the latest technology.”

The retrofit and upgrade allows job shops to make use of 2D and 3D CAD files that they previously couldn’t due to dated controls on their press brakes. In addition, new workers can more easily learn how to use the press brake.

“When you compare the old-style controls with the new ones we put on, the new ones work kind of like an iPad,” relates Scott. “Because of that, the newer controls are more intuitive for the new operators.”

The ModEva RA Control can also be linked with engineering and programming departments through a computer network.

“[This provides] a true integrated system, allowing these departments to work together in a way not previously possible … [assuring] that design, engineering, flat-blank development and fabrication along with press-brake operations, are coordinated for maximum output,” comments Scott.

In addition to the ability to be linked with other departments, the ModEva RA Control can also be integrated with Metamation’s MetaBEND software for offline programming.

According to the company’s website, MetaBEND offers automatic assigning of punches and dies, backgauge positioning and optimal bend sequence computing, without anything required on the part of the operator. The software also features interactive graphical tools that allow for easy customization of the bend setup – operators can simply drag and drop the backgauges to different locations. Resequencing the bending operations is equally simple through the touchscreen interface.

MetaBEND also includes a Bend Overview window that allows operators to quickly check the overall status of the bending operation, as well as a Bend Simulator that models the entire process before beginning to check for collisions. The software is capable of offline programming, as well.

Metamation’s retrofitting process could be just the ticket to make your old-style press brake relevant in today’s competitive market.


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