International Technologies Inc. is a U.S. distributor of lean manufacturing machinery and one machine in particular that they distribute is pretty special. This patented machine might not be universally known, but the parts and products it produces are used in everyday life.
We’re talking about the ACF Multiflex CornerFormer. Examples of products include the checkout stands at the grocery store, the beverage dispensing equipment used in homes and offices, and the freezers and coolers found at convenience stores, sporting venues and theaters, to name a few. Manufacturing applications include metal doors, exterior building claddings, shelves, trays, elevator cover panels, electrical cover plates, and food and medicine containers.
“This machine highlights our company’s mission to help customers lean out their manufacturing processes,” says Alan Gildemeister, owner and president of International Technologies. “The CornerFormer fabricates near-perfect corners in less time and uses fewer resources than conventional methods. This is the very definition of lean manufacturing and precisely the kind of solutions we bring to fabricators that are challenged to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace.”
Gildemeister should know. He has worked in the metal fabricating industry for more than 45 years and has witnessed first-hand the evolution of manufacturing from labor-intensive production lines with inefficient equipment to today’s technologically sophisticated, CNC machines designed for the challenges fabricators face every day.
“We started International Technologies in 2003 with a vision for bringing only the most cutting-edge solutions to our customers,” Gildemeister remembers. “Our product lines include economical fiber lasers, resistance spot welders, hydraulic and servo-electric press brakes, and other types of equipment, but the CornerFormer remains one of the most unique solutions we offer.”
The perfect answer
The CornerFormer is the perfect answer to a common question: How do I form a smooth corner that looks good? It offers advantages over the traditional solution, which is a hot-forming process called corner welding. This is a labor-intensive procedure that typically requires extensive grinding, finishing and polishing work after the corner is formed so the product is cosmetically acceptable. This is especially important for parts like steel tabletops and shelves where appearance is crucial for customer satisfaction.
The CornerFormer is a better solution. The machine rapidly cold-forms smooth, high-quality corners. Manufactured by ACF Engineering & Automation GmbH, Enns, Austria, the machine has been sold in America for more than 20 years.
“Our first CornerFormer is still in service,” Gildemeister says. “ACF’s design minimizes stress on the tooling and moving parts of the machine so they last a very long time. I’ve never heard of a CornerFormer being retired from production. Customers frequently ask us about used ones, but they are few and far between.”
The machine forms practically any material including mild and stainless steel, aluminum, alloys, diamond plate, and even coated and painted parts in most thicknesses and flange heights. It offers unique advantages for difficult-to-form metals. Zinc-coated mild steel requires no precoating after corner forming. Porcelain enamel coatings retain their heat resistance and even stainless steel parts exhibit no color change or pickling of the finished corners.
Typical corner forming applications are steel doors, drip pans, tool chests, storage cabinets, electrical boxes, enclosures and practically any flat, sheet metal part. The CornerFormer is popular with manufacturers of commercial restaurant equipment like ovens and cooking trays and is a good solution for fabricating hospital and veterinary products like stainless steel carts and tabletops that require seamless, easy-to-sanitize corners.
For customers that need even more speed, the Variform CornerFormer is specially designed for fast-paced production environments that require high-speed fabricating of doors and panels. The machine forms and cuts a round corner in less than 3 sec. and can reduce door production time to 40 sec., including handling time.
Checking the boxes
This one-of-a-kind machine joins with any robot system to fully automate the corner forming process and lean out production even further. The automation interface successfully integrates into any robotically controlled environment such as panel and sheet metal bending lines and is currently in production for a major electrical control enclosure manufacturer.
A CornerFormer eliminates the costly, labor-intensive post-processing procedures familiar to fabricators that perform a traditional corner welding process. Grinding, finishing and polishing are unnecessary thanks to the unique, mar-free corner fabricating system that saves operator time, eliminates abrasives, fillers and other finishing materials, and protects sensitive specialty materials. The cold-forming process prevents the discoloration common to hot-formed corners. Stainless steel graining repair and inside radius grinding that are often necessary for the food service industry are no longer needed with the machine.
Corner forming is a fast, two-step process that requires little or no training. Parts are prepared on a press brake with specially machined V-dies. After inserting the workpiece in the machine, the corners are formed and trimmed in one process.
Fabricating a better product in less time with fewer resources raises profits and offers more value to customers. A CornerFormer fabricates corners as near to perfect as any machine or process available and builds a manufacturer’s value stream by eliminating unnecessary labor like setups, time-consuming and expensive welding, and post-processing.
This makes these machines perfectly suited to last-minute, short part runs when a customer needs parts quickly as well as mass and automated production. It can be operated by most anyone in the shop, eliminating the need for a highly trained and skilled operator that can be difficult to find.
“The CornerFormer checks every box for companies determined to maximize their productivity and profit,” Gildemeister says. “At the end of the day, though, it is all about the customer. Are they happy? Are they getting more than what they pay for? If there is a better way to deliver parts with perfect corners, I have yet to see it. Our customer satisfaction rates are off the charts.”