Incremental automation

Manufacturers should invest in machinery that is automation ready – whether they need it now or in the future

Because Murata Machinery equipment is fully equipped for future automation, towers and sorting systems can be added whenever the time is right.

Successful business owners don’t just plan for today or tomorrow; they must constantly prepare for what’s coming around the bend. With aspirations of increased sales, it’s imperative that they think about what their shop should look like five, 10, even 20 years down the road.

In terms of machinery, they need something that is equipped to grow according to the changing needs of their businesses. And although they may not need a tower or sorting system today, they need their capital investments to be prepped and readied for future growth. But that’s where things get tricky. Many machines require an additional upfront cost to accommodate automation at a later date. Jeff Tyl, North American sales manager, fabrication at Murata Machinery USA Inc., says that isn’t the case for his company’s equipment, including its M2558TS turret punch press.

“In my experience selling fabricating equipment, I’ve come across so many machines that require the customer to spend quite a bit of money initially just to be able to add automation down the road – that they may or may not end up needing,” he says. “That’s not the case with the M2558TS. If and when the times comes, it will be ready. When a machine can be equipped for future needs, it’s no longer just a piece of machinery – it’s a solution to a lot of common problems that can pop up on a shop room floor.”

To illustrate, Tyl uses the example of a bad part.

Watch the video to see Murata Machinery’s full lineup of turret punch presses, including its M2558TS turret punch press.

“Think about the true cost of a rejected part,” he says. “You have to scrap the material, start over, find out what went wrong and maybe even repair damaged customer relations. There’s just a huge string of things that could happen from just one bad part. The more you automate your processes, the less those things happen.”

Whether a business owner wants to reduce scrap rates or has limited space to increase his throughput, a machine that is automation ready can be the solution. The same holds true for those that need to process more material but can’t find quality labor. Automation – or even the potential for it – can be the answer to so many business owners’ questions.

What can I do to be more competitive? How can I win jobs back from China? What can I do to land new business opportunities? Automation can even be the answer to simple management questions, like: Can I promote my highly experienced machine operator to a management position and be confident that a less experienced operator can handle his machine?

“We bring all of our machines from Japan automation ready,” Tyl explains. “Let’s say you order one today, but in five years, you say, ‘my business is really picking up, and I’m considering investing in another machine.’ Instead, you could just add automation to the machine you bought five years ago because it’s equipped for that. You could buy a tower, a pallet loader or a sorting system. And there’s the throughput increase that you were looking for that you thought you could only get by adding another machine.”   

Finding the sweet spot

The M2558TS is pre-equipped for towers, parts sorters and load/unload systems like the one shown here.

Like all of the company’s machinery, the M2558TS turret punch press is equipped for future automation. The 25-ton machine with its 5-ft.-by-8-ft. table can handle 60-in.-by-120-in. material and even larger with repositioning. Compared to a 30-ton machine, which only has a little more punching power than the M2558TS, it is also more affordable.

“It fits the mold for someone that typically needs a 20-ton machine, but occasionally needs to carry out 30-ton applications,” Tyl says. “For these manufacturers, the M2558TS makes the most sense because the price point of a 30-ton machine jumps up pretty drastically. It’s probably our most versatile machine as far as opportunities go.”

The M2558TS is available in three configurations: a 46 station that’s spring style and a 44 station and a 54 station that are 114 style, which is Murata Machinery’s standard style of positive strip tooling. The turret punch press also comes with four 3-in. auto index stations, which is a major selling point. If needed, it can accommodate G, H and J stations, which can handle larger tools that typically require a tonnage that users couldn’t achieve with a 20-ton machine.

“Customers can also go really small and punch individual size holes, like a 3-in. hole in 1/8-in. material,” Tyl continues. “Or, customers can do a cluster punch where they’re producing multiple holes in one hit. In that regard, the 25-ton machine can punch up to 10 holes in one hit whereas a 20-ton machine can probably only do six holes at a time.”

Based on this flexibility, the M2558TS serves a wide range of industries. Tyl says that the customers getting the most bang for their buck are those mostly using large sheets that are relatively thin, but are only processing thicker materials every once in a while.

In terms of potential automation, the M2558TS is pre-equipped for towers, load/unload systems and parts sorters, like Murata Machinery’s FG 3015. The FG 3015 offers a variety of capabilities, including sheet loading, parts sorting and skeleton unloading. Additionally, it has a small footprint, which makes sense for anyone that has limited space in a compact floor plan. Overall, the FG 3015 takes human error out of the equation.

“When an operator loads a program, the FG system knows that part X moves to forming and part Y moves straight to welding,” Tyl explains. “It places each part on its respective pallet, which removes the potential for the operator to put it in the wrong place. It takes the guessing game – and the extra time involved – out of the equation and increases accuracy across the board.”

Watch the video to see a Murata Machinery automated storage and retrieval system integrated with a 33-ton turret punch press.

This functionality is especially helpful for customers that “super nest” their parts where they are placing 30 or 40 parts on one sheet. “But we’re not talking 30 or 40 of the same part,” Tyl says.

“Let’s say it’s a job shop that works with many OEMs that all need parts from 1/4-in. carbon steel,” he explains. “That’s when super nesting comes into play – finding the best configuration for various parts on one 60-in.-by-120-in. sheet. If they don’t have parts sorting, though, they have to identify the part numbers and then segregate them by workflow or customer. But, if they have a sorting system, the software recognizes the parts and sorts them into one of 10 or 15 different piles. They could create a pile for customer A parts to be sent to forming, a pile for customer B parts to be sent to powder coating, a pile for customer C parts to be sent to welding, and on and on.”

Underlying automation

Not all customers will need automation as sophisticated as the FG system, but because all of the machines are pre-equipped for it, the decision can be made when the times comes. Either way, Tyl continually reminds customers that Muratec punching machines inherently offer automated operations.

“Automation by pure definition can be as simple as the turret punch press itself,” he says. “Someone that’s been punching metal with a C punch by hand and switches over to a punch press has, essentially, automated their operations. They no longer have to worry about the hole being in the wrong spot – the machine positions it for them, and that’s what the M2558TS does. Whether they’re taking it to the Industry 4.0 level or not, it’s up to the customer. It all depends on how far they want to take it.”

Oftentimes, when folks think about automation, the first things that come to mind are towers and load/unload systems, but there’s so much more to the story. For many fabricators, features like automatic programming and setup and machine monitoring can be just as beneficial as some of the “bigger ticket” systems, so to speak.

The M2558TS has plenty of baked-in automation, such as its tool categorization module. The module, called the Process Net monitor, performs several automated tasks, such as tracking the number of punches made by any particular tool. If a tool is rated for 10,000 hits, as an example, the M2558TS alerts the operator at 7,500 hits that a tool change is on the horizon. It also recommends which position an operator should put a tool in the turret to produce the least amount of spin time to realize faster overall punching.

“The system tells you what tool to put in what position, how many times it’s been punched and whether it’s in tolerance,” Tyl says. “Let’s say you have to use 50 tools and you only have 44 stations. The machine tells you what tools to put in what stations so that you have less downtime when you’re switching out the other six tools that you need.”

Nesting is yet another part of the automation that is pre-loaded into the machine’s software. The goal is to help customers get the best yield from their sheets, better estimate their material usage and, in turn, reduce overall scrap rates.

Whether a customer will be using their machine to super nest parts or not, the capability is there. And the same goes for whether they’ll be employing a tower or sophisticated sorting system. At the end of the day, it’s all about having the option to do so when the need arises.

Murata Machinery USA Inc.

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