New technology can add profit to the bottom line
Turret punch press manufacturers have been hard at work in recent years to keep up with customer demands, and the fruits of their labor have yielded machines with benefits centered on more reliability, better automation, less maintenance and lower labor requirements, among others.
Yet every manufacturer has a different offering with different benefits and features. Making a decision from so many choices can be daunting. Therefore, we’ll review some of the current punch press offerings and detail their advantages in the following pages.
Amada America Inc. released its new turret punch press series AE-NT in September 2010. Developed especially for customers in emerging markets and those in mature markets with limited budgets or space for equipment, the AE-NT costs less than Amada’s EM series and features a simplified servo-powered drive.
A hydraulic-drive machine will often have more than 500 components, but the AE-NT has only 137, mentions David Stone, turret punch press product manager for the company.
“A servo drive is inherently much simpler than, and consequently tends to be much more reliable than a hydraulic drive, so there’s going to be less downtime,” he says. “This means that the machines are making parts instead of being down for routine maintenance or waiting for a service man.
“Customers also really appreciate that it consumes much less power than a typical hydraulic drive. At the end of the day, it typically consumes about half the power that a hydraulic turret punch press would use. This is a significant savings that can easily run several thousand dollars per year or more, depending on usage, and it pays back the user year after year.”
In addition to more reliability and less power consumption, Amada’s AE-NT turret punch press also has lower maintenance requirements. Maintenance needs normally associated with a hydraulic drive, like replacing the oil and filters once a year, are eliminated with the machine’s servo drive. Like the reduced energy costs, maintenance savings can be thousands of dollars per year.
“These are ongoing savings, and, at the same time, the servo-driven equipment is actually faster in many cases than the hydraulic equipment,” Stone explains. “It also allows very accurate control of the ram, because it is controlled by a servo motor, rather than a hydraulic cylinder.”
With these changes, Amada was seeking to serve the customer, and to accommodate the growing shift toward more automation in manufacturing. Customers wanted to connect their turret punch press to a material storage system for automatic loading and unloading to save labor costs or to run their equipment during off hours.
Through all of these changes, Amada is reducing production costs and helping the customer to be more competitive.
The company’s flagship EMK series features a 58-station turret with two 4 1/2-in. auto-index stations. With a larger range of tooling, customers can set-up and run multiple jobs without having to stop to change tooling.
Other advantages to Amada’s turret punch presses are found in their material handling automation.
“Automation is the wave of the future,” Stone comments. “Since so much cost has already been squeezed out of almost every other aspect of the [punching] process, automation is about the only place left where you can get any significant additional cost reductions. Market conditions dictate that adding automation wherever possible is a key to staying competitive.”
Amada’s automation ranges from simple sheet loading and unloading systems to fully automated material handling systems with up to 200 storage shelves and automatic part removal directly from the sheet as each part is completed. The company also has a programmable part-removal system with a servo control that uses suction cups mounted on moveable arms to remove and then stack finished parts from the punch press, eliminating the need for an operator to shake out parts from the skeleton. The part-removal system also has the capability to eliminate scratches from pre-painted or coated parts, which can greatly reduce post-punching processing.
LVD Strippit aims to help its customers become more competitive, while also reducing their costs and creating better quality parts.
“Our product development efforts are focused on providing the fastest and most productive machinery at the lowest possible investment,” says John Quigley, vice president of marketing for the company.
One major advantage that helps to make the company’s machinery more productive is the level of automation it offers. Strippit’s automation ranges from basic loading and unloading systems to robotic automation.
The company’s material handling systems help to reduce labor costs and the time involved in loading and unloading material onto the turret punch press. The Strippit PA-Series of load/unload systems, for example, can reduce material handling time by up to 80 percent, while also offering a very small footprint.
Strippit has a new, compact material handling tower that expands on the capabilities of the PA-Series by providing either six or 10 shelves of material that can be automatically retrieved and processed by the punch press. Additionally, a robot can be integrated into the system that will automatically load and unload sheets of materials on the punch press, as well as stack finished parts on a pallet afterward.
“This eliminates the need for an operator to manually break individual parts out of the nest and then have to deal with the remaining skeleton,” says Quigley. “It’s the ultimate in turret punch press automation.”
Beyond automation, Strippit’s turret punch presses have several features that help them stand apart from the competition. One is a machine frame that incorporates more material and more welded internal components, making it a very stable platform.
Strippit offers turret punch press configurations that will accept either thick- or thin-style tooling.
Another noteworthy feature is the hit rate for the company’s turret punch presses. Its recently introduced Strippit VX punch press provides up to 530 hits per minute, equaling a 30 percent reduction in part processing time over turret punch presses from only a few years ago, resulting in a large productivity gain.
One final advantage to LVD Strippit’s punch presses are their reductions in energy consumption, which are achieved in two ways mentions Quigley. The first is through hydraulic press drives that utilize a high/low pressure system. The system uses less energy because it’s active only when the punches are actually penetrating material. As soon as the punch breaks through the material and the RAM returns to the up position, the system instantly reverts back to a low hydraulic pressure, reducing energy consumption.
A second method of energy reduction is found on the company’s new VX Series of machines. The VX Series incorporates a frequency drive on its hydraulic pump motor that automatically drops the pump rotation down to a minimum level when no oil flow is required, eliminating unnecessary power usage.
“We’ve measured it to contribute about 15 percent lower energy usage than our previous punch press models,” adds Quigley.
Murata Machinery USA
Murata Machinery has responded to marketplace demands for higher productivity by adding capabilities to its turret punch presses for secondary operations, as well as moving away from hydraulic systems, ultimately making its customers more competitive.
“Our punches are the most economical machines in the industry,” says Lloyd Keller, the company’s sales manager. “If you’re a job shop starting up tomorrow, and wanted to be competitive, you would take a hard look at us because you would have a low investment [in tooling] compared to the other tooling designs that are available.”
Keller emphasizes that Murata’s punch machines are aimed at having the operators handle the parts as little as possible. The company has developed tools that allow its punches to do things that would normally be performed as secondary operations by other ones.
Keller gives the example of deburring. Murata has developed tools to perform that operation on the punch itself. If a punched hole has a burr on it, it can be taken care of right there.
“The way to be productive is to eliminate as much part handling as possible,” says Keller. “What we try to do with our machines is to develop systems that will allow us to produce parts that are as close to a finished product as possible.”
By eliminating a lot of part handling, labor cost goes down and the cost of the final product.
Murata has moved away from hydraulic systems to run their punches. Keller points out that hydraulics require a lot of components, like a motor, pump and hoses that end up raising energy consumption. For this reason, according to Keller, the company is taking its electric punch presses “to the next level.”
The company also features a wide array of optional equipment to add automation to its punches, including standard and custom packages that feature material handling systems.
“The next technology leap is material handling – blanks can be loaded on and off the machine with unmanned automation. Murata provides single-pallet automation to complete warehouses,” adds Keller.
Prima Finn-Power’s newest offering is its Shear Genius SGe. This is a combination punching/shearing machine that offers high sheet utilization and a low cost-per-part ratio.
At its core, according to a press release, the Shear Genius SGe is a 30-ton servo electric punching machine featuring a 1,000 hpm stroke speed, 250 rpm index speed and 150 m/min sheet positioning speed.
Optimized tool changes are featured along with a five to 10 percent higher output when compared with the previous hydraulic SG model.
The control system for the Shear Genius SGe has a Finn-Power PC-based NC control with Rexroth servo drives and the latest version of the Tulus operating system (OS). The Tulus OS features a new online simulation view for follow-up and restart. An integrated tool library simplifies tooling setup and adjustment.
Water cooling and central lubrication systems are also featured on the machine, along with integrated automatic loading, part removal and sorting.
The company mentions that all options from Prima Finn-Power’s E6 punching technology are available for the Shear Genius SGe, and full automation solutions.
TRUMPF’s TruPunch 3000 punch press has a new technological innovation in the form of skeleton-free processing.
According to TRUMPF, with skeleton-free processing, sheet skeletons are a thing of the past, which also means that job shops using the TruPunch 3000 will save time, materials and floor space.
The machine’s skeleton-free processing “increases material efficiency by an average of 10 percent.” As a result, parts will be less expensive for job shops to process since they’ll be able to make better use of their sheet material.
In addition, skeleton-free processing saves time and floor space because operators don’t have to worry about unloading them and equipment dedicated to disposing of the skeleton is no longer necessary.
W.A. Whitney manufactures punching/plasma combination machines serving industries that cut plate from 4 mm through 25 mm thick. The main advantage with these combination machines is that they offer higher productivity when compared to a standalone laser or plasma machine.
A combination machine simplifies operation, as a shop can handle a wider range of applications with it notes Al Julian, marketing manager for the company. A punched hole can often offer more accuracy than a laser cut hole, and a punch can cover applications that a laser can’t, such as tapping or applications where clinch fasteners are used. They can also produce a press fit hole or one where a very tight tolerance is required he adds.
Whitney also offers automation for its equipment, which adds further productivity gains. Basic automatic unloading is standard on most Whitney machines, and the company offers a drop table that provides operators with quick access to finished parts. With the drop table, finished parts are automatically removed from the machine, and then the operator can perform secondary operations on them.
In addition to the drop table, the company’s machines feature conveyors that give the operator quick access to parts before the entire sheet is completely processed.
Other automation offered by Whitney includes semi-automatic loading, fully automatic loading, automatic unloading of large parts and automatic unloading and stacking and sorting of large parts.
Whitney offers tooling automation and a larger tool carousel. This serves to increase the number of tools available for the punch and lessens the frequency of tooling changes.
“We’re able to offer our customers more productivity and a lower cost per part, along with the ability to do forming operations such as counter sinking and producing tread plates,” remarks Julian. “[Our machines are able to produce] many other types of features, such as dimples, that a standalone laser or plasma cutter can’t produce.”
“We serve our customers by providing them with equipment they are really looking for,” says Julian.
To help its customers, Whitney developed a 2-m- by 6-m combination machine, where previously it only had 0.5-m- by 3-m and 2.5-m- by 6-m ones. The smaller 2-m by 6-m machine filled a market need because it was faster, easier to operate and less expensive than the 2.5-m by 6-m machine.
The manufacturers of punch presses have added a range of new features and innovations to their products giving them more reliability, better automation, less maintenance, and lower labor requirements, among others, helping job shops stay competitive.
Just as shops continue to move forward, so will punch press technology.
“We continually look at all the assemblies of our machines and try to offer developments for better material handling, for faster cutting speeds, and to build a more reliable machine,” concludes Julian.
Murata Machinery USA