Partnerships are essential in life. Sure, there are some folks that can go it alone, but typically, there is power in numbers. There is also productivity in numbers – especially in the world of manufacturing.
The alliance between Toyota and General Motors in the 1980s might be one of the most notable industry collaborations, but it certainly isn’t the only instance of two companies syncing up to leverage one another’s strengths. Just think of all the ancillary hardware and software manufacturers that create smart technologies to augment an operation. These companies must collaborate with the primary equipment providers to ensure their products will work in harmony on customers’ shop floors.
Powerful partnerships such as these were on full display at the Dimeco headquarters in Pirey, France, in June 2023. For four days, Dimeco, known for its coil handling and press feed lines, hosted an open house featuring facility tours, equipment demonstrations and presentations from a variety of partners, including Aida. A quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a French writer, poet and journalist, found in the show program, exemplified the potential of these partnerships: “Stone has no hope of being anything other than stone. But to collaborate, it assembles and becomes a temple.”
Founded in 1957, Dimeco has taken this philosophy to heart and cultivated strategic relationships with a variety of businesses, including the world’s leading press manufacturers. The tour of Dimeco’s 80,000-sq.-ft. facility put these collaborations on display for attendees.
Integration on display
With more than 80,000 installations in 60 countries, Aida is easily one of the largest press manufacturers in the world. The company produces a variety of mechanical and servo presses, starting at 35 tons and going up to its largest one, a 3,200-ton press manufactured in Italy. Within this tonnage, Aida serves progressive machines, transfer machines and blanking lines. Additionally, the company features a range of precision forming machines that offer an alternative approach to blanking and forming operations.
During the facility tour, open house attendees got a first-hand look at an innovative integration solution: a 150-ton AIDA servo press equipped with a Dimeco coil-feed line. The DSF servo press features a 200-mm stroke, driven by a 40-kW motor.
Typically, one would assume that the press and feed line would be separately controlled, but thanks to the two companies’ tight relationship, functionality of both are controlled through just one interface. Modern challenges – primarily, persistent labor shortages – must be met with modern solutions – outdated machine controls can no longer be tolerated. Therefore, the process to integrate into Dimeco’s main machine interface was explained by Michele Archenti, sales and marketing manager for Aida’s European markets, in an informative presentation, which kicked off the open house event.
The Aida press is controlled through a Siemens S7 series PLC TIA Portal, connected to a Beckhoff industrial PC tasked with real-time control of the motor’s motion in accordance with the programmed parameters. And the HMI is based on an additional Beckhoff Industrial PC with a multi-touch panel. Typically, this panel is used solely for interaction between the operators and the press, but in this case, the integration with the feed line has been taken to a higher level by incorporating its functionalities into the same platform.
Throughout Aida’s partnership with Dimeco, the two companies have worked on various projects together – and on larger presses, such as a 1,000-ton transfer press integrated with a Dimeco coil-feed line. In this particular case, the level of integration was even higher than the example on display. In addition to integrating the feeder’s functionality into the HMI, a straightener, decoiler and lubrication machine were also added.
“Depending on customer demand, we can integrate everything or only supply the press,” Archenti said. “We tailor our response according to the customer’s needs.”
Archenti’s presentation focused on the integration successes realized with Dimeco, but it also offered attendees an overview of Aida, its product lines and the benefits delivered from Aida’s servo press offerings. AiCare, the company’s latest Internet of Things (IoT) solution, was also described.
Established in Tokyo in 1917, Aida primarily focused on the domestic market, but in the early 1970s, it ventured beyond its borders, establishing a presence in the United States and later Europe. Today, it has locations on all seven continents.
“A significant point in Aida’s history happened in the 1990s with the development of servo presses,” Archenti explained. “We manufacture mechanical and servo presses with the servo being an evolution of the mechanical press, an evolution that we pioneered at Aida.
“The objective was to control a machine that, at the time, wasn’t CNC-controlled,” he continued. “In 1993, Aida engineering initiated the development of a press controlled by a servo motor, targeting small gap frame presses, which were being manufactured in the hundreds, if not thousands, each year. By 1997, the first machine was introduced to the market – the inaugural Aida servo press, equipped with a Fanuc motor.”
At that time, Aida recognized the absence of a servo motor in the market that fully met the demands of press operations, particularly in light of the servo press series’ expansion toward higher capacities. Consequently, the company embarked on a path of R&D. “This necessitated the creation of a motor capable of running at exceptionally low revolutions while delivering an exceptionally high-torque output,” noted Archenti.
In 1999, AIDA introduced its own branded line of motors, giving rise to DSF, the company’s proprietary series of servo presses. By 2002, full-scale servo motor production had commenced, now encompassing a range of motors from 30 kW to 1000 kW, covering the entire spectrum of AIDA machinery.
“The first advantage of a servo press is its degree of flexibility, which is not possible with a mechanical press,” Archenti explained. “This flexibility, of course, is in the motion it gives to the machine.
In a conventional mechanical press, slide motion is powered through a system reliant on a motor-driven assembly comprised of a clutch-brake unit and flywheel mechanism. The motor operates at a nearly constant rotational velocity with adjustments in speed limited to regulating production throughput rates. Achieving a specific slide motion profile necessitates the implementation of complex mechanisms, such as the “link drive,” which permits the customization of the slide motion to suit specific operations like deep drawing. However, these mechanisms, while ensuring the desired profile, are inherently fixed in nature, rendering any alterations to the resultant slide speed profile unattainable.
In the case of servo presses, a fundamental transformation takes place by replacing the “motor, clutch-brake combination and flywheel” assemblage with a servo motor, commonly a synchronous AC motor, operated by a frequency converter. This solution, in conjunction with a closed-loop control system, allows the motor to dynamically adjust its rotational speed within a single cycle (comprising one eccentric group revolution).
This dynamic adaptation aligns the slide motion profile precisely with the requirements of the stamping operation, thereby enabling different motion profiles, each one optimized for diverse tasks, including blanking, coining and deep drawing. Furthermore, through the implementation of the “pendulum mode,” control – tailored to the slide stroke to the specific demands of the ongoing stamping process – is allowed, potentially enhancing production throughput.
Furthermore, Aida’s servo drive Power Pack features capacitor banks playing a pivotal role in effectively managing energy transfers between the motor and press. When the slide requires deceleration, its kinetic energy is efficiently converted into electricity and is subsequently stored within the capacitor bank. Conversely, when the machine demands maximum power output, necessitating the motor to deliver peak torque, the capacitor banks discharges, supplying the requisite power to the frequency converters and motor. This interplay ensures that the machine’s power consumption remains nearly constant throughout the entire operational cycle, regardless of the specific operational conditions.
Aida came to the market with its AiCare IoT solution in 2019, which monitors the machine functionality, collects data and makes that data available for analysis downstream. The solution includes three main functionalities: one for forming information, one oriented around operational data and one focused on maintenance, making data organization for KPI analysis easy and streamlined. Readings and analysis can be done on a PC or mobile phone. This is made possible by the same Beckhoff unit used for the servo press and machine motion, which transfers information from the press to Microsoft’s Azure cloud service.
For the forming data, “we collect information from sensors that are already on the machine or from tailored solutions where additional sensors are implemented for further analysis and functionality,” Archenti said. “For example, users can choose to monitor the load curve thanks to data acquisitions made every 10 milliseconds. This data can be analyzed and cross-analyzed with a specific die to a specific hour or operator.”
He continued, explaining that the operational data capability of AiCare allows users to monitor the availability of a machine, when it’s on or off and why. “For example, a number of dies can be selected to display which are running and which may have had alarms,” he explained. “Users can set alarms assigned to instances when specific dies are experiencing specific working conditions.”
From a carbon footprint standpoint, he said that users could also set alarms for certain levels of energy consumption for specific jobs. These smart capabilities were also extended to the maintenance requirements of a machine.
“We have bronze bearing temperature sensors on the machines that automatically deliver information about a machine’s temperature changes,” Archenti said. “There are also oil quality sensors to alert users when the oil should be changed or replaced. The sensors can also alert users to deteriorating situations based on the makeup of the oil.”
The overall system can also schedule maintenance activities, so they won’t be overlooked or put off to a later date. Considering that most component makers know the expected lifespan of their products in hours or cycles, this data can be uploaded to the system to create alerts for when a replacement or new component is due.
Smart, integrated systems, like the collaborative line on display at Dimeco Days, are in higher demand by the day. Manufacturers need the high precision, energy savings, and data collection and analysis capabilities offered by Aida’s technologies, and Aida, in turn, needs sophisticated partners like Dimeco that can help make these systems work.
Watch the video to learn how Aida’s servo presses give users the ability to program stroke profiles.