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Get More Hits From Your Punch Tooling

June/July 2012

As Mike McNamara found out, there’s is a way to get greater productivity from punch-press tooling. And in many cases, it’s not just doubling tool life, but often extending it by ten times or more.

McNamara, president of Tripar, Bohemia, N.Y., understands what it takes to be more productive when it comes to punching. At one time he was punching just about round the clock with an automated Amada EMK361CNC punching cell. Although the work that paid for this punch-press system was taken offshore, the cell still allows him the flexibility of taking on many types of jobs.

McNamara began his business with three partners, though later they went their separate ways. The original company did both sheet-metal fabrication and machining.

In the early days, their sheet-metal shop was doing a lot of military work for the B1 bomber.

“There was just an abundance of work at the time,” says McNamara. “Then when the B1 bomber contract ended, we split the company up. I took the machining portion of the business, but later added fabrication capabilities again. We moved and bought a larger building along with more equipment.”

“Then a friend of mine invented a product that he was selling to the Lincoln Electric Company. He was making prototypes of sheet-metal for that and eventually this fabrication work came to me, because he couldn’t keep up with the prototypes any longer. From there we bought more equipment and added customers. We did sheet-metal work for a local air-conditioning company and blossomed.”

McNamara bought the Amada EMK361CNC punching cell and added an automated material handling system to it because of all the air-conditioning company’s work they were doing. This cell allowed them to run two shifts and often through the night. However, this work eventually ended up in China.

At this time McNamara was using a lot of punch tooling in different styles, and Wilson Tool had the only tooling that was adjustable. “Wilson had a tool design that by just spinning its collar around the driver, you could adjust it within 0.005 of an inch. So they were the natural selection for our punch press,” he says.

A new coating

To increase performance and longevity, Wilson Tool came up with a unique coating for their punch tools. These were introduced to McNamara, and he liked the coating so much that most of his punch tools use it, especially the many special tools that he purchases from Wilson Tool.

“Wilson Tool came up with their Optima tool coating that virtually eliminated tool wear on our punches,” he says. “For our air-conditioning customer, we were punching a lot of galvanized steel. There must be some lubricity in the zinc, but between the combination of the Optima coating and the material we were punching, there was virtually no need to sharpen the tools.

“The dies would need sharpening occasionally, but the Optima coating on the punches just made them virtually indestructible. Under normal punching conditions, the punches last forever. I have some that have millions of hits on them, and they’ve never been re-sharpened. In fact, I have some tools that were purchased in 1997 that have never been sharpened.”

Most of the materials that McNamara cuts are mild and galvanized steel and aluminum in thicknesses from 14 gauge to 20 gauge.

He adds, “Even though I’ve looked at other manufacturers’ tooling, I’ve just been so happy with Wilson Tools that I’ve never made a change. Once you start mixing tooling it just gets to be a bit of a mess. We’ve had great success with Wilson Tools, especially their designs for special cluster tooling. So I look at it this way, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

The Optima Coating

Wilson Tool’s Optima is a custom engineered TiCN coating developed by the company’s engineers. It has a hardness of 95 Rockwell C, exceeding the hardness levels of conventional tool steels. Along with increasing punch-press tool performance, it resists galling in aluminum, stainless steel and galvanized steel. Even when a tool is re-sharpened the coating is not affected. It will outlast untreated tools by a factor of five to seven times the company notes.

Tripar, email: tripar@optimum.net
Wilson Tool