Sheet metal machinery is sometimes viewed by fabricators as a Rolls-Royce item and some companies falsely believe this type of technology is out of their reach.
Various brands including Finn-Power, YangLi, Teda, Gasparini. Kuhlmeyer, Prinzing, Schroeder and WILA have openly been developing technologies to suit those looking to take their first step into automation.
Add to this some very powerful control software such as Autopol, JetCAM and Metalix, entry-level participants now find they get a lot of bang for their buck.
A recognised supplier of such automation across Australia and New Zealand, Advanced Sheetmetal Technologies (AST), emphasises that sheet metal fabrication shops should not become stuck thinking that suppliers are only servicing the needs of large companies.
"There is so much available now in the way of entry-level sheet metal machinery that even the smallest jobbing shop can obtain a good level of automation," said marketing manager for AST, Andrew Bentrup.
"This includes entry-level punch presses, shears, benders, folders, cutters and inspection equipment to cover the entire fabrication spectrum.
"Developers of all brands recognise the reality of the sheet metal industry and have identified that in countries like Australia it is niche size manufacturing that is upwardly mobile.
"Entry-level equipment is now capable of some very sophisticated work that offers extremely good capabilities and returns for those doing small runs or tricky projects.
“Users of this type of technology no longer have to be large companies with massive budgets and extremely high quantities of work."
AST represents many brands and machines for entry level applications, with two examples being the Finn-Power X5 turret punch/press and the Teda Speedy compact press brakes.
Finn-Power X5 is capable of 23 metric tons of hydraulic punching force on a maximum sheets size of dimensions 1250 mm x 2500 mm without the need for repositioning.
Compact in size, Finn-Power X5 has a punching capacity up to 8mm sheet thickness. Using a flexible turret design, it has a fast tool change and indexing capability.
With a digitally controlled punch stroke, the Finn-Power X5 operates on high-end CNC Fanuc controls while the operator has been provided with high-level ergonomic features.
As a pioneer in hydraulic high-speed punching systems, Finn-Power has given its X5 a technically advanced system for reliable and fast punching and nibbling at lower noise levels. the Finn-Power X5 uses the latest generation adaptive hydraulic system to allow continuous punching and a very long stroke length and high ambient temperature conditions.
The hydraulic system provides the basis for the following features:
- The full 230 kb punching force throughout the stroke to achieve greater range of material thickness and hole size
- CNC programmable with continuous speed control of punching to optimise efficiency and noise level
- Individual electronic control of stroke depth to ensure there is no need for manual shimming after sharpening the tools
- Up to 600 hits per minute punching speeds when nibbling
- High accuracy, digital punch control for special tools and applications providing ease and accuracy in forming operations
- Adaptive hydraulics for continuous punching operation
The equipment has an Auto-Index system that rotates the punch and the die precisely in their tool holders.
Using a single AC server motor rigidly built into the upper and lower frame of the press, this system has no gear boxes built inside the turret and overall it allows the user to change or at index or Multi-tool stations whenever the need arises.
For sheet metal fabricators that require bending of small pieces, the Teda Speedy Compact family of pressbrakes is available.
The Teda Speedy Compact gives fabricators a means to make fast, multiple bends on small pieces without tying up large press brakes for this function.
Physically small yet able to do sophisticated bends, Teda Speedy Compacts have an easy-to-use control system for fast and simplified production. The Teda Speedy Compacts are so simple to use that anybody in a factory could operate a unit without any special technical skills.
On top of high safety levels and economic efficiency, also gained is an energy advantage because small jobs no longer need to tie up a large press brake that requires higher operating power.