Home > Fabricators in Australia and NZ are adopting trends and technologies to achieve low volume, high mix ratios for production.

Fabricators in Australia and NZ are adopting trends and technologies to achieve low volume, high mix ratios for production.

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Fabricators in Australia and New Zealand are reaching a turning point in the development of the industry. For some time now, counterparts in North America and Europe were followed, studying how the successful companies in these regions have adopted automation, and in some cases robotics, and how it has made a positive difference for them not only to survive, but to thrive in a developing global market.

Automation and associated software specialist in Australia and New Zealand, Advanced Sheetmetal Technologies (AST), has seen its local attitude change quite quickly from one of slight skepticism to a growing enthusiasm to embrace of this type of technology.

According to AST, a key factor in this change has been its ability to look overseas and analyse and how fabricators there are benefiting in a production sense as well as in terms of profit, and then pick and choose the suitable technology.

AST’s fabricators are now part of this global supply chain and it is healthy for the industry to see that modern changes are taking place closer to home. A good percentage of AST’s jobs are low volume and high mix, this is something it had to accept, so now it is processing far more profitably.

AST is also learning. A case in point in this learning process has been the actions of Canadian stainless steel processor, Venmar Ventilation. What Venmar Ventilation has done in recent years to revamp its production will no doubt be carbon copied by many fabricators here.

Venmar manufactures everything from kitchen range hoods and attic ventilators to filtration and ventilation systems and is recognised within its own domestic industry for reliability, quality and style in products promoting healthy indoor environment.

In its transition from old world to new world, Venmar identified the need to preserve the quality of the product surface during manufacture, reduce potential for damage, and reduce multiple handling and to find one machine that can do various processes.

Venmar was looking for a machine that could take a full-sized sheet, punch it, shear it, and make finished parts. Until then Venmar was using a shear to make blanks for two stand-alone turret punch presses. But Venmar now wanted to increase productivity and decrease the amount of scrap due to defects during the fabrication process.

Venmar was cutting blanks on the shear and then putting the blanks on the standalone turret punch presses. Because of the amount of handling, dents and scratches were always a possibility. The goal was to reduce this damage as much as possible.

After a thorough search of the available fabrication technology on the market, Venmar chose the FINN-POWER Shear Brilliance Flexible Manufacturing Cell. The combination of a 6,400 mm X traverse, four clamps and the high positioning speed provided by linear drives means that more functions, punching, forming, tapping, bar coding, and shearing can be performed as a single, multi-purpose sheet metal fabrication center with a single clamping.

This saves time and increases accuracy, since repositioning is not needed during the process and the same clamps that are used for punching are also used for shearing. Utilising one machine for the various processes also protects the part form defects during production.

Venmar runs 0.5mm – 0.8mm stainless steel and need the parts to be perfect. Cosmetics are crucial for its professional style stainless range hoods. Any small defects, such as a dent or scratch, could be reason for rejection of the production. It was very important to find a machine that could have all these functions in one process to produce good parts with minimum scrap.

Speed, accuracy, and precision are achieved by both the linear drives and the coordinate table construction, ensuring good repeatability of each work stage performed. This active synchronised drive system ensures high positioning accuracy of the coordinate table, even when using maximum acceleration and deceleration values.

However, faster punching speeds alone is not the total answer to increased productivity. FINN-POWER found the great potential area for productivity improvement in total manufacturing time to be in the areas of axes movements. Depending upon the program, axes movements in typical fabrication systems can account for 50% of total processing time from loading the sheet to stacking the finished part.

The X and Y axes movements are time consuming phase of the program. FINN-POWER Shear Brilliance utilises linear drive technology with the integrated shearing concept.

Other benefits of the Shear Brilliance include:

Tool Holders – FINN-POWER incorporates an individual tool holder concept that allows customers to design their own turret layouts. Unlike other designs, specific tool stations are not machined into the turret. FINN-POWER offers the only flexible selection of tool holders in the industry, taking advantage of new developments in this turret technology from leading suppliers such as Mate Precision Tooling.

The Shear Brilliance turret has 30 tool stations. Up to 15 Multi-Tool or auto index stations can accommodate up to 200 tools available in the turret in one set-up. One of Venmar Ventilation’s justifications for purchasing the Shear Brilliance was reduction of set up times. Venmar only had 19 tools in each of its two turret punch presses, but now has 94 tools in the Shear Brilliance and has reduced setup times from 35% to only 8%.

Auto-Index – FINN-POWER’s unique auto-index system precisely rotates the punch and die in their tool holders using a single A.C. servo motor system. Auto-index system does not need to match separate servo-motors as in some other machines. Rotation in .001 degree programmable increments gives the machine the ability to rotate beyond 360 degrees, thus allowing the system to automatically select a short path to rotate to a programmed angle input into the NC part program with simplicity, speed, and reliability. Peerless has four auto index stations. Venmar has five auto-index stations.

Multi-Tool - FINN-POWER’s Multi-Tool stations increase the number of tools available in a turret, thus reducing set-up and increasing productivity. The Multi-Tool system allows multiple tools to be put in one station. FINN-POWER Multi-Tool offers 6, 8, 10 or 24 different punch/die combinations in only one station, a turret within a turret. Venmar has two 8-stations, three 10-stations, and one 24-station Multi-tools.

Upward Forming System – FINN-POWER’s upward forming option provides more accurate forming and greater forming heights up to 16mm and 5” in diameter. Another advantage is that all dies are at the same height and there are more high-forming dies in the turret, thus, reducing risk of material damage and increasing machine uptime. Venmar has two upforming stations. The new generation of Finn-Power machines now offer the ability to index these forming tools regardless of station size.

FPS Storage

The level of automation can be customised through FINN-POWER flexible modular solutions for raw material storage, loading, unloading, sorting and stacking. These features can be added later as budget allows and production demands increase. Venmar chose the FPS double storage towers to keep its line running efficiently. The FPS has two storage blocks consisting of up to 19 cassettes in each. Material is stored by the Input wagon or parts can be removed by the Output wagon.

Input/Output wagons are used to transport the cassettes. This is done by using a crane mechanism with end telescoping forks. For storage control and management, there is a computer unit located in the electrical cabinet, which is located at the same end as the motor of the vertical lifting device. Material can be ordered straight with the cell control and storage can be checked when compiling a work queue. The wagons are powered from the electrical cabinet and the control buttons for movement are normally located in the electrical cabinet.

As many Australian and New Zealand companies are doing, Venmar is running low volume and high mix, so it made sense for it to go with an automated loading tower. At times Venmar uses just use one sheet from a pallet and then switches to another. The FPS storage has been both productive and efficient Venmar.

Performance of Shear Brilliance at Venmar since its installation in December 2003: Venmar is currently operating two shifts, seven days a week. The Shear Brilliance is running unmanned part of this time. During 2004, the company increased production by 50%. Overall, the Shear Brilliance has increased capacity by 300%, while reducing cost of manufacturing the part by 75%.

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