Stampers look to single controls, common components to increase efficiencies
January 10, 2011
Modern press lines are very integrated, combining coil feeds and press capabilities from a single control area and using commonality of components to optimize results.
An integrated approach to material forming is nothing new. For years manufacturers have worked to create stamping systems from available coil line components, but achieving effective integration often has been limited by high initial costs, inadequate machinery capabilities, and insufficient engineering resources.
In today’s manufacturing environment of strong competition and limited capital resources, many stampers are taking a closer look at the value of integration. When operators can control multiple functions and setups and review diagnostics from a single touchscreen, there is less room for error and a greater possibility of increased efficiencies, not to mention a reduced need for floor space, power sources, and wiring.
The demand for integration has increased as lean manufacturing has grown in popularity. In addition, rapidly advancing technology, especially control technology, has made integration more affordable with limited in-plant engineering resources.
Coil line integration (see Figure 1) can help stampers achieve more efficient part production, translating into reduced labor content, higher production speeds, greater uptime, and higher part quality. Integration also can help reduce floor space requirements, simplify operation, and increase diagnostic and troubleshooting abilities and flexibility.
While integration can be implemented or increased on new or existing coil lines, commonality of components can help optimize results. Coil line interconnects, for example, are premade, clamp-on harnesses that include all required electrical connections (see Figure 2). Hydraulic and pneumatic connections are cut to length and prefitted. The interconnects eliminate wiring and debugging issues at start-up or when coil line components are moved or retrofitted.
The backbone of any integrated coil line is the control. Large color touchscreens are fairly standard in today’s market, giving operators simplified control of prestaging, manufacturing, diagnostics, and troubleshooting. In addition, coil line integration software is capable of real-time production monitoring, which relays information to tool builders and application engineers.
Controls for integrated coil lines can store predefined production parameters for hundreds of tools, reducing job changeover times. Tool parameters typically can be recalled by a simple numbering system, and feed angle, feed rate, pilot release, feed passline, stock guides, straightener work roll and stock guides, material loop calibration set points, reel keeper arm positions, and reel traversing base positions can be set automatically.
A typical integrated coil line includes a main control for the press and several automatic feed functions, such as passline height, stock guides, and feed rate. The control also might provide visibility of parameters for other components of the feed line.
Many systems include an additional control at the straightener for automatic adjustments of the work rolls, the reel keeper arm, and the traversing base of the reel. Stored values can be recalled from the control to allow prestaging of multiple coils on a reel mandrel (see Figure 3). The keeper arm and reel automatically find and align the next coil, helping to minimize coil changeover downtimes.
Integrated controls not only provide diagnostics of system problems, but provide prompt messages indicating the steps an operator needs to take to resolve the issue. An operator typically can resolve coil line problems while standing at the press.
Another option for integrating the stamping process is a compact coil line. Compact lines can be engineered in a variety of configurations. Suitable for more specific applications, compact lines can limit versatility, but they do offer stampers integration in a small package.
A basic reel-feeder-straightener compact line integrates feed line components on a common base, which helps to eliminate the chance of misalignment and the need to anchor separate pieces of machinery. Depending on the model and manufacturer, many functions of the compact line can be integrated into a single control.
Coil line integration can benefit an application-specific system or a press and feed line that runs several different dies a day.
Regardless of the situation, the products and techniques being developed for integrated coil lines are worth an investigation.