New Machine, Same Tooling

B.C. fabricator places importance on punching tooling from day one

The FABRICATOR July 2014
July 28, 2014
By: Chris Madison

In planning the recent expansion,it was important to the company that it be able to continue using its large pre-existing inventory of punching tooling.

Figure 1
(Left to right) Reh Abdulla, Metalcraft Technology general manager; Peter Storey, Mate Precision Tooling sales engineer; and Feroz Abdulla, Metalcraft Technology customer support/lean manager, display an 18-gauge, satin-coated steel rack drive component punched from 48- by 48-in. sheet material.

Expanding by adding new automated systems while upgrading worker skills continues to attract and satisfy a growing portfolio of satisfied customers for Metalcraft Technology, Coquitlam, B.C. Despite uncertainty in the manufacturing industry, Metalcraft continues to broaden its fabrication offerings around its core business of metal punching.

“Being a full-service fabricator is extremely important to the future of Metalcraft Technology,” explained Feroz Abdulla, customer support/ lean manager. “That is why in the last year we invested millions of dollars in expanded facilities and equipment, including a new automated laser/ punch combo, more Mate Ultra- TEC® tooling, a new press brake, an automated power wash system, and powder coat painting. We’ve added 15,000 sq. ft. to our plant, hired more workers, and continually train all of our workers with new software and processes for more complex fabricating projects.”

The company’s goal with this expansion was not only to attract more Canadian customers, but to increase projects from U.S.-based customers too. Achieving this goal required state-of-the-art punching and downstream processes for finished parts. The expansion is paying off, according to Abdulla.

“We have added significant business from the Seattle area and the western U.S. with new customers in telecom and electronics. We’ve developed more business in western Canada, including nice work coming in from the oil and gas industry,” said Abdulla.

Punch Tooling Addresses Needs

Founded in 1997 by Azim Abdulla, Metalcraft Technology now is in the hands of second-generation sons Reh, general manager, and Feroz. According to Feroz, “We’ve experienced 20 percent growth this year and expanded our floor space from 25,000 to 40,000 sq. ft. We now employ 40 full-time workers, up from 15 a few years ago, and operate two shifts. This growth really expands the use of Mate tooling since every customer’s part project requires punching.”

In planning the recent expansion, it was important to the company that it be able to continue using its large pre-existing inventory of punching tooling.

“Over time it’s a big investment, costing more than a new machine,” said Abdulla.

Success in business most often starts with personal relationships among highly competent people, and it is a belief on which Metalcraft Technology built its success. One of the first acquisitions founder Azim Abdulla made was UltraTEC tooling from Mate.

“From the start we wanted to be able to operate our Amada presses at top speed—400 hits a minute depending on material and thickness —with the assurance that the tooling would perform well, delivering top quality. It’s done that and more,” said Abdulla. “Now, the transition of [our] tooling into our new Amada punch/laser combo has gone well, including its use in the automatic tool loading system.”

Figure 2
These components make up the UltraTEC tool system.

Expanding Product Mix

“The opportunities for growth required fabricating complex geometries, not just edges and holes, but irregular shapes, sweeping contours, enclosures, and other components of near-impossible configurations with everything from knockouts and tabs to thread forms and card guides, to name just a few,” said Abdulla. “A large majority of our new work not only has these complex punched and laser-cut features, they are meticulously cleaned and powder coatpainted so when assembled into a finished product, they are ready for the marketplace. In a short time we have become a one-stop fabricator.”

The company’s decision to expand into laser cutting was a good one with the acquisition of its new Amada EML 3610 NT punch/laser combination. It combines servo-electric motor punching technology with a hybrid laser motion system. It features a standard 58-station King turret, which includes two 4½-in. and two 11⁄4-in. autoindexing stations.

This additional tool autoindexing capacity is important to Metalcraft’s projects because it allows for a wider variety of special form tools to punch part features such as louvers, knockouts, and card guides.

The punch/laser combo is equipped with an automated load/unload system and a single-part picking machine. To maximize machine utilization, the punch/ laser also is equipped with a PDC automated tool changer (ATC). The system provides fully automated production of complex parts, including nested sheets with a large variety of components, while eliminating manual tool changes.

With Metalcraft Technology’s widely varying part runs, the transition from one type of material and thickness to another can get complicated and timeconsuming. The autoindexing stations with Multi Tools loaded with tooling helps shorten the tool setup process for job changeovers.

While the bulk of the tools in the turret are standard and do not change, the Multi Tools are loaded with the UltraTEC special application tools to form the features.

“Die penetration and length adjustment with UltraTEC tools is really fast,” said Abdulla. “The tools pop apart with just a touch of a button and go back together just as fast. They are easy to adjust and assemble visually. The punch, guide, and other components are easily disassembled by hand and lock up correctly and quickly. With UltraTEC, our operators set tool length in just 5 seconds, no shimming needed. The push-button design allows for fast and easy setting of overall length and die penetration in precise increments (0.006 in. for a ½-in. A station tools and 0.008 in. for larger station tools) without the need for measuring tools.”

Metalcraft Technology reports that 75 percent of its originally purchased tooling from 18 years ago is still in everyday use, even when punching difficult materials such as stainless steel. One of the reasons for this longevity is the tool steel, which when combined with heat treating, results in punches with superior compressive strength and high wear resistance.

“The tooling platform my dad started and grew with have helped make Metalcraft Technology what we are today. Our fully integrated and precise punching, laser cutting, and bending have resulted in a 30 percent increase in productivity. That certainly is something we are proud of.” said Abdulla.

Chris Madison

Contributing Writer

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The FABRICATOR is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971.

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