August 31, 2011
Bennett Machine & Stamping Co., Geneva, Ohio, made its foray into the solar energy market from another manufacturer in Painesville, Ohio, American Roll Form. Bennett's ability to construct dies of various complexities, run them in a variety of presses, and provide engineering positioned it as a flexible and valuable partner.
Bennett Machine & Stamping Co., Geneva, Ohio, has built quite a name for itself as a family-owned die builder and stamper. Besides running a full-line die shop, Bennett uses upward of 25 presses, mechanical and hydraulic from 40 to 400 tons, to stamp components and assemblies for a variety of industries.
Its foray into the solar energy market actually began with another manufacturer in Painesville, Ohio. When American Roll Form President Rob Touzalin considered an opportunity to carve a niche in the solar energy market by supplying solar panel framing, he evaluated his company’s manufacturing capabilities (read the March/April 2011 issue of Green Manufacturer®, www.greenmanufacturer.net).
Strictly a roll former originally, American Roll Form had brought in turret punching, robotic welding, press brake bending, and stamping to position itself as a one-stop shop. It maintains a stamping operation for small parts at low volumes. For larger, higher-volume parts like those used in solar mounting systems, the company needed much greater stamping capability. The choices for Touzalin: make a huge investment in capital equipment, or find a good partner to take on the work.
That’s when Touzalin decided to partner with Bennett to stamp the larger components. Bennett’s ability to construct dies of various complexities, and run them in a variety of presses, positioned it as a flexible and valuable partner. He concluded that the stamper’s expertise in die build could bring efficiencies that would help him attain—and keep—solar customers.
Bennett’s engineering expertise was a valuable capability. “Most of the solar energy panel providers we work with do not have internal engineering resources for developing the mounting systems,” said Randy Myers, director of engineering at American Roll Form, who is in charge of three in-house engineers and two tooling engineers. “So we offer suggestions on manufacturability, material grades and thicknesses, and shear loads and uploads.”
Bennett provides stamping engineering expertise. “We are involved on the ground floor with American Roll Form in using our engineering capabilities to help it determine the best method of manufacturing for new work and bids,” said Mike Bittner, Bennett’s vice president. Sometimes that re-engineering involves converting a machined part to a stamped part. “That helps keep costs as low as possible to win contracts.”
Solar parts range in size from about 1 inch square to 4.5 in. square by 11 in. long. For one complex solar energy project, Bennett cuts roll formed sections to length and combines them with stamped clips to produce assemblies as long as 10 ft.
Performing in-die tapping since 1990, Bennett is a pioneer in that technology, combining it with other in-die work such as coining and shaving. The company also deep-draws to 12 in. Clips for solar mounts that the stamper supplies to American Roll Form demonstrate its unique in-die expertise.
“For smaller module clips as well as large clips, we incorporated three or four part numbers within the same die via interchangeability of some die components, and that reduced the upfront tooling costs to the customer,” said Bittner. “Whenever we can find similar part numbers, we try to group them within the same die set as a money saver.”
Given the volume of solar parts supplied to American Roll Form, Bennett makes special concessions.
“With the solar work we always run an inventory of parts and then pull and ship them as they are needed,” Bittner explained. “That reduces lead-times. With so many various part numbers to be shipped for a project, it would be difficult to deliver all those parts as needed in a short period. So the longer runs keep the piece price down.”
Bennett’s ability to provide tooling, parts, and engineering expertise promises to keep its partnership with American Roll Form strong and its customer base satisfied.
“Bennett Machine & Stamping has been a very effective stamping partner for us and has enabled us to carve a niche for ourselves in the solar market,” said Touzalin. “It gives us a whole set of unique stamping and tooling capabilities.” The solar division of American Roll Form represents 15 percent of sales and is the company’s largest market segment.
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