Stamper rebuffs recession with retool

Magnetic die handling, new press cell, coil feeder provide means to weather storm

STAMPING Journal December 2008
February 24, 2009

Richland Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Eagle Wings, a tiered automotive supplier, retooled with a new stamping press cell equipped with an electromagnetic die handling system. The retool effort also included installation of a 330-ton tie-rod type press, and a compact coil feeder.

Eagle Wings Industries, Rantoul, Ill., is a Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier of large underbody assemblies and subassemblies. The company forms chassis parts (front and rear side members, floor reinforcements, I/P assemblies, side pillars, and strut houses); painted trim parts (front suspension cross member complete, rear cross member complete, and center members); as well as numerous reinforcement and bracket stampings—550 different stampings in all.

Originally established in 1988 as a Tier 1 supplier to the U.S. Mitsubishi Motors / Chrysler joint-venture plant Diamond Star Motors, Eagle Wings is now also a Tier 2 supplier to Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Lexus, and GM.

Eagle Wings"subsidiary, Richland Manufacturing, located to its south in Olney, Ill., ships two truckloads of stampings and welded assemblies every day.

"On a daily basis, we ship about 150,000 parts," reported Joe Hunt, Richland plant manager. "That adds up to somewhere around 3 million parts per month based upon a 20-day work schedule—24 hours per day, five days per week."

Pace, Quality Demands a Challenge

Like many automotive suppliers, Richland Manufacturing is striving to survive and thrive in today's current hypercompetitive automotive industry climate. Successful automotive suppliers don't give competitors a crack to fill by failing to keep up with customer quality, price, and responsiveness requirements. Being equipped to keep pace is paramount to keeping customers.

The stamper balances flexibility and efficiency requirements with quality improvement demands.

Richland is equipped with three blanking presses and two tandem lines—a four-press line and a five-press line. In addition to producing blanks for the tandem lines on the blanking presses, Richland runs numerous progressive-die jobs through them as well.

"Originally, we started out with mostly blanking and small tandem operations, but over the last five years, more and more work comes in as progressive-tooling jobs," said Greg Tinder, quality manager. "I'd say we're probably about 50 percent progressive work right now, and I can see that going to 75 or 80 percent in the near future."

Hunt added, "On the tandem lines, we run anything from a seven-die job to a one-die job. On the five-press line, we could be running a three-die job and a two-die job, or a four-die job and a one-die job. The real talent is in keeping all of the presses running with the variations in the number of dies we use for those two lines."

Variable Lot Sizes, Many Changeovers. Lot sizes might run anywhere from 500 pieces up to 8,000 pieces, depending on the part and customer requirements. A long run might go a whole shift. Often the company needs to change over five or six times during a shift. "At last count, we had more than 300 different jobs that we run through those presses," Tinder said.

Quality, Price. "One of the biggest challenges we face is trying to make good parts at a competitive price. Most of our quality challenges are burrs—there are very tight burr tolerances for Toyota and KTH [Tier 1 supplier to Honda]. Our tolerance is 0.2 mm. The parts that we stamp usually have a dimensional tolerance of ±0.5 mm. Some of the more technical parts may have 0.2-mm tolerance," Tinder said.

"Stamping quality is checked at the beginning, middle, and end of every stamping run," Tinder continued. "We do a dimensional at the beginning of every run. Everything has to be in tolerance before we start up. Sometimes we get variation in the coil from job to job, so we may have to change setup standards just slightly to get the parts in tolerance. That's why we do the first-piece dimensional."

Company managers decided the best way to batten down for the storm was to "tech up" with a new quick die change system, new press, and new coil feeder.

Evaluating the Entire Operation, Equipment Capacity

Hold Tight Tolerances. "We looked at a lot of different presses," said Jim Schwartz, Eagle Wings general manager. "We knew we wanted a tie-rod-style press. Our two current blanking presses in this facility—200-ton and 250-ton units—are gap-frame presses," Schwartz explained. "We have a lot of two-out, front and back parts that are very difficult to hold tolerance. Some of them are the same part number, just a two-out setup.

"It's very difficult to hold the same dimensions on the front and back parts on a gap-frame press where there's flex in the frame. That's why we wanted to go to a four-post, tie-rod press where we could maintain that relationship and improve the quality of the parts," Schwartz said.

Squeeze More Into Tight Space. But adding another press system to the 80,000-sq.-ft. facility meant finding more space or a big shoehorn. "We knew we wanted a compact feed line because of the space restraints," Schwartz said.

Tighten Die Change Times. Too, with more than 300 different jobs run through the presses and five or six die changeovers a shift, the company had to tighten die change times.

Faster Press System

Richland Manufacturing went online with a new SEYI SAG 330 straight-side press equipped with a Tecnomagnete magnetic die clamping system and fed with a Coe Press Equipment SpaceMaster Series 3 Compact Coil Feed Line (CCL-S3-15040).

Even though the new press cell has been in production for only a short time, Richland already has seen the benefits of its new stamping system, Hunt said.

Press Upgrade. "Because the new press is a 330-ton unit, compared to our former 250-ton machine, it allows us to use larger tools," Hunt explained. "Also, it is almost twice as fast—60 to 62 SPM—compared to 33 to 35 SPM on our older 250-ton press."

Press Controls. The press is equipped with a SmartPAC 2 control system that controls functions that previously were done manually (seeFigure 1). "We can tell it exactly when we want it to oil. We can tell it exactly when we want the conveyors to kick on and kick off. The operator is not reaching over to turn the conveyor on and trying to catch this and catch that. It's an intelligent press," Tinder said.

"One of the things I felt from the beginning of our discussions with SEYI was that they were so willing to work with us on whatever we wanted," Schwartz said. "We wanted to get something in the 60-SPM range. Some of our shut height parameters, adjustability, and specs on the slide weren't exactly what their stock machine had, but they said that they would build us a press to our specs."

Schwartz said he appreciates the fast-response hydraulic overload protection system because it provides assurance that the company's investment is protected from overload damage.

Magnetic Die Clamping

The company's buying team decided to purchase a standard magnetic die clamping system from Tecnomagnete Inc. It is a permanent magnetic system that uses electricity for one second to energize and one second to de-energize so that if a loss of power occurs at any time, the magnetic holding force does not stop. The system has no moving parts, and so it will require very low maintenance over the life of the system (seeFigure 2).

The system the company installed generates 36 metric tons of holding pressure in the upper platen. At a safety ratio of 5-to-1, it handles upper die weights up to 14,080 lbs. with all magnetic poles covered. Even on a 24-in. by 24-in. die footprint, it will still handle upper die weights of 3,520 lbs. The lower magnet has 1-in. ANSI T-slots to accommodate pneumatic die lifters. Its plate also has several die-locating pins that ensure accurate die alignment and quick die change times.

Hunt said, "When Jim first said we were going to put magnets in the new press to hold our tooling in place, I'm out there looking at dies that weigh 8,000 pounds and thinking, ‘This can't be good."But after experiencing it for the last couple of months we've been running this press, I couldn't be more thrilled. I'd like to have it on all of my presses now. It's cleaner, easier, and faster. And, it's probably safer because we can't have a clamper hangup in the back and dump a tool out of the front. And safety is our number one goal here."

Compact Coil Feed

The SpaceMaster Series 3 Compact Coil Line press feed is 17 ft. long (seeFigure 3). "With the Coe feeder, it's easier on our associates because all they have to do is break the coil band and the rest of it is as automatic, or should I say hands-free, as possible," Hunt said.

Schwartz added, "We went with the coil car option and tried to automate as many of the things as we could so that we could decrease our changeover time. Obviously, it doesn't matter how fast we run product if it takes us a long time to change over from one job to the next. We need to be making parts to make money.

"The pilot release feature is important for our progressive-die work," Schwartz continued. "It improves the quality of the part when we can allow the pilots in the die to align the strip. If we were only blanking, it might not be that important, but we do a lot of shaped parts, a lot of intricate parts, so pilot release is an important feature.

"Another nice feature of the compact line for us is that all controls are on the pendants," he said. "For the most part, the whole threading process can be controlled from the hand-held control pendants, and once the press is in operation, the whole interface is there, so you're not running over to the control panel all the time. It's very efficient."

The coil feeder's quick changeover capability was critical, Tinder pointed out. "Our coils average anywhere between 100 and 400 mm wide, 0.7 mm thick to 3.3 mm thick. We use galvanized and nongalvanized in both hot-rolled and cold-rolled. On our old equipment, the average coil changeover time probably was eight to 10 minutes. Coil changeover now is about four minutes—about half the time," he said.

Schwartz added, "In the past you had to just kind of manually tweak everything to get the steel straight. Now you just enter the job number, press one button to start, and the rollers are all set to predetermined settings, so the steel comes out flat and straight."

As for the entire retooling effort, Schwartz said, "Now we're in mass production and I couldn't be happier."

Photos courtesy of Richland Manufacturing, Olney, Ill.

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STAMPING Journal is the only industrial publication dedicated solely to serving the needs of the metal stamping market. In 1987 the American Metal Stamping Association broadened its horizons and renamed itself and its publication, known then as Metal Stamping.

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