- April 3, 2017
THE PROBLEM Managing growing high mix/low volume production
THE SOLUTION Automated panel bending system
BMP Metals is no stranger to automation. The company has invested steadily in automation over the years to bring its metal fabrication operation up to speed. So when its high mix/low volume production of panels and shelves began to grow, it invested in an automated panel bending system from Prima Power.
“We began investing in automation and technology years ago,” explains Johanne Rappoccio, vice president of operations of the Brampton, ON, company. “It has always been our mindset to have this technological platform...and that has helped us grow into other industries. The nature and the mix of our business has changed over the years, but we still have a mix of high and low volume. But having automation and lights out capability allows us to react to different projects and customer demands. BMP is a one-stop shop, turnkey provider. We love challenges.”
Bending automation for productivity
BMP purchased the Prima Power EB3 panel bender in 2015 to help improve press brake productivity. “The EBe replaced four press brakes,” explains Robert-Daniel Bedard, vice president. “If you look at our core business, we produce many panels and shelves, and the EBe was a perfect fit.”
The EBe servo-electric Express Bender is a bending solution designed for each fabricator’s production requirements to achieve maximum productivity, quality, and repeatability. The bending operation is fully automated, from the loading of flat punched parts to unloading of the finished product.
The EBe bender has a maximum bending length of 3,550 mm (131in.) and a maximum opening height of 200 mm (8 in.). Prima Power has improved the performance of the machine--actuations of vertical and horizontal blending blade movements--by replacing hydraulic cylinders with NC servo axes. Another NC servo axis controls upper tool movements.
BMP says it selected the Prima Power EBe because it provides the high bending quality required in demanding applications. The quality is achieved through precise control of bending axes, fast and smooth bending motion, programmability, and rigid construction that is immune to variation in thermal conditions. “The last bend negative is an excellent feature on the EBe,” says Bedard. “The AUT and ASP tooling have worked out really well.”
An increasing number of fabricators are facing a situation, where large volumes are being replaced by the need to produce small batches on a just-in-time basis. In traditional bending with press brakes, setup times, technical limits in producing sophisticated components and the requirement for skilled personnel may prove problematic in such manufacturing tasks. Based on extensive experience applying servo electric technology in automatic panel bending solutions, Prima Power offers an automation solution which focuses on setup rather
than material handling (loading, rotation and unloading are manual). With options like ATC (Automatic Tool Change)
and barcode reader, the machine makes the setup automatically and activates a new part program.
“Going from manual to automatic tool change cuts the setup time dramatically,” says Bedard. “The tools are being changed as you are putting material on the machine. When you hit start, the EBe is picking up the piece and immediately bending it. The EBe has considerably increased our productivity and quality. Our welders are having a much easier time welding corners because the tolerances are much tighter and very consistent. The majority of our bending is now done on the EBe.”
“Originally our mindset was to utilize the EBe for the larger volume runs,” explains Rappoccio. “But it was equally productive on the smaller runs. The changeovers are very quick. We were able to off-load four less efficient press brakes that had high energy demands with the servo electric EBe. It has a much better energy footprint.”
Supplier relationship matters
In the sheet metal fabrication area, BMP began a 20-year partnership with Prima Power (previously Finn-Power) in 1997 with the purchase of the Express (punch, load/unload). A few years later, BMP traded in the Express for a Shear Genius (punch/shear) that is still in operation today. To boost its production capacity, in 2002, BMP chose the LPe high precision laser/punch combination flexible manufacturing cell. Bedard says the LPe can do laser cutting, punching, nibbling, upforming, marking, taping, bending, sorting, and stacking–all unattended, all in a single setup. Today, the LPe is still in operation and making precision parts for BMP. “We use the SG and the LPe every day,” explains Bedard. “We have the capability of running both the SG and the LPe lights out.”
In 2012, BMP purchased the Prima Power Domino 2D/3D laser machine to fill the needs of a new customer in the transportation industry. The Domino laser has a 5th axis for part turning on materials such as tube or other 3D shapes. “Because of the welding and the beveling that was needed, we needed the 3D capacity,” explains Bedard. “Today we use it mainly for thicker material. It allows us to be flexible and is great for prototyping or a large run.”
A history of growth
Since its 1984 founding in a modest 8,000 sq ft leased building, BMP Metals has earned a reputation as a fully-integrated custom precision sheet metal fabricator with additional specialized services in engineering design, CNC machining, milling and turning, electromechanical assembly, paint coatings, and plastic injection molding. BMP offers turnkey solutions for its customers.
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