Gabe LomagnoClick image to enlargeby Gabe Lomagno

Consider these often overlooked variables


Small changes in a shop can have a big impact on sheet metal production. Often a simple change or a minor investment is all that is needed. Programming with the operator in mind, minimizing material factors, and consideration and care of the tooling will all lead to greater productivity, employee satisfaction and profit.

Programming and communication – An increase in speed and productivity are the main objectives of offline programming. In a high volume or fast-paced environment, programmers should look to tailor machine programs to run parts and production plans using like-tooling to minimize setup time for the operator. While this may seem like common sense, this may be overlooked since the programmer and operator are often not the same person. For many reasons, it is a good idea to keep open communication between both parties. If the operator prefers running a job a certain way with certain tooling, while the programmer has no knowledge of this, a conflict is likely to occur. The operator may push to have the program reworked while the programmer may refuse. Open communication will eliminate the struggle and lead to higher production.

Material factors – When trying to hold extreme tolerances in sheet metal parts, the material plays a crucial role. A pallet of material from one manufacturer may vary slightly from another – even when the alloy or thickness is held constant. Whether formed, welded, or both, different metals produce different results. Initially, purchasing a large quantity of material for a job may seem outrageous. However in the long run, purchasing material from the same manufacturer, same coil, and same heat-lot will result in a much greater consistency yield. Depending on the contract, part quantity, or storage capacity of individual shops, this might not be the best option, so it is always best to consider purchasing options prior to the first phase of a project.

Tools and maintenance – With the technology available today, higher end tooling has become increasingly affordable and worth the investment. Old, worn out tools rarely hold consistency and often leave blemishes and marks on parts. Manipulation of the press brake might also be required to compensate for faulty tooling. This is especially problematic when processing sheet metal parts that are welded into an assembly or have cosmetic specifications. Most tooling manufacturers offer special tools or coatings to meet these very specific requirements. Special coatings are available to prevent aluminum build up and rusting. For working with cosmetic parts, there are alternative tools made of softer materials. Laser hardening increases the working areas of the tools. In addition, older generations of press brake tooling are more likely to be damaged during coining and air bending operations than current tooling options. The investment in these options may seem costly, but the end result will accomplish the required engineered specification and assure customer loyalty. Investing in the proper tooling should be a top consideration for any shop before accepting new work or when purchasing a new precision press brake with the latest technologies. Once the tools are in the shop, proper maintenance of existing and new tooling will eliminate complications in production.

Take the time to consider programming and communication within your shop, the most effective material purchasing options and available choices for tooling. You will be happy you did. With mindful consideration of these simple factors and a willingness to institute change, any shop can distinctly improve its performance. SMT

Gabe Lomagno is the TruBend Cell 5000 applications engineer at TRUMPF, Farmington, CT.


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