Progressive Thinking

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by Kip Hanson

Servo press technology together with a healthy dose of creativity helps this Hamilton, ON, stamping house take on jobs others refuse

Progressive dies are known throughout the stamping industry as high output workhorses able to spit out millions of parts accurately and efficiently. These go-to tooling solutions cut, bend, pierce, blank, and trim parts at hundreds and even thousands of strokes per minute, producing everything from complex pins and connectors for medical devices to body panels and fuel pump housings for passenger vehicles.

The advent of increasingly capable servo presses, however, has given progressive tools capabilities that were once difficult if not impossible to achieve using traditional, flywheel-driven mechanical presses. The ability to stop mid-stroke, speed up or slow down, and change the slide direction throughout the cycle provides far greater flexibility in die design. The use of servos also decreases energy use, and since the slide is programmable, adjustments are easily made for tool wear and thermal expansion of the machine tool, both of which increase accuracy.

The second, smaller tonnage Komatsu stamping press in Hamilton Stamping's facility.Not so old school
When Bob Intini, owner of Hamilton Stamping Ltd., Hamilton, ON started his career more than 43 years ago, servo presses were decades in the future. Yet Intini and Hamilton Stamping co-owner Joseph Tielemans recognized their potential early on, and today the company has Komatsu servo presses and looks forward to additional machines in the future.

Hamilton Stamping has been producing precision parts since 1986, when Intini assumed ownership of a previous partnership, Intini Berry. Since then the company has remained on a slow but steady growth path. Its team of seven employees, four of whom are certified tool and die makers, have more than 100 years of experience collectively, and Intini takes pride in the company’s ability to handle whatever challenge comes its way.

This embrace of customer needs may include building a special stamping die to combine operations that were once performed on multiple machines, working closely with product designers on their inventions and prototypes, or reorganizing the 1,115 sq m (12,000 sq ft) shop floor to accommodate large projects. “We’ve even moved equipment out to the driveway to fit work into the shop,” Intini says. “People look at us like we’re crazy sometimes, but we’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Whistle stop
One example of this is Hamilton’s long-standing relationship with Ontario-based sporting goods manufacturer, Fox 40 International. When Fox 40 was unable to get approval from the National Hockey League (NHL) for a popular style of pea-less injection moulded whistle, management turned to Hamilton for help. The tool and die team there quickly delivered several metal prototypes, and then took things one step further by designing a robotic soldering station capable of assembling the whistles in a single step, ultimately producing several hundred thousand units and becoming the official whistle of the NHL.

Other projects include hot rolled P&O steel (pickled and oiled) conveyor brackets for poultry processing, P&O carwash brush holders made using a series of single stage dies, stainless steel clips and battery retainers, gas burners for boiler systems, and a wide variety of similar shoe-box sized and smaller components for an eclectic mix of customers. About the only industry Hamilton isn’t directly involved with is automotive, “not because of our capabilities but because they’re generally only concerned with getting the cheapest price possible,” says Tielemans.

Dave Prevost, tool and die maker, servicing a die and preparing it for the Komatsu press H1F 150 tonFlexibility is king
Decades of tooling experience coupled with the versatility and accuracy of servo presses allows Hamilton to be competitive on prototypes and low volume production stamping, in territory normally associated with very high tooling costs. “We focus on small orders for a very broad client base, so we utilize whatever tooling is most appropriate based on order volume and part complexity. We’ll build new progressives where it makes sense, but quite often it’s more efficient to take an existing tool and modify it to accommodate a different part. Customers get scared away very quickly over the cost of a new die, and this enables us to keep costs down.”

Tactics such as interchangeable inserts to make different flat shapes, creating multiple single stage tools and manually feeding parts through a series of operations, or performing secondary processes in Hamilton’s machine shop enables this small company to achieve cost effectiveness even on one off prototypes.

It’s all about doing what works to get the job done, Tielemans says. That, and an eye towards continuous improvement. “2015 was a great year for us—we had steady orders but it wasn’t too busy. It gave us time to work on some projects, and ask ourselves, ‘what can we do to improve this function, or make a repeat part easier to process?’ It’s important that you have this time available, to come up with different ideas and make parts faster and more cost-effectively. Because of those efforts, now we don’t have to give price increases to our customers, even though material cost is going up. It’s good for everyone involved.” SMT

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