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Addison McKee : 31 July, 2003  (Company News)
Across the global automotive exhaust industry, the ability to achieve tubular
components of reduced weight
However, with the prospect of wall thinning and splitting at the point of bend a very real issue when manipulating tubular material into highly complex shapes - and hydraulically powered CNC boost bending machines traditionally unable to deliver the precise levels of controllability that modern component design often requires many manufacturers have been forced to accept the time-consuming welding of tubular forms when striving to achieve more intricate configurations.

All-electric alternative.

From their Lancashire-based headquarters, however, world leaders in tube forming
technology, AddisonMckee, have been providing customers with innovative all-electric boost bending technology that significantly re-writes the rulebook wherever the manufacture of complex, multi-form tubular shapes is required.

“Synchro-boost” technology.

By embracing AddisonMckee’s SynchroBend Boost Bending technology – available via virtually any one of the company’s innovative all-electric “Electra” range of Databend CNC tube bending machines - customers worldwide can now enjoy precise, previously unachievable repeatable control of complex bending processes, ensuring consistent wall thickness at the point of bend.

“By precisely controlling the amount of tubular material ‘pushed’ into any given bend, metals are able to be successfully manipulated into configurations that were previously considered impossible,” says AddisonMckee Sales and Marketing Director, Peter Chapman. “Indeed, where clients were previously afraid of even contemplating 1-D bending across the centre-line radius due to the likelihood of wall thinning,” he continues, ”they now readily accept that this is a standard production process – and indeed 0.8D bending is now considered feasible.”

With considerable experience in push bend full boost technology during the bending process (By pushing more of the tubular metal into the machine tooling any potential weakness or thinning at the point of bend is greatly reduced.), Addison-Mckee’s expertise allows a tube to be powered into the point of bend by applying pressure in tonnes down the column of the pipe while bending – thus preventing unnecessary wall thinning of the pipe wall on the various types of materials used. Indeed, with multi-radius models in the Electra range capable of bending tubes with overall diameters ranging from 25mm to 100mm, the company is able to offer greater control in bending tubes for a wide range of applications.

Controllability is key.

“The use of our infinitely controllable, “environmentally friendly” all electric machines, over traditional hydraulic models, is the key to superior bend controllability and stability,” added AddisonMckee’s Peter Chapman. “In order to achieve desired exhaust flow qualities, today’s manufacturers require components of highly complex shape and design, with tight bends and radiuses that are virtually impossible to manufacture by traditional means. Through AddisonMckee SynchroBend boost bending technology, we are able to increase the precise level of boost required in order to minimise thinning and weakening at the point of bend, then memorise the settings for continuous and ongoing manufacture.”

Called SynchroBend, due to the fact that as the metal tube is being bent around the
former, the mechanical motion of pushing the tubular material into the point of bend (via a powerful ball screw drive at several tonnes force) occurs simultaneously - thus preventing wall thinning from taking place - the AddisonMckee boost bending process is purpose-designed to provide results that would perhaps once have been considered to be simply unachievable.

Electric V hydraulic.

On all AddisonMckee Electra SynchroBend machines, all movements apart from the collet and tube support are servo controlled. All can be taught to optimise production requirements according to each part stage - and each axis uses state-of-the-art digital servo motors and drives.

Via the company’s Windows NT-based touch screen technology, absolute control is
maintained over all movements during the bending process and this guarantees true repeatability of all moves at all times according to the positions set in the machine configuration. Machine repositioning after tool change is also automatic, repeating the last settings for a tool set and part exactly – ensuring repeat manufacture within miniscule tolerances.

Precise relationship.

With SynchroBend, complete control over the exact relationship between the follower slide and the bending axis is achieved. Precise position control between the tube and the selected tooling ensures a quality result. The position and force of the mandrel can be varied during each bend. Whilst accurate control over the relationship between collet boost and bending axis provides a major benefit when tight radius bending with short, smooth clamps.

“When you compare this level of controllability to a hydraulic machine’s manual setting, limited pressure and flow control; lack of synchronisation between collet boost and bend axis and susceptibility to thermal gradient changes,” adds Chapman, “the advantages of AddisonMckee electric boost technology are clear.

Immense flexibility.

All materials react differently during the bending process. However, with AddisonMckee technology, the customer simply needs to set the machine up, balancing the variables to suit the materials to be used and the characteristics of the job. If, upon inspection of the bent component, wall thinning has still occurred, the SynchroBend system allows the flexibility for extra material (programmed in percentages of boost) to be pushed in – millimetre by millimetre - during the bending process to achieve the desired result.

Normally offered where components to be manufactured incorporate very tight radius bends, AddisonMckee's SynchroBend technology has also been found to allow exhaust pipe manufacturers to achieve perfectly good results from the use of less ductile (and consequently lower cost) tubular material.

“Whilst our clients utilising this technology span the global automotive industry,” comments Chapman, “We were surprised when a customer specified boost technology on an Electra CNC machine that was to be used to create larger radiuses – a situation where boost bending would not normally be required. However, all became clear when he explained that by boosting more material into the point of bend, previous breakages due to elongation could be all but eliminated. Even with the inherent premium of choosing electric over hydraulic, the cost savings were obviously worthwhile!”

Databend technology.

At the heart of every AddisonMckee CNC tube bender, “Databend” is an intelligent flexible, computer controlled system that has the capacity to provide complete control, immediate reaction to commands and to display total machine operating status.

Via a touch-screen interface, all machine and axis moves are pre-selected by the operator. Fundamental to the Databend system, a unique “teach mode” also eliminates the need for bespoke machine software sequences, allowing the machine to be “taught” specific configurations for the creation of specific shapes and improved repeatability.

Indeed, as far as the company’s boost technology is concerned, this means that as soon as the correct level of boost has been established for a particular metal type and thickness, complete repeatability is assured.

Windows NT-based.

Easy-to-operate and featuring AddisonMckee Windows NT software with enhanced 3-D graphics and touch-screen programming, the Databend controller harnesses Siemens 840D control technology, incorporating Profibis fieldbus wiring.
Modular technology.

The AddisonMckee Electra range of CNC tube bending machines are all built upon a
modular system that offers significant and substantial advantages to users. Most
significant is the ability for virtually any model in the range to be built to several formats, including single-stack, variable stack, multi radius and programmable boost bending.

Reduced maintenance.

The all-electric concept also offers users reduced running and maintenance costs in
addition to cleaner and quieter operation compared to hydraulic machines. Improved productivity and higher quality bends – due to the greater levels of control when programming all the machine axes, as electric axes offer superior positioning, control and repeatability – are also ensured.

These advantages are most evident when bending on a very tight radii, working with thin wall or other close tolerance components.

World-class design.

AddisonMckee’s skilled workforce is capable of manufacturing CNC tube bending and tooling to suit virtually any application. The Lancashire site is equipped with a large variety of modern CNC machine tools, supported by Computer Aided Manufacturing and up to 30 design engineers working within integrated management TQM procedures.

At its UK plant, the company produces a range of over 50 basic hydraulic and electric CNC machines that can bend from 4mm pipes used in the automotive and aerospace industries to 273mm tubes used in shipbuilding. About 150 end-forming machines a year are manufactured at its plant in the USA.
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