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News

Fast punch press doubles as plasma cutting back-up

Metalforming Machinery Makers' Association : 24 October, 2006  (New Product)
Pressworking cycle times have been halved at sheet metalworking subcontractor, Coleman Manufacturing, near Burton-on-Trent, following the installation in November 2004 of a Finn-Power C5 turret punch press and Jetcam programming software from Press and Shear Machinery. Stainless steel, mild steel and aluminium in the thickness range two to five millimetres is processed mainly by Coleman, which also frequently cuts material up to 8 mm on two plasma machines.
16 August 2005

Pressworking cycle times have been halved at sheet metalworking subcontractor, Coleman Manufacturing, near Burton-on-Trent, following the installation in November 2004 of a Finn-Power C5 turret punch press and Jetcam programming software from Press and Shear Machinery. Stainless steel, mild steel and aluminium in the thickness range two to five millimetres is processed mainly by Coleman, which also frequently cuts material up to 8 mm on two plasma machines.

In the past, if one broke down there was no back-up and a bottleneck would occur, as anything above 6 mm could not be machined on the two older turret punch presses on site. The ability of the hydraulically-actuated C5 to punch 8 mm mild steel provides the required back-up and eliminates the need to run expensive night-shifts, as backlogs no longer occur. Said Coleman's general manager, Paul Neale, 'The Finn-Power press has 30 tonnes of punching force and capacity of 200 kg on the table, which is moved around at up to 100 m/min traversing speed. 'The shortlisted competitorís machine we evaluated was rated at 20 tonnes force, so we would have had to pay tens of thousands of pounds extra for the 30-tonne version to allow us to punch 8 mm mild steel. Moreover, the machine could handle a weight of only 100 kg of material on the table.'

Thirty per cent of Coleman's work is for the rail industry, ranging from fabrications used in rolling stock to single-piece, formed sheet metal seating. There has been a sharp upturn in demand for the latter, especially in stainless steel, and the hundreds of drainage holes or slots that need to be punched in each seat are time-consuming to produce. Mr Neale commented that high speed was a prerequisite when buying the new punch press, particularly in view of the frequent need to produce arrays of holes in seats over nearly the entire surface of 2,000 x 1,000 mm or 2,500 x 1,250 mm sheets. He cited another product that requires similarly intensive hole punching, namely a mild steel mesh guard for an earthmoving equipment manufacturer. Either of the older punch presses used to take 75 minutes to machine a sheet of these nested components, whereas the C5 has reduced the cycle to 34 minutes, a 55 per cent time reduction. Many jobs produced on the new machine show similar savings.

The 60-employee subcontract firm has seen a lot of work disappear to China in recent years, and even receives weekly e-mails from Chinese sheet metalworking subcontractors offering their services. To rub salt in the wound, they send pictures of their facilities showing how modern and well equipped they are. So in common with the majority of manufacturing industry in the West, Coleman has a fight on its hands to combat the threat from the Far East and other low-wage countries. Investment in advanced CNC machine tools like the Finn-Power C5 is part of the solution to the problem. 'While many customers require large batches, we need to be flexible and able to supply smaller batches of, say, 30- or 40-off economically,' continued Mr Neale. 'We turn around such an order in two weeks, making it difficult for an overseas subcontractor to compete without air freighting the goods, which is prohibitively expensive when moving steel around the world.' Another advantage of the new punch press is its ability to upform features on components and mark them as part of the cycle, avoiding separate operations. This results in considerable production cost savings and although the upforming facility has yet to be used, it will allow Mr Neale to be more flexible on price when the right jobs come along. So too will the ability to hold up to 120 tools in the 20-station turret by using multi-tools.

Advice with component designs and reverse-engineering using Colemanís co-ordinate measuring machine are other areas where the firm scores over its foreign competitors. Mr Neale will continue to acquire modern CNC machinery to remain competitive in a modern subcontract environment. The focus will be not only on general jobbing and fabrication but also on work in stainless steel and aluminium. It is fortunate for Coleman that the rail industry is demanding more and more components in these materials, as stainless steel is maintenance-free and aluminiumís lightness improves the energy efficiency of trains.
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