Press Automation Guide
Press Automation is the idea of integrating information technology into a press machine to attain a higher degree of control over the process. This is typically accomplished by incorporating pre-programmed computer software into machines in order to ensure a more consistent production quality, as well as reduced manpower to oversee the process.
Automatic metal forming is often compared with metal cutting. While the goals are the same – to achieve unmanned and highly efficient productions – the metal forming process does a much better job at shaping a material. This is especially true in mass production of smaller parts and is backed by many relevant studies. In addition, how you’d achieve automation for metal forming and cutting is slightly different as well.
Improving Your Metal Forming Machinery
Hydraulic forming presses are highly automated press machines widely used in the metalworking industries. Thanks to the automation technologies, they can perform a wide range of operations such as clinching, forging, molding, punching, blanking, deep drawing and more. The tooling advancement in these machines results in a significant reduction in cycle time as well as labor cost. What kind of tools you deploy also determines whether you can attain acceptable tolerance relative to the output. Compared with a conventional metal forming machine, an automatic hydraulic forming press is able to achieve faster stamping in any large-scale project.
Furthermore, it is possible to upgrade a conventional press machine with automation capabilities, and a C-frame press machine is a common candidate. The basic requirements for upgrading a conventional C-frame press machine encompass a variety of factors, such as the material of the components, what accessories need to be added, whether or not an advanced hydraulic controlling unit needs to be installed, etc. While a conventional C-frame press can only perform manual single-strokes, an upgraded model is capable of automatic cycle stamping of small parts in large volumes. To ensure consistent output both in terms of quality and quantity, the C-frame hydraulic press machines are an efficient and economical choice.
Figure 1. Automatic C-Frame Hydraulic Press, Hsin Lien Sheng machinery
Common Software and Hardware Requirements
Press automation has distinct software and hardware requirements.
Common automation hardware for pressroom operations includes die transfers, die carts, quick tool change, and robots. Other tooling configurations you can implement to automate your production include low-profile clamps and locking systems which reduce downtime significantly. Additionally, consider using hydraulic clamps, rolling bolster, positioning pins, die lifters, and other tooling transfer units for more conveniences in your press line.
Automatic press machines complement computer software to evaluate processes and pinpoint issues. The software provides readouts for press utilization in both percentage and pie chart formats. It also alerts when bottlenecks are occurring. Advanced software can even show the amount of time spent for tool changing. This allows managers to review the lost production during these changeovers and optimize the tool configuration accordingly. Moreover, software for press machines can show production rates as well as assist with manufacturing scheduling. It can also schedule maintenance using downtime codes.
When choosing your press automation options, it is wise to take worker safety into consideration. For instance, you can configure your machines to reduce part handling in order to keep an operator outside of the press die area. This can avoid risks associated with it. Transfer and progressive dies are other good options to reduce the likelihood of injuries and fatigue from manual operation.
As mentioned previously, the whole purpose of adopting automation is to achieve an unmanned operation. An automation setup has no value if it still requires an extra pair of hands to function, not to mention putting these workers at risk for injuries. In a nutshell, proper planning of advanced hardware and software is indispensable to ensure optimal results.
Figure 2. Close-up View of Progressive Die in Automatic Sheet Metal Pressing
Advanced Quality Control
Quality control is a critical parameter for any type of metal forming operations, and we’d like to suggest what plant managers can do to take it up a notch. A newer way of enhancing the quality control of press lines is to equip the press machines with vision systems. The system is able to closely monitor the parts as they enter and exit the machine, inspecting the dimensions and looking for defects. It also checks if the part is properly oriented throughout the entire operation. The improved image quality with these high-end vision systems make sure that the cameras generate a clearer view of part details, greatly improving quality control and repeatability while keeping production time down.
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