Two years ago we installed an Amada fibre laser which we quickly found was outstripping our capacity to fold parts on our two Amada semi-automatic press brakes. We needed something that could keep up with the laser and maintain quality but without employing more people.
We were aware of Robotic Bending Cells and we thought “how can we use that kind of equipment to make our sheetmetal business more competitive”? Do robots only make sense if you are making the same part over and over or could it work for us where we make smallish batches of parts which repeat.
So, along came Amada offering their Robotic Bending Cell. This uses the ARCAM programing system which imports 3D models from our Solidworks system which saves hours of programming time. It also has four part pods each holding 200 flats blanks so in one set-up, we can make 800 of one part or 200 of four parts each with different materials and thicknesses which solves the small batch issue.
Fine we thought, but what if something goes wrong mid batch? Well, the machine has in-process gauging and correction to compensate for inconsistencies in materials, spring back and the like and we were assured all parts would come out the same.
After many trials, we were convinced and now we’re the ones watching the robot doing the work, just like in the car factories.
Our folding capacity now matches output from the laser for our regular small batch work and we can quote competitively for large batches of complex parts which might otherwise need expensive hard tooling.
In addition, the machine fits in with our general approach in that Solidworks 3D models are used to create all the programs and drawings used for manufacture and any changes are actioned top down through the models which forms the core of our QA system.
If you have parts you think could benefit from this technology, we’d be pleased to give your prices.