By Jerry Bupp, vice-president sales and marketing, National Machinery LLC
Technology can be utilised in various ways and take on various forms. FORMAX® cold forming machines are a good example of how implementing technology can yield impressive results for those that use them for production. We typically think of a machine as different mechanisms and components, but for this technology topic, we’ll look at it from the standpoint of different types of technology applications related to production and operation.
Keeping operators safe Safety is always at the top of the list in any manufacturing plant, and the operator is likely the most important resource. FORMAX® machines have guarding, an enclosure and redundant safeties as standard. The die area is protected by both a gear jamming segment physically and a control switch electronically. What is another great way to ensure safety? Keep the operator out of the die area as much as possible! ‘On the fly’ adjustments of the kickout and feed mechanisms are not just convenient for production, but they also keep the operator away from harm. Taking it another step further, on FORMAX® XXV, a robot can be used to switch out die cassettes, punch cassettes, IFO camshaft, transfer cassette and the cutter/quill cassette. The robot literally does the heavy lifting, so the operator doesn’t have to handle those components. The robot can also ‘present’ the tooling to the operator, so they don’t have to physically reach into the die area. This mode allows them to inspect or repair a tooling component in a safe manner. Finally, another key advantage of the FORMAX® concept is the Formapak off-line set-up with external fixtures, which is not just efficient for production but also keeps the operator out of the machine for job change set-ups. The set-up fixture is a more ergonomic way for the operator to setup the next job, rather than reaching into the die area, all while keeping the machine running. These are all examples of how FORMAX® does the best job of keeping the operator safe.
Workforce recruiting and retention Hiring and keeping workers is a global issue. Being able to show a prospective operator a clean and organised facility that utilises modern equipment is beneficial. The use of FORMAX® and its large, high resolution touchscreen operator interface, which has all the right information that is needed for operation and maintenance, speaks to the next generation of operators. Operators are also given alerts about the function of the machine, along with additional data on the machine and production via the Industry 4.0 features. Sensors and automatic detection of machine functions – like fluid pressures, reservoir levels and tooling counters – all help operators do their job more efficiently. The latest analogue devices are utilised, which allow for continuous electrical signals to give ‘real time’ data to operators. All of these technological features help to make for a happy operator that is easier to retain.
More energy efficiency Energy and energy management is a bigger topic than ever before, with the costs of power supplies; the impact on product margins; and even the specific analysis of how much electricity is used to produce a part. Again, FORMAX® is able to provide a solution with its lights now LED for the enclosure and operator station, while the control circuit is 24V DC – all allowing for more energy efficiency. The Digital Machine Positioning option also reduces air and electricity normally consumed while jogging the machine, in addition to reducing operator changeover time. Industry 4.0 and its related technology is also something that is HEADING + FORGING FEATURE Technology is defined as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry. So what could be more practical to those of us in cold forming than technology on the equipment that drives our industry? Hall 1, Stand 1384 FORMAX® XXV using a robot for die operations MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY available as a standard feature, with even more features offered as a special option on FORMAX®. As related to energy, the Industry 4.0 feature includes current and historical usage of both electrical power and compressed air – both being key resources. More importantly, the machine is ‘smart’ in that it analyses device usage and has an ‘auto shutdown’ of idle devices to allow for savings. This includes all air and electrical motors based on a timed setting.
Protection and prediction A full list of operator and maintenance tasks can also be created, along with normal prompts such as warnings or reminders, to ensure those tasks are completed on the machine operator screen. The interface also sends preemptive prompts for items like adding die coolant and it also allows the operator to view the current statuses of different aspects of the FORMAX®, such as machine fluid levels, and it even goes so far as to state the causes for stoppages. Another example is the Punch Clamp Monitor (PCM) option. Sometimes an operator can make a simple mistake and not properly align or tighten the nut on the punch holder. This can result in tooling and machine damage. The solution is PCM, which is designed to give the operator an indication of an improperly clamped punch, utilising a pneumatic flow switch. Additionally, PCM also accommodates the full heading wedge adjustment range, so the machine is protected. Production management
Production management is an Industry 4.0 feature that involves the tracking of the job status, like recalling the setup from the last time a job ran on the machine, which provides efficiency and consistency. This system can also track how many parts have been made in the current lot run and when the predicted completion will be of that lot, so the operator can prepare for the next changeover sequence. As you can see, there are many ways that FORMAX® uses technology to improve production. Contact your local National Machinery representative to learn more or check us out online.