Quick and correct toolset in the press brake leads to more part production by operators.

Press brakes continue to remain a major restriction in manufacturing shops. This matter has become even more acute over the recent ten years due to the intensive application of laser cutters of high flexibility and productivity.

Long set-up for press brakes hinders the quick performance of parts requiring welding, finishing or assembly. This in its turn elongates producing duration threatening timely delivery. It has been estimated that in the USA it takes on average 30 minutes to get every other part prepared after the previous one. The configuration of press brakes remains the main cause of time non-productiveness to complete batches and start new ones after one another.

One solution to the reduction of set-up duration is to organize and implement prompt techniques to get the tooling in or out of the press brake. Still, there exist some other aspects related to the set-up time, like transferring materials to the press brake, the program download of new parts, adjusting the proper specifications for materials. However, no other component can improve the set-up duration more than proper and quick tool location as well as loading in a suitable position.

Herein we are delivering 6 ways of reducing the set-up duration for press brakes and providing longer production processes.

1. Marking and storing of tools.

The quick location of the necessary tooling to shape the new parts is the very 1st thing to do. The tooling bearing the main data marks will simplify the tool selection process. This will reduce the possibility of errors as well. The necessary data advisable to mark on tools include:

  • Part numbers
  • Lengths
  • Angularity
  • Radii
  • Work heights
  • Utmost permissible loads.

Place the tooling near the machine neatly. This will speed up the process to load and unload tools. Accuracy segmented tools are suitable to keep in a multi-drawer cabinet. (Fig.1)  

Fig. 1

Make sure that the tool cabinet bears slot drawers intended to fit punches and dies vertically. Due to this a great number of tools can be kept in storage, besides it provides protection for the tooling.

In order to have tool cases with more accommodation space, the height of drawers must be controllable in accordance with the height of different tools. Tool cabinets have to be moved by fork-lifts or jacks when required to the necessary work-station. In terms of security, cabinets must bear locks as well as protective systems allowing just one of the drawers to open at a time to prevent them from heavyweights or being tipped over.

2. Storage of Big-sized and Heavy Tooling.

Tools of big sizes are not suitable to keep in the tool cases, for they cannot be lifted because of heaviness. 

The latest press brakes are mounted with tool storages for big-sized tooling. (Fig.2) They might bear loading and unloading arms enabling the tooling to level off the top and bottom tool-holders upon the press brake, allowing every heavy punch or die to be set in and out promptly, easily and completely.

boost press brake productivity
Fig. 2

3. Maintaining of Tools

The maintenance of tools implies keeping them in the most possible perfect state. It is not reasonable to decide on stained tooling unsuitable to use for steel processing and to later interrupt the working process. Every single tool should be in fine condition and at hand to be used at a proper time.

Nowadays hardening tools protect the tooling against wear-out maintaining their precision over the entire service life if necessary measures are taken. Storing tools properly is crucial for further performance. It is not recommended to store tools on ordinary open shelves for the tools that might get rusted and deteriorated due to the humidity or various chemical substances contained in the wooden shelves. Besides, putting the tools on one another upon shelves might bring to damage because of their close contacts.

Cleaning every single tool at regular intervals is compulsory. It prevents material accumulation, removes the salt and acid caused by the hands of operators. Wipe the tools with a cloth damped in alcohol or oil. You may as well use a particular spray providing strong protection for tooling.

If anyone from the fabrication staff has a higher level of acid in hands, they must work with gloves while dealing with tools not to expose them to rust.

While bending galvanized steels, some material accumulation occurs at the V-shaped die. Thus, it is advisable to use mild abrasives, like Scotch-Brite pads, to remove the build-up.

There are certain types of V-shaped dies with additional coverage, which hinders the accumulation of materials upon the processing surface. All these maintenance measures provide long service life and suitable performance for tools.

4. Loading of Tools.

The appearance of security knobs upon the sectioned accuracy punches allowing prompt upright installation/de-installation of tooling, hydraulic clamp techniques capable of aligning, clamping, seating tools quickly has brought to the reduction of set-up duration in the fabrication process. Similarly, the roller bear mechanism is an optional version that might be integrated into the tang of a heavy punch or die. (See Fig. 3) This technology allows inserting any big or heavy tool in holders and removing them easily.

boost press brake productivity
Fig. 3

5. Tool Positioning.

When several tool settings are required, when performing several bend lengths, it might take a long time for operators to decide on the required tool segment, its place in the press brake as well as the bend succession. Nowadays, clamps and crowning systems provide assistance for operators. So do the lower holders of tools with LED light combined with the machine control. (Fig.4) The LED indicators show the proper initial location of tools and blink to show suitable bending succession. This accelerates the fabrication process and meanwhile decreases the number of defects. 

boost press brake productivity
Fig. 4

The LED light could be used to program some extra functions, like warning operators about possible tools overloading or about the necessity to carry out maintaining operations.

6. Automatic Tool Loading

Automated tool installation/de-installation has become more widespread for semi-automatic and full automated press brakes. Currently, technologies with automated tool change capability are offered by most suppliers. They offer tool carousels, robot arms that choose the right tool and insert it in its location. (Fig. 5) Some use the press brake back gauge to select the tool and insert it in its place, whereas some use tool store items and robots to select and insert the tool in the right place in the press brake.

boost press brake productivity
Fig. 5

Self-adjusting tooling and hydraulic clamps have made the automatic process fast and easy. The latest versions of clamp systems are of pneumatic operation integrated with a self-lock mechanism, which allows quick clamping and unclamping. This makes the new clamps perfect for automatic bend cells. 

With the growth of smart and flexible machines, most tool techniques for press brakes bear smart inbuilt design. (Fig.6) Every punch and every die might be provided with electronic chips containing the essential information on tools, like their type, lengths, heights, radii, and the utmost load. Chips might appear at the front or back sides of tangs. Chips inform operators about the correction of tools, their lengths, their precise positioning in the clamp mechanism.

boost press brake productivity
Fig. 6

The clamp system is mounted with electronic strips to provide all the necessary data on tools and to combine the tools with the machine controls. The identification of tools and inserting techniques provide top automated process and close relation for tools, tool holders and the press brake.

Regardless of the main focuses of fabrication shops, whether it may be the installation or de-installation of tools, the tool storage or complete automated process, the most recent advances should be considered to carry out the tool inventory effectively.

The advances in technologies and proper handling of tools help shops to gain productive bending at the most acceptable intervals possible.