Punching up productivity: adding a new punch press was the catalyst for modernization at a precision sheet metal shop.
"Our people add the art of manufacturing to the science of metal work," John Thwaites, company president, said. "The value we can provide our customers is a result of our continuous innovation in manufacturing."
Wesgar has a reputation for quality products and customer service earned during its 42 years of operation. Its customers include electronics, power supply, telecommunications, medical, environmental control, and radio frequency industries in markets throughout Canada, Europe, the U.S., and Mexico.
In its early days, Wesgar manufactured traditional industrial products, but evolved into a precision sheet metal fabricator with 135 employees housed in a 75,000 [ft.sup.2] facility. In 2000, the company's sheet metal fabrication capability was three stand-alone mechanical turret punch presses. Wesgar management decided it was time for a change in both its manufacturing philosophy and equipment. A technical team was organized to search for fabrication equipment that would meet Wesgar's needs.
"We wanted to increase our capacity, efficiency, and quality," Thwaites said.
The Wesgar team chose the F6 Express Flexible Manufacturing Unit--FMU--from Finn-Power, Arlington Heights, IL. The F6 Express FMU loads full-sized sheets onto the table of the turret punch press, punches and forms the sheet metal, and then unloads the fabricated sheet. The F6 Express increased Wesgar's productivity by increasing throughput volume by 50 percent with less than half the people. Running full-sized sheets also decreased shearing and material handling.
By mid-2004, Wesgar was ready to replace its two remaining mechanical turret punch presses with Finn-Power equipment.
"It was time to add capacity, tighten up tolerances, and consolidate programming software and tooling," Thwaites said. "Running two types of OEM punching technology was not an efficient way to run the plant."
Another technical team was formed. Its goal wasn't selecting an equipment builder, instead its task was to review production requirements, the current customer base, and what current and future fabrication processes would be.
"We selected Finn-Power as the equipment OEM," Thwaites said, "but, we had to decide what type of punching product we needed within the Finn-Power family."
By staying with the one manufacturer, Wesgar simplified operator training so all of its operators could run all of the turret punch presses.
According to L. Keith Day, Wesgar's chief operating officer, after months of self-examination, which included Lean Manufacturing training from an outside consultant, the company found that its current needs were not in the area of high-volume punching.
"At that time," Day said, "we discovered that about two-thirds of the jobs required just one or two blanks. We found that we needed a more flexible, smaller machine for both short runs and the occasional large volume jobs, as well as forming capabilities.
"While we were pleased with the F6 Express, we were running 80 percent of our volume on one machine. We wanted to spread this work over three machines with shared tooling and programming."
Quality and Capacity Improvements
Having the three machines would let Wesgar insert rush jobs without disrupting the production schedule, and provide quick turnaround on customer prototypes.
In mid-2004, Wesgar purchased two Finn-Power C5 hydraulic turret punch presses. The 20-station, 33-ton C5 hydraulic turret punch presses. The 20-station, 22-ton C5 hydraulic turret punch press has a maximum sheet capacity of 50"xl00" and is available with either Siemens or Fanuc controls.
According to Thwaites, the two Finn-Power C5 turret punch presses provided Wesgar with incremental capacity and higher quality. However, by 2006 the company's growth and new contracts soon created a need for additional fabrication equipment.
"We'd been growing 15 percent a year for eight years," Thwaites said. "At the time, a number of large contracts were coming in and we began discussions about further automating our fabrication process."
A third technical team was formed and chose the Finn-Power Shear Genius Flexible Manufacturing Cell, which was installed in October 2006.
The Shear Genius provides one machine capable of transforming a full-sized sheet into finished parts. These parts can be moved to final production stages for integration into final product assemblies. It accomplishes this in a compact floor space to fabricate raw material into finished parts on one machine. As loading, punching, and shearing of parts become automated, the result is finished parts with reduced scrap, less manual labor, and increased profitability.
Shear Genius performs jobs with minimal setup times and works in lights-out operations. It offers material productivity through nesting programs.
Cutting the Backlog
"When the unit was installed we had a significant backlog," Thwaites said. "We were anxious to get it running. Our expectations were that it would be a workhorse with a lot of capacity and capability. Every day counted to get it on line. The installers worked around the clock and had it running in four days."
Its ease of operation didn't compromise the cell's per-minute part production, flexibility, or ability to fabricate complex parts. On average, it reduced total manufacturing time by 60 percent and saved one blank sheet for every 10 processed.
"I was skeptical about this sheet use benefit," Day said. "We did an analysis of parts we used to do on the other machines that were converted to the Shear Genius, and in all cases we are getting 10 to 15 percent more parts per sheet."
Labor savings was also an important consideration in selecting the unit.
"The lack of qualified manpower in the Vancouver area was a factor in choosing the machine," Thwaites said. "But, as important was eliminating parts shakeout, deburring, and other processes.
"Even if manpower wasn't an issue, to be competitive, we have to minimize or eliminate non-value-added processes."
Tooling flexibility is also important to Wesgar. Up to 10 auto-index and Multi-Tool holders may be installed in a turret. Wesgar has four Multi-Tool cassettes in the Shear Genius and both C5 turret punch presses-two 24-stations, one 10-station, and an eight-station. Wesgar also has four full tonnage auto-index stations and two indexable upforming stations in each of these turrets.
Full tonnage indexable upforming of the C5 turret punch press allows complex forming operations using a single forming tool. An index mechanism is used to turn the forming tool into an NC programmed angle.
A "Knock-out" Performance
The manufacturer's upforming feature provides a process for knockouts, louvers, and other forming, and resolved the problem of the die height impeding free sheet movement. The design allows forming heights up to 0.62" with the forms made by the die moving upwards and then retracting, permitting free sheet movement while eliminating scratched or jammed sheets.
With the cosmetic requirements of its customers, Wesgar purchased the vacuum slug remover option along with the Multi-Tools and the solid one-piece stripper plates and the brush tables in order to reduce part marking to a minimum.
Wesgar is no stranger to technology investment. In 2006 the company spent $2.25 million for new equipment such as the press, two robotic welders, a hardware inserting machine, a press brake, a cold forming machine, a deburring machine, as well as expanding into the new facility.
"The Shear Genius gave us so much more extra capacity that we were able to take one of the C5 turret punch presses offline and set up a prototype shop, which is helping us to get parts to customers and providing a quick turnaround time," Day said. Finn-Power
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When Tiny Holes are Needed
MicroPunching systems provide dust-free punching of micro-holes--as small as 0.020". The modules feature hardened matched metal rotary tool technology for precision, long service intervals, production speeds of up to 250 fpm, and a web width of 2.5" and wider, depending on the application. Available die and anvil materials range from D2 to tungsten carbide. Depending on the web width, a cantilevered design is available for accessibility to simplify roll changes. Controls are easy to reach. Mechanical or servo drives are available, as are turnkey off-line punching solutions. Systems are either web or servo driven. Rotary matched hardened metal punching tools for precisely sized holes can be retrofitted into most web processing machines. Schober USA, Cincinnati, OH
Quick Scrap Evacuation
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Touch Screen Brake Control
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A Press for Small, Precision Work
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