Copyright 2009 Asma LLC
The Cult of the Sacred Box
A printed article
Copyright 2009 Steven D. Benson
What did you pay for that punch and die set? My guess is... plenty! Press brake tooling is not by any stretch of the imagination inexpensive. Okay, so that's not news is it? So what are operators on the floor doing with your investment? Are they getting the most from it? What are your policies toward dedicated tooling? Have you made the decision that dedicated tooling is a worthwhile adventure? If so, have you really thought this entire concept through? What are the costs? Is this really the best option for your press brake department? Will it add to or take away from my bottom line?
Hopefully we can shine a little light on the concept of dedicated press brake tooling and the reality of what it means and what it is that you hope to accomplish though its use.
Regardless of manufacturer a press brake by definition is a machine that is designed for straight line bending in sheet metal or plate. A machine using universal tooling to bend straight lines, in other words short of using stamping press "hard" tooling compound radii and curves along the axis of bend are not possible.
Even though it is somewhat common to find stamping press tooling in
a press brake, the press brake itself is used exclusively to make
Tools are designed for multiple applications
Modern precision press brake tooling comes in either a full length (32.87 inches, 834 mm)* or a sectionalized set of the same length. The sectionalized tools are cut into predetermined lengths making the assembly of just about any length of punch and/or V-die a possibility. Because of this kind of versatility it is rare to need to "cut" a tool to length. It is fair to note that this last statement isn't a 100% true; there will always be an exception to every rule.
All too often sheet metal shops, especially those that are practicing some form of lean manufacturing go to extremes. Taking multipurpose Press Brake tooling and enshrining them in labeled boxes and take them out only when that particular part is to be run.
So what is wrong with this picture?
Now, before we think this idea of dedicated tooling all the way
through, look back a couple of paragraphs to the statement that says
"There will always be
exceptions"; machined, modified or otherwise customized. That
being true, it will be necessary to store some tools in their own
dedicated boxes; but this should be the exception to the rule.
As I have already stated, that because of the way the tools are designed almost every possible tool length can be pieced together from these full or sectionalized sets. Take a few pieces of these tool sets and enshrine them in boxes; now what do you have? Not Enough Tooling! The daily reality then becomes, not having enough press brake tooling to complete other jobs, your products are on hold and your operators are standing around trying to figure out how to build the next part, because there’s not enough tooling. Of course purchasing more tooling that is always an option... but is that where you want your money to go?
It means tying up company profits in excess tooling while the dedicated tool collects dust in a box. Just consider waste shown in figure #1.
Boxes of dedicated tooling
Open your mind and your boxes
It's the way the tools are used that makes the difference. Not only can you Air-form, bottom bend or coin with the same set of tools you can also form various material types, each with different amounts springback. Forming with punch and V-die combinations that at first you might not think would work. It is all about how the tools are applied to the task at hand, understanding of processes and being sure that you have enough tooling to accomplish the task.
It's hard enough to make a profit in the precision sheet metal industry as it is. Why then take universal press brake tooling and relegate it to a box on a storage rack? Wouldn’t you rather have a skilled craftsmen producing product with it? It's a good question, with a simple answer.
More than one well established manufacturer has ended up defeated, boxed up and shelved themselves, in part because of the misapplication of universal tooling. Dedicating tooling in your press brake operation doesn't mean emaciating your forming department or your budget.
* As a way to keep the cost of a "precision ground" tools
competitively priced with planed press brake tooling, the maximum
length of a precision ground tool is 32.87 -inches (835mm). It’s not
that planed tooling can’t be made to the same tolerance as precision
ground, it would just cost too much.