26 March 2007

LVD's Easy-Form® laser press brakes

Two leading laser subcontractors have increased their productivity, reduced inspection requirements and improved material utilisation on formed parts by using LVD Easy-Form® Laser press brakes.

The Easy-Form® Laser system monitors bend process in real time – using a non-contact laser method –making corrections as the parts are being formed to ensure that the bend angle in every one is correct; thereby overcoming the effect of variations in material properties and the need for careful checking of sheets and positioning of parts.

Leicester-based SMF runs a 6kW laser producing components that are primarily destined for retail point-of-sale displays. Batches may run into the thousands, but are more commonly between 30 and 100-off and turnaround times are generally no more than a couple of days. Thay have two LVD PPEB Turbo press brakes, one with a 2.5m bed and one with a 3m bed, and both fitted with the Easy-Form® Laser system.

SMF's Managing Director Steve Morrison says he chose the LVD press brakes for their speed of setup, operating speed and the capabilities of the Easy-Form® Laser system.

"Small batch quantities can be made from all different off-cuts, and we aren't throwing valuable material in the bin. The grain orientation could be anywhere but it isn't an issue. The thickness variation we get is ridiculous – material that is supposed to be 1.5mm could be 1.44mm, 1.46mm or even occasionally 1.51mm, and we don't know the tensile strength – the variables are unknown. The Easy-Form® allows you to fold to an accurate part very quickly – it's a major assist in one-off setups. If we can use up all the off-cuts it's good for the customer because we don't have to add a percentage to the price for wastage – and because it is right first time we don't have to allow for scrap on setup."

Another big advantage of the system is the ability to use a three-point scan to ensure that the bend angle is correct along the full length of a long component. This relies on the capabilities of LVD's Turbo system to hold the ram at a fixed point while the bend angle is checked at the left-hand side, right-hand side and the centre of the component. The machine then automatically adjusts the crowning of the bed and the relative position of the two hydraulic rams to ensure that the bend angle is consistent and correct along the length of the part.

Overall, says Steve, the combination of quick set up, bending speed and the Easy-Form® Laser means that throughput is a lot quicker and the investment proves its worth.

"There are a lot of people out there who won't pay £100,000 for a machine, but have three similar press brakes with three chaps operating them that are going to cost more than the depreciation on the machine. If you've only got three or four parts and it takes you two hours and it takes me 30 minutes I can charge £40 an hour instead of £20 and still be half the price."

Where SMF has taken advantage of the Easy-Form® Laser's capabilities on small batches, 5750 Components is seeing the benefits on medium-to-large runs.

5750 has always tried to offer the customer something a bit above and beyond the norm, running the highest power lasers available to allow it to cut thicker material in large sizes, and investing in large and powerful bending capability to complement it.

It bought its first LVD 4m press brake about seven years ago, and has just installed a 220-tonne Easy-Form® Laser machine with a 4.2 m bed that can bend 6mm parts up to that length and up to 15mm on shorter components.

"We do a lot of sheet metal, but the real market for lasers is plate, which is why we bought a large tonnage press brake," says 5750's Andy Murphy. "The bulk of what we process is 4mm to 13mm thick, and most of that will be bent up. Our philosophy has always been to buy the best equipment and stay at the leading edge.

"We have always gone for the most productive machines and that is what led us to buy the Easy-Form® Laser press brake. Even on the simplest components the Easy-Form® Laser eliminates the need for constant checking. It means we get quality assured parts every time and boosts our productivity."

He says that particularly on higher volume jobs there is a problem of material variation, and even the same batch will contain material with different strengths and thicknesses. But, he says, the Easy-Form® Laser eliminates the need to worry about it and increases 5750's ability to dynamically nest parts on the plate in the most efficient way because the rolling direction doesn't matter.

"We get better sheet utilisation, so we can make parts more quickly and improve our productivity. On top of everything else, I like the fact that it uses a laser. The success of the company was built on lasers, and LVD's laser is making our other lasers more productive."

Contact: Chris Phillips

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