12 April 2011

Panel bender clears the air at Mitsubishi Electric P4X helps air conditioning specialist diversify

A leading manufacturer of air conditioning systems has installed the latest fully automated P4X panel bender from Salvagnini. The decision was made after tests on a press brake proved it would be difficult to handle new larger-than-typical panels without damaging the pre-coated steel blanks.
Livingston-based Mitsubishi Electric Air Conditioning Systems Europe Ltd is an established leader in its field, but recent diversification into other systems such as heating and water has introduced new challenges to the company’s proven fabrication processes.

“We had to come up with a manufacturing solution for a heat pump designed for a new product line,” explains production engineer, Ian Hamilton. “The panels were larger than we would normally fabricate and we thought long and hard about subcontracting, but because the steel is pre-coated we were very mindful of the potential for transport damage.”

As an existing user of press brake technology, the company subsequently examined potential ways of making the parts in-house. However, the size once again proved the problem, with a certain amount of panel damage almost inevitable.

“I had read about panel bending technology in various trade magazines and subsequently requested information on a couple of leading models,” says Mr Hamilton. “We found the Salvagnini P4X had more functionality and was less expensive than the other machine we considered. Furthermore, Salvagnini were very willing for me to visit a couple of existing users. I like this approach as I think it’s important to talk directly to end users rather simply taking the word of the machine supplier. We also went to Salvagnini in Austria to undertake time study trials.”

The bending operation on a Salvagnini P4X panel bender is much safer than using a press brake as the sheet is not moving up and down; this also means bends can be completed in a fraction of the time needed by a press brake. Furthermore, the machine was offered to Mitsubishi EACSE with the auto-blank holder to provide zero set-up time – important because the panels are likely to be made in small batch sizes.

Salvagnini’s compact HPT load/unload system also aids the efficient processing of small batches. Here, a motorised scissor table equipped with a mobile table cover and a pack reference system is able to feed sheet metal packs. A conveyor de-stacker permits sheets to be picked up from one or two packs of sheet metal, feeding the panel bender in masked time, i.e. during the working cycle of the machine.

“We concluded the P4X could process the steel panels quickly, efficiently and most importantly, without any damage to the coating or the need for protective film,” says Mr Hamilton. “This is no mean feat considering the 20µm thick powder coat is very susceptible to knocks and scratches.”
With the panels for the heat pump measuring up to 1.6m in length, each contains a series of complex bends. However, Mr Hamilton says any applications queries have been dealt with swiftly by Salvagnini’s comprehensive support team.

Initially the Salvagnini P4X panel bender will be dedicated to making panels for the new product line, with quantities potentially quite high according to initial demand figures. The new Mitsubishi heaters take heat from the surrounding ambient air to heat domestic and commercial premises. It’s a new, exciting and very eco-friendly solution which is creating a lot of interest throughout Europe.

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