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Key design principles for successful deep

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer
May 30, 2001

Successful deep drawing depends on many factors. Ignoring even one of them during die
design and build can prove disastrous.

Successful deep drawing depends on many factors. Ignoring even one of them during die
design and build can prove disastrous. However, regardless of the many factors involved,
the most important element to a successful deep drawing operation is initiating metal
flow. The following are key elements affecting metal flow, and each of them should be
considered when designing, building, or troubleshooting deep drawing stamping dies:

1. Material type
2. Material thickness
3. N and R values
4. Blank size and shape
5. Part geometry
6. Press speed (ram speed)
7. Draw radii
8. Draw ratio
9. Die surface finish
10. Die temperature
11. Lubricant
12. Draw bead height and shape
13. Binder pressure
14. Binder deflection
15. Standoff height

Because thicker materials are stiffer, they hold together better during deep drawing.
Thicker materials also have more volume, so they can stretch longer distances.

The N value, also called the work hardening exponent, describes the ability of a steel to
stretch. The R value—the plastic strain ratio—refers to the ability of a material to flow or
draw. Blank sizes and shapes that are too large can restrict metal flow, and the geometry
of parts affects the ability of metal to flow. Press speeds must allow time for materials to

Die surface finishes and lubricants are important because they can reduce the coefficient
of friction, allowing materials to slide through tools more easily. Die temperatures can
affect the viscosity of lubricants.

As a controller of metal flow, draw bead height and shape can cause materials to bend
and unbend to create restrictive forces going into a tool. Increasing binder pressure exerts
more force on a material, creating more restraint on material going into the tool.

The remaining key elements affecting metal flow are examined in more detail in the
remainder of this article. To illustrate the principles of metal flow, this article examines
two basic draw shapes, round and square. All deformation modes that occur in any given
part shape are present in one of these common shapes.

Figure 1
In the illustration of incorrect draw ratio (L), the too-small post would cause metal to thin
to the point of failure, while the correct draw ratio (R) will result in a successfully deep
drawn part.

The draw ratio is among the most important elements to be considered when attempting
to deep draw a round cup. The draw ratio is the relationship between the size of the draw
post and the size of the blank. The draw ratio must fall within acceptable limits to allow
metal to flow.

During forming, a blank is forced into circumferential compression, which creates a

resistance to flow. If the resistance is too great, the cup fractures. If the post is too small
or too far from the blank edge, the metal stretches and thins to the point of failure. If the
post is the appropriate distance from the blank edge, and the die entry radius is
acceptable, the metal can flow freely, progressively thickening as it enters the die cavity
(see Figure 1).

When a very tall small-diameter part is being processed, draw reductions likely will be
necessary (see Figure 2). A draw reduction is a process in which a part is first formed
within acceptable draw ratio limits and then is progressively reduced or reshaped to a
desired shape and profile.

Figure 2
Reduction percentages for various thicknesses of draw-quality steel.

The most important factor to remember when performing draw reductions is that all of
the material necessary to make the final part shape must be present in the first draw.
Figure 3 is a reduction chart for the first, second, and third draws with draw-quality steel.
Reduction percentages are based on metal thickness and type.

To determine the post diameter and height of the first draw, the total surface area of the
finished part must be calculated. (If the part is to be trimmed, allow additional material
during this calculation.) The calculated surface area is then converted into a flat blank

Figure 3
During draw reductions, the blank diameter should not change after the first draw.

The primary step in calculating the first draw post diameter is determining the blank
diameter. Multiplying the blank diameter by the percentage given in the chart, and then
subtracting the result from the original blank diameter, yields the diameter of the first
draw post. It is important to remember that all dimensions are taken through the

centerline of the material. The height of the first draw is an area calculation directly
related to the amount of material necessary to make the finished part.

Die Entry Radii

Other important factors for successful deep drawing are the size, accuracy, and surface
finish of the die entry radius. Decisions regarding the die entry radius should be based on
material type and thickness.

If a die entry radius is too small, material will not flow easily, resulting in stretching and,
most likely, fracturing of the cup. If a die entry radius is too large, particularly when deep
drawing thin-gauge stock, material begins to wrinkle after it leaves the pinch point
between the draw ring surface and the binder. If wrinkling is severe, it may restrict flow
when the material is pulled through the die entry radius.

Figure 4
Minimum die entry radii are shown in this chart for round draws involving various
thicknesses of draw-quality steel.

Figure 4 provides general guidelines for die entry radii for round draws of draw-quality
steel ranging in diameters from about 1.5 to 15 inches.

The die entry must be produced accurately in a fashion that makes it true and complete. It
should be hook-free and polished in the direction of flow. High-wear tool steel should be
used for die entry radii.

Binder Pressure

Sufficient binder pressure must be present to control metal flow. If binder pressure is
inadequate, the material wrinkles during compression. The wrinkles then cause the binder
to further separate from the draw ring surface, and control of the material will be lost.
Wrinkles will also be forced to unwrinkle when the material is squeezed between the post
and the cavity walls. This can pull metal on the top of the cup and result in fracture.

The problem of too much binder pressure can be overcome by using standoffs. Standoffs
maintain a given space between the draw ring surface and the binder, and they should be
set at 110 percent of the metal thickness to allow for compressive thickening. If the
standoff gap is too small, the material will be pinched tightly between the draw ring and
the binder surface, reducing its ability to flow freely. If the standoff gap is too large, the
material will wrinkle during circumferential compression.

The recommended binder pressure for round draws of low-carbon draw-quality steel is
600 pounds per lineal inch around the post (draw post diameter x 3.141). For high-
strength, low-alloy, and stainless steels, 1,800 pounds of pressure per lineal inch should
be used.

Other guidelines to remember when the processing draw reductions are:

1. Design open-ended draw cavities for draw depth adjustment.

2. Once the proper draw ratio is achieved, metal will flow and the part can be drawn
partially or completely off the binder.
3. After the first draw, the blank diameter should not change. (See Figure 3).

Square Draws

Figure 5

Square draws are similar to round draws because they contain four 90-degree profile
radii. Because of the radial corner profile, material flowing toward the corners is forced
into compression. The straight sections of the square are simply being bent and unbent.

Considerably less flow restriction takes place in the straight walls of a square draw than
in the corners (see Figure 5).

Increasing the profile radius of the draw greatly increases the ability to draw deeper in a
single operation (see Figure 6) because a larger-profile radius reduces compression. Too
much compression in a corner restricts metal flow, resulting in fracture.

Increasing the profile radius and reducing the blank size reduce forming severity.
Mitering the corners of the blank also can help to reduce compression.

To help balance metal flow conditions during square draws involving heavy metals, it
may be necessary to draw spot the corner areas of the binder or draw ring face with
respect to the increasing material thickness. This process allows metal to thicken in
corners without being pinched excessively between the draw ring and the binder.

Figure 6

If a proper draw spot is achieved, blank holding force is evenly distributed through the perimeter of the
drawn shell. When thin metal is used, draw spotting the corners may cause undesirable wrinkling in the
relieved areas. This results primarily from a lack of control of the metal flow and the inability of thin stock
to resist wrinkling.

If the square drawn shell is too tall to be drawn in a single operation, it must undergo a draw reduction. As
with round draws, all material necessary to make the final part must be present in the first draw. Draw
reductions for square shells are achieved by increasing the profile radius to acceptable compression limits
and increasing the width and length to obtain the necessary surface area of the finished part.

Other guidelines to follow when drawing square shells include:

1. Use the minimum blank size required to make the part.

2. Use standoffs to control metal flow, not binder pressure.
3. To redraw a square shell, increase the width, length, and profile radius of the first draw to contain
the necessary surface area of the final part geometry.

Successful deep drawing is a combination of many important factors. This article highlights only the most
frequently violated design and build principles. Although designing and building deep draw dies is fast
becoming a science, the fundamental metal flow principles should never be ignored, for they are the
foundations of a successful deep drawing operation.

TPJ - The Tube & Pipe Journal®

Automatic or manual?
Automation doesn’t solve process problems. People do.
By Bob Want
October 9, 2007

Whether it is as simple as a single CNC tube bender loaded by a robot or as complex as a

fully automated line that turns raw coil into a finished and packaged bent tubular product,
automated workcells have made their way into nearly every manufacturing theater. Once
limited to the automotive industry with its ultrahigh production volumes, automated cells
now are found in any industry in which the production rate is a "make or break" aspect of
cost-effective manufacturing. As raw material costs and labor costs continue to rise and
cutthroat competition forces prices down, automated cells are being used to produce more
complex workpieces than ever before.

Trials abound. The demand for higher production comes with an inherent requirement
that the process runs nearly continuously. Automation in a tube bending cell must be
well-planned and well-executed simply to bring the project to a successful launch. Once
the workcell is up and running, the maintenance staff must keep it running for two or
three shifts a day, six to seven days a week—and that's another challenge entirely.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Successful tube bending is possible only after analyzing the application and matching the
application to the proper techniques, machinery, and tooling. If the application is
borderline—that is, just barely successful—when accomplished manually, no amount of
automation will make it more successful. In other words, automation doesn't reduce
problems; it merely increases the output. If a manual process has a 10 percent scrap rate,

under the best conditions a similar automated process has a 10 percent scrap rate.
Debugging and simplifying the manufacturing process before automating it is critical.

Taken as a stand-alone operation, tube bending is itself a juggle of changing variables. To

simplify this facet of workcell planning, initial considerations must include:

• Raw material ductility. Does the tube bend to the desired radius without
fracturing? If the material does not have enough elongation, consider increasing
the bend radius or using an alternate material, alloy, or temper.

Also commonly overlooked is raw material consistency. It is absolutely essential

that all the tube's properties—the chemical, mechanical, and physical
characteristics—be consistent from lot to lot. Make certain from the start that the
material selected is toleranced to optimize production, rather than a variable that
makes steady, consistent production impossible.

• Bent part configuration. Does the application require more than one bender? Left-
handed, right-handed, or both? How many bends are in the part? Does the
workpiece have a sufficient length of straight tube between bends, or does it
require gripping a bent section to produce the next bend? If so, the application
requires stacked tooling. How many stacked sets does it need?
• Bend severity and die tooling selection. Does the application need complete die
sets, including internal ball mandrels and wiper dies? Adding one or both of these
tools makes bending much more complicated. These tools are in constant friction
with the workpiece, so they must be lubricated. They must be set and adjusted
properly, and maintained that way. They also must be changed quickly for
maximum production efficiency.

Many tooling design techniques can help meet production demands, but the
tooling must be as simple as possible, especially in a high-production-volume
environment. Don't throw more technology (and complications) at the application
than necessary.

• Bending machine selection. Simply stated, specify at least enough bender capacity
to get the job done. If the workcell is expected to run close to 24/7, make
accommodations for all manufacturers' preventive maintenance recommendations.
Don't simply follow them. Exceed them. Ignoring routine maintenance guarantees
trouble when (that is when, not if) the cell goes down. With regard to
maintenance, the degree of neglect and the mean time between failure are
inversely proportional.

In applications that require several die stacks, make certain that the machine is
rigid enough to keep all the die sets in proper alignment. This often requires
overhead tie bar supports for the bend die stack. While offering more strength and
support, these tie bars also can interfere with some bent tube configurations. Be

certain that you and the machine manufacturer understand the requirements of the
proposed bent part.

With regard to several stacked wiper dies, remember that these fragile tools must
be held in their proper positions securely. Otherwise they will not last or work
effectively. It is often necessary to have a custom wiper bracket (holder) made to
keep wiper dies secured and aligned properly and thus achieve acceptable die life
and greater productivity.

• Acceptance criteria. Set a benchmark standard for tube acceptance before

attempting to calculate the production rate of the automated cell. Criteria must
include all aspects from processing raw strip to packaging finished parts. Because
each operation hinges on the successful completion of the previous one, every
operation must have a reasonable and repeatable go/no-go attribute or tolerance
that can (and will) be monitored. Regardless of how this is done—visually, with
fixtures, or with sophisticated coordinate measuring equipment—the fact is that
all aspects of the process must have some periodic inspection. Other-wise
troubleshooting will be impossible.

This also prevents manufacturing scrap. Empowering the operators to verify part
conformance frequently throughout the manufacturing process enables them to
troubleshoot the process when they discover nonconforming parts. Doing so
efficiently is a matter of checking parts randomly and frequently while they are
being manufactured, not after they are finished.

• Above all, keep it simple.


A complete set of rotary draw bender tooling includes a bend die, clamp die, pressure die,
wiper die, and mandrel. Understanding the role of each and how each interacts with the
others is a crucial first step in troubleshooting bending problems.

Synchronize the Workcell's Operations

Because tube bending generally is the nucleus of a workcell, the other processes must be
synchronized to this process. Determine the optimal cycle time for bending, and adjust
the loader speed accordingly. If the cell involves a shear that cuts the tube or, in an
extreme case, a tube mill that produces the tube, these operations must be timed so the
bender is neither over- nor underfed.

Be aware that the overall speed of the automated cell or line must be based on the fastest
tolerable cycle of the slowest operation of the cell. Also be aware that timing is nothing
without debugging. Set up and troubleshoot every operation individually before
attempting to integrate them in an automated process.

Launch the Cell

Sophisticated animation software can facilitate placing and integrating every piece of
equipment in the workcell. Most work flow problems and equipment collisions are
caught in the programming stage. However, in the real world it can take some time and
program tweaking to achieve the mechanized ballet we strive for in a workcell. When the
optimal cycle times are dialed in and benchmarks set for speed and other acceptance
parameters, the next critical phase of the start-up begins.

Train the Operating and Maintenance Crews. Procedures for operations and maintenance
training vary considerably from company to company. Some companies have three
separate groups—one for tooling setup, a second for machine maintenance, and a third
that operates the cell and monitors production. Considering the cell is likely intended to
operate for two to three shifts per day, seven days a week, it is obvious that consistent
output among all shifts requires consistent training among all personnel.

Without maintenance training, equipment operators can do nothing more to solve bending
problems than find the few knowledgeable troubleshooting personnel and inform them of
the problem. Likewise, the tooling setup staff's responses to problems can be limited.
"Let's replace the tooling!" is a fast, easy, yet ineffective response if the trouble starts

Ideally, all personnel receive the same training and a set of written procedures so that
everyone learns a single approach to troubleshooting.

Keep Accurate, Thorough Records. Equally important—and harder to implement—is an

accurate method of monitoring uptime and downtime, cycle speeds, scrap rates,
maintenance procedures, tooling settings, and changeovers. This data is necessary for

making informed decisions regarding equipment and tooling condition. Adjusting

procedures based on this information can help minimize downtime and anticipate
catastrophic failure.

Any steps for developing constantly updated (and consistently formatted) records are
valuable. The records themselves are invaluable if they are frequently analyzed and used
for planning preventive maintenance activities.

If nothing else, good recordkeeping prevents running out of consumable tooling items
(wiper dies and mandrels, for example). How many times do you need to run out of $50
wiper tips, causing the multimillion-dollar workcell to shut down and leaving your best
customer stranded, before you realize that you should have a supply of all tooling and a
steady flow of consumable items on recurring blanket orders? Proper documentation
analysis and proactive process implementation are the only ways to prevent consumable

Troubleshoot to the Source

While it is just human nature to rush to get a high-speed workcell or production line up
and running as quickly as possible after a problem arises, it is necessary to trace the cause
of it all the way to its source. Follow the process back to the first step that did not meet
the acceptance criteria. The principal reason for doing this, of course, is to solve the
problem and not merely address the symptom. Allowing the problem to continue
unchecked means it will compound later on. Resolving the problem now also prevents
repeated and excessive downtime later.

If the workcell is a completely automated line, it might involve a tube mill; straightening,
punching, and forming machines; a weld seam detector; a bending machine;
hydroforming press; laser cutting system; welding station; and, of course, a material
handling system. The complexity and speed of such a system means that a small problem
early in the process has the potential to get completely out of hand in the blink of an eye.
Constant quality monitoring and proper and pragmatic problem-solving are not just
advised. They are required.

Bob’s Troubleshooting Tips

Troubleshooting a bending operation is like troubleshooting any other manufacturing
process—keep records, watch for changes, and keep symptoms and causes separate.

Consumables. Pay attention to consumable usage. For example, an increase in wiper tip
reorder frequency is not a problem. More than likely, it is a symptom of a problem.

A wiper die's support comes from the tube groove of the bend die contour. Considering
that the wiper is just 0.003 inch thick at the tip if machined correctly, it is easy to
understand that this tip will conform to the bend die regardless of its condition, new or

worn. If the bend die's groove contour is worn, the wiper tip life will be a fraction of what
it should be. How many tips did you discard last quarter after premature failure? How
many replacement bend die bodies would have prevented this?

Short wiper die life also can indicate that the tooling mounting surfaces are misaligned.
This misalignment, in turn, can be caused by excessive and uneven strain on the bender,
which is a result of excessive bender force. This doesn't just prematurely wear or ruin the
tooling; it has the same effects on the bender itself.

Ovality. Bend ovality, the degree to which the bent tube is out of round, also is a
symptom and also can have one of several causes.

The most common (and generally wrong) step to reduce ovality loss is to replace the balls
on the mandrel and leave it at that. The mandrel, like the wiper tip, is in constant contact
with the workpiece. The bending process develops a tremendous amount of pressure and
wears out the mandrel balls.

While replacing the mandrel balls will improve bend ovality, this isn't necessarily the best
course of action.

If correctly made, a mandrel shank (the cylindrical section the articulated ball-and-link
assembly attaches to) is generally 0.005 in. greater in diameter than the ball segments.
The size difference and the proper placement of the leading corner of the shank (slightly
ahead of the bend tangent) dictate that the shank does the initial forming and bears the
greatest load in the forming process. Generally speaking, if the shank is worn and the
new ball segments are the same diameter as (or larger than) the shank, all the load falls on
the ball-and-link assembly, resulting in premature link failure and mandrel breakage.

How many broken links could have been prevented, and how much downtime would
have been uptime, if this condition were correctly diagnosed in the first place?

These issues with wipers and mandrels are simply two common problems in high-speed
automated workcells. Wipers and mandrels are consumable items, so their premature
wear often is treated lightly. Although they are small, they shouldn't be regarded as
insignificant. A little knowledge and some preventive actions would extend the service
lives of these items and increase the workcell's uptime considerably.

Turning the corner on making doors:

North Carolina company streamlines the
By Linda Baldwin, Contributing Writer
January 10, 2001

A small fabricator North Carolina, family-

owned company manufactures standard and
custom electrical enclosures for the
commercial construction industry and a
growing number of OEMs.

While some fabricators feel the pinch of

today's tightening economy, a small
fabricator in North Carolina has remained
Figure 1: A safety door on the forming
"Production is our restriction. We have many mechanism protects operators using the
opportunities in the market. If we can machine. A foot pedal controls the
produce more, the demand is there," said Jim machine, which will not work unless the
Austin, president of The Austin Company, door is shut completely.
Yadkinville, N.C.

The family-owned company manufactures standard and custom electrical enclosures for
the commercial construction industry and a growing number of OEMs. The company has
doubled its sales and size in the last 10 years.

Although electrical enclosures are in high demand, the low unemployment rate in
Yadkinville and the surrounding area has followed the national downward trend, forcing
Austin to rethink the company's production process.

"With a short supply of qualified workers, we've investigated other ways to increase
throughput. We came to a point where automation was necessary to keep up with
demand," Austin said. "We've been careful to invest in equipment that will quickly reduce
costs and increase production."

Most enclosures made by the company include doors constructed similarly to a shoebox
lid. When analyzing where the next investment would be made, Austin noted the labor-
intensive fabrication of these doors.

"The metal for the lid is sheared, the corners are notched, and the four sides are bent. The
next two steps, manually welding and sanding the seams, were time-consuming. Welding
and grinding are an art; there are inconsistencies in these steps," Austin said.

While corners were labor-intensive and results acceptable but inconsistent, Austin said he
had not identified them as a production problem until he saw a routine sales presentation
for a new product.

"Once we saw it, we made a trip to New Jersey to see a corner-forming machine," he
said. "We also sent samples of our own product so we could see how it would work for

Austin said he had two criteria for bringing a

corner former into his operation: It should reduce
the labor involved in making and finishing
corners, and it should produce a more uniform
door flange.

"I wasn't aware of anyone else who made a

Figure 2: Austin's former can produce
machine that would do this, so once it met my
corners with radii of up to 4 in. The
criteria, we brought it in," he said. He purchased
thickness of the materials can range
CIMID's ACF Multiflex automatic corner
from 8 to 22 ga. Bend-up height
depends on material thickness and
bend radius.
"It makes uniform corners in three steps instead
of five," he said. "It was the next logical step in automating our production."

Forming Door Corners

In the new process, operators form a part using standard press brake procedures, except
for the bottom V die. They machine a relief on the bottom V die for the left side and the
right side of the part. This relief produces a flare at the corner, instead of a 90-degree
angle. They then take the part to the corner former and place it on top of a base block that
has the same radius as the press brake and the expected corner.

In its turn, the corner former pulls extra material below the edge of the panel side. This
material, which the machine shears off immediately after forming, is the difference
between the maximum bend-up height and the minimum bend-up height. The machine
then repeats this process for the remaining three corners.

"The corner former has substantially reduced labor costs associated with fabricating
doors," Austin said. "The same operator does the bending and the corner forming in about
one minute per part. Now we can shift employees to ease welding and grinding
bottlenecks in other areas of the company."

In addition, corner forming eliminates the need for stacking to weld and restacking to
grind. The part does not need to be transported to the welding department and then again
to the grinding department. Operators move the part once to the corner former.

"The sheets for doors and tops of metal junction boxes can be very large. Material
handling is a big issue," Austin said. "Increasing throughput and controlling labor costs
have resulted from moving parts as little as possible. Using a corner former has also
reduced material costs since there are no abrasives or welding supplies needed."

While the corner former increases production, it is also safer than the traditional welding
and grinding processes. A safety door on the forming mechanism protects operators using
the machine. A foot pedal controls the machine (see Figure 1), which will not work

unless the door is shut completely. In addition, corner forming eliminates welding fumes,
grinding dust, and the noise from grinding.

Forming Options

Austin's former can produce corners with radii of up to 4 in. The thickness of the
materials can range from 8 to 22 ga. Bend-up heights depend on material thickness and
bend radii (see Figure 2). His machine can handle corners with multiple bend heights,
reverse or return flanges, and bull noses.

Because enclosures are mostly of the familiar shoebox lid configuration, Austin's corner
former gives him the option to consider other markets in the future, such as trays,
furniture, shelving, oven doors, food service equipment, traffic signs, all types of
coversâ??anything that has sheet metal corners that are welded and ground.

The corner former has no limitations on the size of the panels it can accept, because only
the corner is placed into the machine.

Using a corner former has given Austin flexibility in operating his production line. With
one set of tooling, his operators can form four different thicknesses of material in all
alloys and in all bend-up heights. Changing tooling to accommodate different radii takes
them five minutes, according to Austin.

"This technology has streamlined our door fabricating process," Austin said. "Growing
our business undoubtedly means future investments in other automated equipment."

Pumping up productivity on older press

Increasing productivity with
advanced tooling, clamping,
crowning systems
By David Bishop, Contributing Writer
June 8, 2004

In recent years faster, more efficient cutting and

blanking methods have emerged. However, these
cutting efficiencies and corresponding increases in
productivity have not always been met with similar
increases in press brake productivity. Consequently,
this has created a need to find new ways to improve
press brake process productivity.

Tall gooseneck punches can bend

deep parts and parts with
complicated bend sequences.

Once a press brake has been installed, methods to improve its functionality to increase
bending capacity may be limited; therefore, you might consider purchasing more press
brakes, but that will require more floor space and more operators. An alternative for
improving press brake productivity and eliminating the bottleneck may be with more
advanced tooling, antideflection (crowning) systems, and clamping systems.

Tooling Systems

In the past when bottom bending and coining were the only options, it was common for
press brake owners to accumulate large inventories of press brake tooling. However, the
advent of CNC press brakes, precision-ground segmented tooling, and precision air
bending has made it possible to form more materials and part configurations with fewer

The two most versatile punch types for air bending applications are acute-angle punches
and gooseneck punches (see introductory image).

Gooseneck punches allow you to form deep channels, boxes, and other parts with long
return flanges. Gooseneck punches with a tip angle of 88 degrees or less can help you
deal effectively with springback.

Acute-angle punches allow you to bend almost any angle. They can be used to create the
acute bend required for hemming applications.

When produced from high-strength alloy steel and properly heat-treated, both punch
styles are fairly strong and bend a range of material types and thicknesses. Generally, the
taller a punch is, the more versatile it is. The flexibility these two punch styles provide
normally results in fewer punch changes. Consequently, less time is needed for setup, and
productivity will increase.

Although the angle of the V opening on the die must match the angle of the punch tip in
bottom bending and coining operations, this is not necessary with air bending, because
the final bend angle is determined by the penetration of the punch into the die. For
example, you can use acute-angle punches with a 28-degree tip and gooseneck punches
with an 86-degree tip with dies with 30-degree V openings.

This can reduce the total number of dies required to bend 0.036- to 0.135-inch (1.0- to
3.5-mm) mild steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. Be sure to use extra caution to avoid
overpenetrating the die and possibly damaging it when using a die that has a V opening
with an included angle that is less than that of the punch tip.

When selecting a die, consider its overall working height. Tall dies are flexible and allow
you to bend parts with long down flanges (see Figure 1). Short dies normally are less
expensive and consume less open height.

Because single-V dies are narrower than the 2-V dies common with most European-style
tooling systems, they are less likely to interfere with parts with a complicated bend

In addition, single-V dies normally are designed with a common tang, so that a full range
of dies can be used in a single die holder or antideflection device (crowning system). This
reduces setup time because it eliminates the need to utilize multiple die holders to
accommodate multiple die designs.

Durability. Tooling durability is an important

consideration. Many tooling manufacturers now offer
surface hardening on standard press brake tooling. These
hardening processes include CNC deep hardening, laser
hardening, induction hardening, and coating. All
processes provide good wear resistance compared to
tools with unhardened wear surfaces. For example,
research has shown that tools that have been CNC deep-
hardened will last seven to nine times longer than tooling
with unhardened surfaces.

Portability. Finally, a good press brake tooling system

should be portable. It should be supported by a series of
holders for the upper and lower beam (ram and bed) that
allow you to move it from one press brake to another.

Clamping Systems

The advent of high-precision, quick-change press brake

tooling systems has resulted in huge productivity gains. Figure 1
However, it is quite common for precision-ground Tall dies can bend parts with
punches to be used directly against the upper beam of the long down flanges.
press brake and to be held in place by the manual ram
clamps originally provided with the machine. On many press brakes, the load-bearing
surfaces of the upper and lower beam are milled to finish rather than precision-ground.
Inconsistencies in these surfaces directly alter the quality of the finished parts. This type
of installation also does not speed up the loading and unloading of tooling.

Advancements in clamping system technology in recent years have been driven by

reduced lot sizes and an increase in the number of setups that press brake operators must
perform. Fortunately, you have many clamping systems to select from, including manual
clamping systems that simply open and close the clamps quickly and hydraulically driven
systems that clamp, seat, center, and align all of the tooling with the push of a single
button (see Figure 2).

Precision clamping systems also provide a high-precision, load-bearing surface for

punches, thereby reducing the problems with inconsistent bend angles caused by poorly

machined surfaces or moderately damaged surfaces on

the upper beam. They also act as an insulator against
damage to the upper beam of the press brake.

Finally, many advanced clamping systems enable you to

clamp punches either with the relief area facing toward
the rear of the machine or facing toward you. This
provides additional versatility because part extraction
often is easier and less cumbersome when the punch is
loaded with the relief area facing toward you.

Antideflection (Crowning) Systems

Figure 2
If your press brake is 8 feet long or longer, unless you This hydraulic clamping
bend nothing but thin materials or are fortunate enough system for North American-
to have a press brake with built-in deflection style press brakes is equipped
compensation, you probably have been shimming dies to with a crowning system that
overcome machine deflection. The time consumed and uses opposing wave tecnology
the subsequent costs of this tedious and productivity- to compensate for machine
robbing process are often overlooked. deflection.

Antideflection (crowning) systems are available that eliminate this problem. Basic
systems are manually adjusted, and set screws clamp lower dies in place. Others are
equipped with more advanced clamping bars that can be tightened against the die
manually or with hydraulics for ultrafast die changes. Clamping bars make it possible for
you to position small die segments anywhere along the full length of the unit to achieve
equal clamping pressure. This prevents them from being moved or knocked over while
handling the material.

The deflection-compensating components in these systems can be a simple set of

opposing wedges or a set of highly advanced opposing waves. Depending on the design,
the motion of the wedges or opposing waves against each other cause the unit to deflect
in an upward motion to compensate for the amount of deflection that is being generated
in the press brake when it comes under load. You can adjust these units with a basic lever,
a hand crank at the end of the unit, or with an electronic motor driven by the CNC on the
press brake.

Some of the more advanced antideflection systems available also feature localized
adjustments. This enables you to increase or decrease the amount of deflection
compensation at frequent intervals along the full length of the unit. This makes it possible
to fine-tune the deflection-compensating curve of the unit to overcome the nuances built
into the machine, as well as compensate for wear that is specific to a particular area of the
upper and lower beam or a specific punch or die.

In the end, the choice of which crowning unit is best for you should rest solely on which
features and benefits best suit your needs. Whichever system you choose can eliminate
shimming with a process that requires only a matter of seconds to complete.

Ironically, a press brake never comes into contact with the material that it bends; only the
tooling and backgauge do that. When considering ways to improve press brake
productivity, it is imperative that you examine all of the elements that affect overall
productivity. This includes the machine, control, operating software, and everything that
goes between the upper and lower beams—the tooling system, clamping system, and
deflection-compensating device. Fortunately, when it comes to advanced tooling systems,
clamping systems, and antideflection systems, the choices have never been better.

Using benchmarking for bend deductions

By Steve D. Benson, Contributing Writer
May 30, 2002

Benchmarking is a very good idea for your operation—just make sure your benchmarks
are your own and not someone else's idea of perfect.

Benchmarking is using measurement or evaluation to judge similar processes, parts,

charts, and methods.

The term benchmark is believed to come from medieval times—more specifically, form
the stonemasons who built the great cathedrals of Europe. Before that time local
craftsmen built every piece of furniture and cut every piece of stone to size by judging
length, width, and height by eye. This meant there were no standards by which to judge
components for length, width, and height relative to any other part. In other words,
everything was eyeballed.

At some point someone came up with the

idea of placing a mark or gouge into a
workbench to indicate the length or
width of a part. By comparing each leg
of furniture or block of stone against the
benchmark, the builder could be assured
that each subsequent piece was pretty
much the same size as the previous one.

Modern Version—Bend Deduction


A benchmark, then, is a measurement that can be used as a reference for other

measurements or data sets. In the modern sheet metal shop, bend deduction charts are a

good example of benchmarking. A bend deduction chart created in a shop where bending
methods, bend types, and tooling are agreed upon by all becomes a valid benchmark.

Ideally, modern benchmarks would serve

the same universal purpose as the notch
in the bench did for our ancient brothers.
A test run of the material being formed
would validate the bend deduction values
at any time.

However, when inappropriate

benchmarks are used, problems arise. For
instance, benchmarks can be rendered
invalid when they're used in a different
shop where tooling or forming methods differ from the benchmarks' source.

Figures 1 and 2 show two different bend deduction (BD) charts for the same material
thickness and bend radii. Notice how different the bend deduction values are, even
though both are correct for the shop in which they were created. One shows a bend
deduction of 0.106 for a 1/32-in. inside radius for 16-gauge cold-rolled steel; the other
chart shows it is 0.136. These are perfect examples of how another shop's benchmark
may or may not be correct for you. If you try to apply someone else's benchmark to your
process, chances are it won't match the marks on your workbench, leaving you with one
leg that is too long.

Mathematics: Establishing a Common Benchmark

As long as you use the same forming methods and tooling that were used to create the
original data set, validating the original numbers should be easy. If everyone used the
following formulas and processes to create of their bend deduction charts, they could
establish a common benchmark.

To set a standard benchmark for your bend deduction charts, you must take an accurate
measurement of the inside radius, either by meeting part specifications or by planning for
what is going to be done. This radius measurement can be taken on the tip of the punch
radius in bottom bending or coining. It also can be taken as a percentage of the V-die
opening in air forming using these percentages—20 percent for 304 stainless steel, 15
percent for cold-rolled steel, 15 percent for H32 5052 aluminum, and 12 percent for hot-
rolled pickled in oil. Simply multiply the V-die opening by 0.20, 0.15, or 0.12 to find the
value for the inside radius.

Once a value for the inside radius is set, simply plug it into the following formulas to
establish a proper benchmark in your bend deduction charts for a given material thickness
and inside radius.

Bend Allowance (BA)


BA = [(.017453 x Rp) + (.0078 x Mt)] x ^

Outside Setback (OSSB)

OSSB = [tangent (^/2)] x (Mt + Rp)

Bend Deduction (BD)

BD = (2 x OSSB) - BA


^ = Complementary angle of bend

Mt = Material thickness

Rp = Radius of the punch (coining and bottom bending) or inside radius (air forming)

As long as the inside radius of the bend can be measured with a radius gauge, also a
benchmark, the benchmark supplied by mathematics can be yours to apply in your shop
and in any other shop that measures and calculates these values.

The Key

The key to valid benchmarking is understanding how the benchmark relates to the tasks,
tools, and methods employed in your particular environment. Benchmarking the tasks
that you generally perform rather than using a benchmark someone else has created will
steer you in the right direction, unless they also are using mathematically derived
benchmarks. Then you're OK.

Getting control of your cut-to-length line

How to select the most suitable drive and controller
By Martin Marincic, Contributing Writer
July 11, 2002

There are many factors to consider when selecting a drive and control system for a cut-to-
length line. After choosing the line, you need to choose the drive, calculate the load
inertia, calculate the feeder speed, and choose a motion controller.

Many factors should be considered when selecting a drive and control system for a cut-
to-length (CTL) line.

First, decide the type of CTL line best-suited for your application, specifications, and
budget. Let’s assume you’ve chosen a loop roll feed. Where do you go from there?

Drive Choices

Figure 1 shows some typical

frequency response ranges for all
types of drives available today.
Performance varies widely
among manufacturers.
Figure 1:
In general, AC drives are
Drive frequency response varies widely among
preferred when power
manufacturers, but ranges can be identified for all
requirements are lower than 75
types of drives available today.
HP, when significant numbers of
driven sections are likely to be braking continuously, for high-performance applications,
and for large process lines using many driven sections.

DC drives are most suitable when power requirements are higher than 75 HP; when
power requirements are positive for all sections; when there is a large DC installed base;
and when the application requires a wide, constant-horsepower speed range.

For the roll feed CTL line, an AC vector drive probably would be the most suitable

Motion Profile

Now that you've settled on an AC drive for your roll feed, you need to size the motor for
the application by determining how much torque is required at what speed and what kind
of performance you can expect. Because the line most likely will run materials of various
lengths, you'll need to calculate for the entire product range.

This application calls for you to move a strip of material a known distance. You can
record and graph the velocity over a period of time, resulting in a motion profile chart
from which you can determine distance, maximum speed, and acceleration rates.

One of the most commonly used motion profiles is the 1/3-1/3-1/3 profile. The time
allocated for strip movement is divided into three equal time segments: one-third for
acceleration, one-third for traverse, and one-third for deceleration (see Figure 2). The
distance and time requirements are known, so you can solve for maximum speed N(max):

N(max) = 1.5 ¥ Total distance/ Total time (inches per second)

This value for N(max) can be converted to RPM:

Inches/second ¥ 60 seconds/minute ¥ 1 rotation/P inches


where: P = inches per revolution

Load Inertia

Using the required application data

information gathered for the machine,
you can calculate the total connected Figure 2:
load inertia. Two of the most common In the 1/3-1/3-1/3 motion profile, the time
geometric shapes encountered in these allocated for strip movement is divided into
applications are solid and hollow three equal time segments: one-third for
cylinders. To calculate the inertia of acceleration, one-third for traverse, and one-
each, use the following formulas: third for deceleration.

Solid cylinder for known weight and radius:

J = (1/2) ¥ (W/g) ¥ r2

Solid cylinder for known density, radius, and length:

J = (1/2) ¥ [(Pi ¥ 1 ¥ p)/g] ¥ r4

Hollow cylinder for known weight and radius:

J = (1/2) ¥ (W/g) ¥ (or2 + ir2)

Hollow cylinder for known density, radius, and length:

J = (1/2) ¥ [(Pi ¥ 1 ¥ p)/g]

¥ (or4 - ir4)

where: J = inertia (lb. in. sec.2)

W = weight (lbs.)

g = gravitational constant (386 in. per sec.2)

l = length (in.)

p = density (lbs./in.3)

r = radius (in.)

or2 = outside radius (in.)

ir2= inside radius (in.)


To find the total connected load inertia, add together the inertia of each driven element.

Feeder Speed

Now that you know the load inertia and motion profile, you can select the correct motor
and gearbox combination for load acceleration.

First, look at the maximum required feeder load speed you calculated using the motion
profile. If you know the base speed of the motor, you can calculate a reducer gear ratio.
You now can calculate J(Re), the load inertia reflected through the gearbox back to the
motor shaft:

J(Re) = J(1) / R2 (lb. in. sec.2)

where: J(Re) = reflected inertia

J(1) = load inertia

R = gearbox ratio

If there is any load torque, the gearbox will reduce the amount at the motor shaft. You can
calculate the load torque reflected back to the motor shaft as follows:

T(Re) = T(1)/R

where: T(Re) = reflected torque

T(1) = load torque

R = gearbox ratio

Once the reflected inertia and reflected torque are known, you can solve for the required
motor acceleration torque T(a) using the following formula:

T(a) = {[(J(m) + J(Re)) ¥ N(max)]/(9.55 ¥ t)} + T(Re)

where: T(a) = motor acceleration torque (in. lb.)

J(Re) = reflected inertia (lb. in. sec.2)

J(m) = motor inertia (lb. in. sec.2)

N(max) = motor maximum speed (RPM)

t = acceleration time (sec.)


T(Re) = reflected torque (lb. in.)

The motor you select should be able to produce the amount of acceleration torque

Because the load in this example is cyclical, you must check the average amount of
torque the application requires to be certain that your motor can deliver that torque
without overheating.

Calculate the average required torque using the following equation:

Trms = [(T12t1 + T22t2 + T32t3 + ***)/ (t1 + t2 + t3 + ***)]-2

T1 = acceleration torque (lb. in.)
T2 = traverse torque (lb. in.)
T3 = deceleration torque (lb. in.)
t1 = acceleration time (sec.)
t2 = traverse time (sec.)
t3 = deceleration time (sec.)

The continuous torque rating of the motor must be greater than the calculated average
required torque.

Once you've sized the motor for a particular cut length, you need to check the expected
performance at all of the other possible cut lengths by rerunning all of the calculations for
each cut length. Usually, a motor and gearbox sized to perform adequately at short
lengths may have limited performance at other lengths. You might have to give up
performance in one area to gain it back in another. Constraints

One of the constraints you will have to deal with is the type of shear and the maximum
number of strokes per minute it can handle. This usually sets the maximum number of
pieces per minute (PPM) that the line can handle.

Another short-length constraint is the ability of the motor to accelerate fast enough to
make the move. The motor must have enough torque to bring the connected inertia up to
the maximum speed in the time allowed. Sometimes the acceleration constraint is not
with the motor but with the machine itself. For example, the motor may have enough
torque to accelerate the load, but the feed rolls may slip on the material at that particular
acceleration rate, causing inaccurate cut lengths. Or the acceleration rate may be too high
for the mechanical portion of the machine to handle.

Gearboxes, belts, and other driven equipment could become worn out quickly, chatter, or
exhibit other unstable characteristics. Also, consider the control of the free loop. If the
acceleration rate approaches or even exceeds the force of gravity, you will not have
control over the loop, leading to an unstable condition.

On longer lengths, a constraint that may be encountered is that the maximum feeder
speed is too slow. You could change the selected gear ratio to allow for a faster maximum
motor speed, but you would be giving up torque and losing some of the advantage of
smaller reflected inertia.

Another long-sheet constraint is the leveler gear in speed. The maximum line speed at the
leveler divided by the cut length gives you the maximum PPM for longer lengths. Also,
the amount of material stored in the loop must be considered for longer lengths.

These constraints must be observed for all cut lengths. You can do some things to
overcome them. Sometimes it is a trade-off with other constraints, and sometimes a
larger, faster motor will do the trick. But oftentimes you will find a situation of
diminishing returns as you try to apply bigger motors. That is, the larger torques require
larger frames that have larger inertias, and as you apply the formulas, you will find that
the expected results begin to drop off even though you have a larger motor.

Motion Controllers

A motion controller handles all of the computations to generate the motion profile used
by the feeder drive. It usually is microprocessor-based and can be a stand-alone box or
part of the programmable logic control system. It can reside in a PC or industrial
computer, or it can be part of the AC, DC, or servo drives.

The motion controller calculates distances, velocities, accelerations, torque, and speed. It
may have to accommodate several encoders and be capable of both analog and digital
input and output. It has to be able to communicate to the real world to accept set points
and other commands. And last, the motion controller must be fast enough to send its
calculations to the drive in time for the drive to react.

System Checks

A few final checks remain:

• Is the inertia of the motor equal to or bigger than the total reflected load inertia divided
by 3? This is necessary to ensure system stability.

• Is the continuous motor torque still greater than the required average torque? If you’ve
made any changes, especially the gear ratio, you may have to recalculate.

• Is the peak torque of the motor high enough to accelerate the load fast enough? Again,
changes can affect peak torque requirements.

• Can the motor run at the top speed you've designed? In your efforts to reduce load
torque and inertia, you might have selected a gear ratio that requires the motor's top speed
to be higher than the manufacturer recommends.

• Is the acceleration rate acceptable? Is it high enough for good production but below a
threshold for good control of the strip and acceptable wear on the machine?

• Have the performance specifications been met? If not, you need to modify your design
choices or modify your performance specifications.

Martin Marincic is president of New Era Controls, P.O. Box 25630, Garfield Heights,
OH 44125, phone 216-901-1300, fax 216-901-1305, e-mail, Web site New Era Controls is a
systems integrator that specializes in providing drives and controls for cut-to-length lines
and other coil processing applications.

This article is adapted from Martin Marincic's conference presented at Coil Cut-to-
length Workshop, Aug. 2 and Oct. 18, 2001, ©2001 by the Fabricators & Manufacturers
Association, Intl.

Material Handling on Squaring Shears

Aiding productivity by making the operator's job easier
By Rod Stouder, Contributing Writer
June 13, 2001

Proper material handling equipment in front of and in back of utmost importance to your
operation. Its impact on operator comfort and safety should not be minimized.

Often it is thought that to get more production from a shearing operation, another shift, or
even a new shear must be added. However, because of a lack of funds, personnel, or floor
space, a new shear is not always the answer.

The basics of a productive shearing operation are often overlooked. What good is it to
have a shear that will do 30 to 60 strokes per minute (SPM) if the material coming into
and going out of the shear is not being properly handled?

Typically, only 5 percent of a shearing operation is spent with the shear ram going up and
down, cutting material. This means that the other 95 percent is spent handling the flow of
material being sheared. Thirty percent of this handling is done on the front side, and 65
percent takes place on the back of the shear.

Material handling involves labor. In the shearing operation, labor is the same whether the
shear operator is feeding sheet, cutting, or picking up the mess at the back of the shear.

Improving the flow of material into and out of the shear can increase shearing output.
With the use of some basic material handling equipment, a shearing operation can be
made more productive.

Feeding the Shear

The first place to consider material handling equipment for a squaring shear is at the front
of the shear, especially if the shear is mounted flat on the floor.

Most shears have a 32-inch passline, which means that the shear table is 32 inches from
the floor. It has been said that shear tables have been at the same height since the 1920s.
If persons of average height are pushing steel at a 32-inch table, that means they are
bending over, which is hard on their backs.

Constantly bending over can cause back strain. The more strain that takes place, the more
the operator will stop shearing and straighten to relieve the pain. When there is less strain
and pain, there should be more productive shearing taking place. Those with shearing
operations should think about putting their shears on risers to at least a 36- to 38-in.
working passline.

Material flow into the shear can also be improved with infeed assist tables. By keeping
the next piece to be sheared at table height or a little higher, the operator can let the
material flow downward toward the shear. It is much easier to control a sheet sliding
down than it is to lift and pull the same sheet up and onto the shear table.

The operator can choose the most comfortable infeed height and maintain that controlled
height at all times. Again, when the operator is working at a comfortable work height,
shearing time can become more productive.

Ball transfer and caster fields or even powered infeed rollers can also reduce strain on
shear operators. When less force is used feeding the material into the shear, more finished
material should come out the back.

Removing Material from the Shear

The time that passes between the

cutting of material and removing it
from the shear can account for as
much as 65 percent of the shearing
operation. This means that for the 15
or 20 minutes worth of shearing,
twice this much time is spent sorting Figure 1:
and stacking finished parts behind the A material support system for a shear.

A material support system (see Figure 1) at the back of the shear can save wear and
dulling on the lower blade because it holds the sheet up and keeps it from dragging across
the knife. A support system also holds the sheet in place so that the operator can keep his
hands away from the blade during shearing. In addition, a support system eliminates the

need for personnel to be under or behind the shear, which means a safer work area. These
systems also provide truer backgauging of the parts.

When producing parts

that are the same size, a
stacker working behind
the conveyor eliminates
the need for a person to
stack by hand. A stacker
can place the sheets in a
tight stack for banding
and shipping. A stacker
can also stack the sheets
tightly front-to-back and
loose from left to right.
This makes the sheets Figure 2:
easier to handle at the A shear with conveyors can be fitted with built-in material
next workstation. supports and trim cut separators.

Some conveyors have material supports and trim cut separators built into them. While the
shear is cutting parts, these devices separate the trim from the finished pieces going out
the back of the shear housing. The finished parts then fall into a safe work area (see
Figure 2).

Working off of a shear table that has a 32-inch passline, a stacker can make a stack height
of 16 to 20 inches. Putting the shear on risers would allow more stack height. As the
shear table goes up from the floor, so does the useable stack height. In a production run,
this means less time is spent stopping to remove sheared stacks.


Safety is a major concern. By adding material handling equipment, the risk of injury in
the workplace can be reduced with the added benefit of increased production output.

Employee Support

Not every shearing operation will benefit from material handling equipment. However,
managers who think it is worth considering should discuss equipment options with the
shear operators. Without their input, material handling changes may not pay off in
increased shear output.

8 ways to keep your shear in top shape

By Robert Kotynski, Contributing Writer
April 10, 2001

Improving uptime and reducing maintentance when using shears for high production
could mean following a few key steps.

Shears are common pieces of fabricating equipment that can be found in many metal
forming plants. From tube mills to small fabricators, the shear is one of the most critical
and diverse tools used in metal fabricating.

Varying in size from small hand-held metal shears and foot-operated trim shears to high-
production in-line flying cutoffs, the modern metal shear has replaced the saw as the
machine of choice for high-production metal cutting.

This article addresses improving uptime and reducing maintenance when using shears for
high production.

The following tips are from shear users and rebuilders who found success when they
implemented them.

Tip No. 1 — Understand Your Machine

It is important to understand the function, design, and operation of your machine. The
main cause of shear failure is overloading it beyond the OEM's parameters. Shears are
designed to cut metal of an established thickness and width. When these limits are
exceeded, damage occurs.

In addition to following the OEM's load recommendations, normal adjustments should be

made regularly, and maintenance schedules and service requirements should be followed

Misusing lubricants and other fluids also causes damage. Lubricants and fluids must be
used as specified by the OEM.

Tip No. 2 — Perform and Document Regular Inspections

A regimented inspection schedule should be posted and adhered to. Areas that should be
inspected include the shear's ability to execute all functions of operation; on mechanical
machines, all bearings should be checked for lost motion and wear; and all emergency
and safety functions should be examined.

Tip No. 3 — Review Documentation

After regular inspections are performed and documented, the data should be reviewed
systematically. This review can reveal wear patterns, the potential for accidents, and
nonconformance so that repairs can be made.

Documentation and analysis are the basis of preventive maintenance. With this
information, a clearly laid out maintenance plan can be prepared, eliminating most
emergency repairs.

Tip No. 4 — Set the Blade Properly

Setting the shear blade properly is key to extending blade and machine life. Setting the
proper clearances for blade cutting affects the drive, ram, tooling, and cut quality.
Additionally, before setting the blade, the blade seat should be checked for flatness and to
ensure that the tooling is seated properly to eliminate blade chipping caused by shifting
during cutting.

If the clearances are too tight, improper cutting action occurs because the metal jams
between the blade and the machine. If the blades have no clearance, they will break.
When clearances are too loose, the blade acts as a hammer that applies multiple forces to
the machine's components, causing premature wear and failure.

Tip No. 5 — Maintain Correct Gib Clearance

Setting and maintaining proper gib clearances increase tooling life and machine uptime.
The gibs maintain proper guiding action of the ram and attached tooling. If the clearances
are not maintained, the same problems occur as those that take place when the blade
clearances are ignored.

Tip No. 6 — Isolate and Level the Machine

Leveling a shear and isolating it from vibration are critical to proper operation. The
proper selection and installation of isolation pads can increase tooling life and shearing
speed, decrease vibration, improve foundation life, reduce noise, and eliminate shear
frame distortion.

Using today's isolators, machine leveling can be done in less than a half hour. Making
sure that the shear is level eliminates the twisting action that can destroy a shear.

Tip No. 7 — Follow a Basic Maintenance Plan

The following parts of a shear require regularly scheduled maintenance:

1. The air system should be maintained properly to ensure that the air is clean. All
regulators must be set so that they are operating correctly. Maintaining the regulators
helps the pneumatically actuated mechanisms to function properly.

2. The lubrication system must be cleaned, filled, and properly filtered. Broken, kinked,
or twisted lines must be replaced. Each point must be disconnected and examined to
determine if the lubrication is reaching its destination. Sumps and reservoirs should be
routinely emptied, cleaned, and refilled.

3. The machine clutch and brakes must be examined for proper lining thickness,
clearances, and signs of failure. Worn linings must be replaced immediately. Overtravel
beyond the machine builder's specifications must be adjusted and/or corrected upon

4. Counterbalance cylinders should be tested and reworked at the first sign of air leaks or
failure. A counterbalance cylinder that has the proper action ensures the longevity of all
working components of the shear and its tooling.

Tip No. 8 — Make Repairs as Soon as Possible

When damage, wear, or out-of-adjustment conditions are found, the shear should be
immediately repaired or adjusted. Most catastrophic failure is caused by putting off
simple repairs. Addressing repairs quickly is almost always less expensive than the cost
of correcting the damage that can take place when repairs are ignored or put off.
Additionally, operator safety depends on timely repairs.

Keeping the shear productive can be accomplished by performing these simple tasks.
When a shear is maintained properly, replacement costs and catastrophic failure are

Tip No. 4 — Set the Blade Properly

Setting the shear blade properly is key to extending blade and machine life. Setting the
proper clearances for blade cutting affects the drive, ram, tooling, and cut quality.
Additionally, before setting the blade, the blade seat should be checked for flatness and to
ensure that the tooling is seated properly to eliminate blade chipping caused by shifting
during cutting.

If the clearances are too tight, improper cutting action occurs because the metal jams
between the blade and the machine. If the blades have no clearance, they will break.
When clearances are too loose, the blade acts as a hammer that applies multiple forces to
the machine's components, causing premature wear and failure.

Tip No. 5 — Maintain Correct Gib Clearance

Setting and maintaining proper gib clearances increase tooling life and machine uptime.
The gibs maintain proper guiding action of the ram and attached tooling. If the clearances
are not maintained, the same problems occur as those that take place when the blade
clearances are ignored.

Tip No. 6 — Isolate and Level the Machine

Leveling a shear and isolating it from vibration are critical to proper operation. The
proper selection and installation of isolation pads can increase tooling life and shearing

speed, decrease vibration, improve foundation life, reduce noise, and eliminate shear
frame distortion.

Using today's isolators, machine leveling can be done in less than a half hour. Making
sure that the shear is level eliminates the twisting action that can destroy a shear.

Tip No. 7 — Follow a Basic Maintenance Plan

The following parts of a shear require regularly scheduled maintenance:

1. The air system should be maintained properly to ensure that the air is clean. All
regulators must be set so that they are operating correctly. Maintaining the regulators
helps the pneumatically actuated mechanisms to function properly.

2. The lubrication system must be cleaned, filled, and properly filtered. Broken, kinked,
or twisted lines must be replaced. Each point must be disconnected and examined to
determine if the lubrication is reaching its destination. Sumps and reservoirs should be
routinely emptied, cleaned, and refilled.

3. The machine clutch and brakes must be examined for proper lining thickness,
clearances, and signs of failure. Worn linings must be replaced immediately. Overtravel
beyond the machine builder's specifications must be adjusted and/or corrected upon

4. Counterbalance cylinders should be tested and reworked at the first sign of air leaks or
failure. A counterbalance cylinder that has the proper action ensures the longevity of all
working components of the shear and its tooling.

Tip No. 8 — Make Repairs as Soon as Possible

When damage, wear, or out-of-adjustment conditions are found, the shear should be
immediately repaired or adjusted. Most catastrophic failure is caused by putting off
simple repairs. Addressing repairs quickly is almost always less expensive than the cost
of correcting the damage that can take place when repairs are ignored or put off.
Additionally, operator safety depends on timely repairs.

Keeping the shear productive can be accomplished by performing these simple tasks.
When a shear is maintained properly, replacement costs and catastrophic failure are

Long loads, narrow aisles, easy access

Side-loading lift truck handles cumbersome products in
confined spaces

By Eric Lundin, Senior Editor, The FABRICATOR®

September 12, 2006

Since starting with just one warehouse in 1989, J G Kelly Supplies has grown along with
Ireland’s booming construction industry. Limiting factors such as the warehouse’s
doorway width, narrow aisles, and 90-degree turns
meant the company had to rely on manual labor to
handle the long, cumbersome items in its inventory. A
standard forklift was out of the question. The company
eventually purchased a multidirectional side-loading lift
truck from Combilift for moving inventory in this
challenging environment.

Ireland is called the Emerald Isle, and for good reason.

Regardless of the season, much of the island is covered
with lush green vegetation. The mild winter weather is a
product of the Gulf Stream, the Atlantic Ocean current
that pushes moderate weather north from the Gulf of
Mexico. The other factor, of course, is precipitation. It
rains a lot in Ireland. And that's an understatement.
According to the country's weather service, Met
Éireann®, much of the island receives an average of
1,000 millimeters (40 inches) of rain annually, and the mountainous regions receive twice
that amount.

Seeing a lucrative and growing niche, Gerard Kelly founded J.G. Kelly Supplies, a
service center that provides rainwater-carrying components to Ireland's construction
industry. Kelly's timing was good—the construction industry has grown significantly
over the past few years. According to data provided by the Central Statistics Office
Ireland, completed dwellings increased from 30,575 in 1995 to 80,957 in 2005.
Meanwhile the demand for gutters and downspouts has been as constant as the rains that
keep the island green, and J.G. Kelly Supplies has grown right along with the
construction industry. Since it started with a single warehouse in Monaghan in 1989,
which supplied western Ireland, the company has added warehouses in Dublin and
Limerick and now supplies goods to construction contractors in all of the island's 32

Narrow Doorway, Narrow Aisles

After opening for business, J.G. Kelly Supplies quickly filled its 1,200-square-meter
(12,900-sq.-ft.) warehouse with inventory, which includes long, cumbersome gutters and
downspouts. The warehouse's main door is just 3 m (9.8 ft.) wide, whereas the products
typically measure up to 6 m (19.6 ft.) long. Using a standard forklift to take the products
into the building was out of the question.

Initially Kelly's suppliers left the deliveries on the sidewalk next to the warehouse.
Getting the inventory into the warehouse was Kelly's problem.

"We handled every piece separately from the road," Kelly said, recalling the days when
his warehouse staff provided muscle power to move the inventory manually.

The doorway wasn't the only challenge. The warehouse's narrow aisles and two 90-
degree turns prevented Kelly's staff from using a forklift inside the building. Kelly
needed something like a forklift, but something much more versatile.

Load It Sideways, Move It Anywhere

Kelly eventually found a lift truck that matched his needs—a multidirectional side-
loading lift truck manufactured by Combilift Inc. The truck, a model C3500, has a lift
capacity of 3,500 kilograms (7,700 lbs.) and a lift height of 4,040 mm (13.25 ft). It is
equipped with two small front wheels and one large rear wheel. All of the wheels can
rotate up to 180 degrees, allowing the truck to move forward and backward and side to
side. It also is versatile in the way it turns corners. Negotiating a tight, 90-degree turn is
not a problem—because it has a single rear wheel, the truck can make zero-radius turns.

The truck allows Kelly employees to move the products directly into the warehouse,
eliminating manual handling of individual inventory items. It also allows them to move
cumbersome products through the warehouse with ease. In addition, it also handles not-
so-cumbersome loads, such as the palletized aluminum coil that Kelly supplies for on-site
roll forming.

Move the Product, Not the Warehouse

The use of this specialized lift truck eased the burden on Kelly employees by eliminating
the need for manual inventory transfer. The labor savings allowed Kelly to reduce his
warehouse staff from 10 to six.

More important, the lift truck allowed Kelly to use his warehouse space more efficiently.
As the construction market and demand for construction-related items in Ireland has
grown, Kelly has been able to more effectively use the limited space in his Monaghan
warehouse, allowing him to remain in the same location despite the growth in his

"By now we would have had to move, if not for the Combilift," Kelly said

The importance of storage planning

By Joe Harnest, Contributing Writer
October 23, 2003

Material and equipment storage can be a

major concern for fabricators. Therefore,
it is important to establish the purpose of
a storage system and understand clearly
what it needs to accomplish.

In its most basic form, a fabricator’s

storage area must be a secure, dry place
of sufficient size to house required items.
Location and ambient conditions are the
critical factors.

Considering the Criteria

In today’s fast-paced material handling world, fabricators must consider the workable
criteria before the project can be implemented. They must consider the basic cubic-feet
requirements, as well as the environment required for the materials to be inventoried. And
of course, location is highly important. Failure to consider it would compromise
operating efficiency.

A modern inventory manager, unlike inventory managers of the past, has complete
control of all the factors associated with material storage. With advances in technology,
the inventory manager can build higher than was possible in the past. Fabricators also
have the ability to make their buildings cold, warm, light, dark, dry, or moist with
amazing precision.

While these advances can improve operating efficiency and add value to the product,
fabricators still may feel daunted sitting at the concept stage of a storage system. To bring
together all the variables and options available requires input from many areas of
expertise. Here is a quick rundown of what needs to be considered.

First In, First Out

New racking systems go far beyond simply stacking products. One of the objectives of
these new racking system designs is to eliminate or reduce the aisles as much as possible.

Flow-through systems are designed under the concept of turning over inventory by
making sure the older materials are used first. These systems (carton flow and pallet
flow) allow maximum floor density and permit the materials to be where fabricators want
them when they want them, always ready for transfer to the shipping dock or production,
however it may be required.

First In, First Out (FIFO) is a form of flow-through system using a dynamic storage
technique that allows the product to flow through the rack via gravity rollers,
accumulating in an organized manner ready for the next step. These rollers are angled
strategically at a pitch that permits the product to move forward. The speed is controlled

by brakes acting on the rollers that prevent the loads from accelerating beyond the design

Automated Handling Trucks

Standard rack systems are complemented by a variety of material handling trucks that can
be fully automated and attached to the racking. These are programmable logic-controlled
and can be programmed to operate around the clock. Of course, the price tag and
maintenance cost may scare a manager, but if the system has been properly applied,
manufactured, and installed with the required precision and the proper scheduled
maintenance, it can be a highly productive asset, depending on the fabricating system.

Narrow-aisle Fork Trucks

On the other hand, fork trucks exist that operate in narrow aisles only 54 inches wide,
producing an increase of usable floor and air space that has a major impact in maximizing
overall warehousing efficiency. These trucks have a side-loading feature that eliminates
the need for the vehicles to turn to get the product out of its storage area.

The conventional 12-foot aisle is fast becoming a convention of the past.

Automated Storage and Retrieval

Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRSs) often are used to store smaller and
frequently inventoried and retrieved parts. This type of system is self-contained and uses
a series of traveling shelves or bins, usually traveling in a vertical configuration.

When parts are required, the individual identifies the part to the programmable logic
controller, which in turn looks for the piece at a specific location and presents the
requested item at the location of input. In addition to high speed and enhanced storage
density, security is increased because the machine forces the operator to sign on to the
system, logging the operator’s identity. The system also tracks and identifies inventory
items on its shelves.

A similar storage system that rotates products in a horizontal configuration is commonly

known as a carousel system. It uses more floor space but can be less expensive.


Standard storage systems can be enhanced with the addition of a conveyor, which can be
gravity operated or motorized. Personal computers can be used to direct products to the
specific destination(s) as required. Like a modern highway with intersections, materials
are diverted to predetermined areas.

The conveyor even can be configured to become part of a truck trailer. The addition of
special racks for multilevel storage allows full use of the cargo area inside the trailer.
Loading and unloading become much less labor intensive.

The logistics for this type of setup require precision in terms of weight and size. Variables
must be reduced to make the system most effective. To maximize space and reduce the
overall handling requirements, fabricators need to load parts or materials into properly
sized bins and containers.

Planning the inventory system and proper product flow is necessary to ensure the best
storage solution. Investment in the proper development of facilities and equipment using
all modern advances will pay back handsomely in terms of labor, time, and money.

Organizing your tooling

To computerize or not to computerize—that is the
By Craig Padget
August 8, 2007

Are you busy putting out fires? Is management by crisis preventing you from being
proactive and establishing a preventive maintenance system for your tooling? Does your
tooling gather more dust than uptime? Do you think you know your tooling needs, or do
you collect data that shows your tooling needs?

You could divide the fabrication world into two types of shop: those that have a
preventive maintenance (PM) program, and those that don't. If you have worked in
enough shops that practice PM, you likely know that establishing a good PM system is
worth its weight in gold in the form of uptime. A good PM system starts with your
inventory and is a matter of computerization and discipline.

The biggest step usually is getting started. Excuses for not getting started are just that,
excuses, and it is better to move forward than to sit still. With this in mind, understand
that the system can be simple and stand-alone or it can be very detailed and integrated.

Getting Started
Computerized inventory is a must to support any fabrication plant. The first step in
setting up a computerized tool inventory system is building an information database. The
database must include critical information:

• Part number (the end user's part number)

• Die number
• Detail number (the number of the detail of the tool listed with-in a die)
• Type
• Description (the tool's nomenclature)
• Order point quantity
• Order quantity
• Cost
• Delivery (estimated delivery time)

You might want to incorporate additional fields, but these are minimum requirements for
the task.

Click to view image larger

Using a punch numbering system that describes and identifies each punch can be a good
strategy in organizing your tooling. The key to setting up a successful system is including
enough information to make the system useful but not so much detail that it becomes

Die Listing or Item Listing? Many tooling organization schemes exist. One common
scheme organizes the tooling by each die tool. Another organizes the tooling by tool

description. The most cost-effective plan uses the tool description because it prevents
duplication of common tools, which happens when organizing tools by die system.

Many fear the tool description system because they like to have backup tooling in other
places. The problem is the backup tooling is generally unknown—that is, you're not
really sure if you have it and where it is. Quite a bit of valuable time is spent, under
urgent conditions, looking for tooling. In most cases, it's nonexistent. Not using the tool
description system also can be an excuse for not having better discipline.

Organizing the tooling by die system can work, but usually such a system isn't detailed
enough to cover all the bases and is much more expensive if it does.

Keeping it simple will be rewarding too. Let's look at a plan organized by item
description. The reason for the required data listed previously is to offer the filtered
separation by die for reporting purposes. It also identifies common items utilized in
several dies to support the required inventory levels, as well as obsolete inventory as dies
are discontinued or transferred to other facilities. Dedicated tooling then can follow the
same path.

Identifying Individual Tools. The next step is identifying the individual tools. Once again,
fabricators use many systems and descriptions. Dedicated descriptions that can be utilized
regardless of the tooling brand provide clarity. Before creating a numbering scheme, you
should familiarize yourself with your software's capabilities and limitations. Can it
distinguish a hyphen from an underscore? If it cannot, the software will identify similar
tool numbers (for example, Ball Lock Punch 500-S300 M2 P.258 and Ball Lock Punch-
500s300 M2 P.258) as two unique items, even though it's the same tool. It's a matter of
devising a system and adhering to it—again, discipline is the key.

Many Uses for Individual Tools. The final stage of computerization is using the database.
Through the catalog of built inventory you can offer the inventory to new die build
groups in your company. A specification can require that tooling currently inventoried be

You and your colleagues have the opportunity to build and use a library of tooling. This
library can be used to drop CAD data directly into a drawing to reduce design time as
well. You will also gain a proper format for the nomenclature to be used as a description
in the database function of inventory. This is the information that can then be shared with
die builders. The result is fewer inventory items and larger purchase quantities of items
that have volume discounts for further cost reduction opportunities.

How to select the right IRONWORKER

for your application

Consider its capacity, versatility, safety features, and

By Jim Hoag, Contributing Writer
January 16, 2003

An ironworker can be an important and versatile machine in a metal fabricating shop.

Quite often ironworking is the
first step in the manufacturing
process, and one ironworker
typically can provide enough
fabricated material to keep up to
seven welders or assemblers

Since its invention in the late

1800s, the ironworker's main
strength has been its ability to
perform a variety of operations. It
can punch a range of materials
with punches of various sizes and shapes. It also can shear rod, flat bar, angle, and
channel. In addition, it can notch angle iron, pipe, channel, and flat bar. Many
ironworkers are available with special tooling to bend, stamp, and form too.

As versatile as the ironworker is, however, it is possible to purchase the wrong machine
—or at least not the best machine—for your application. Important considerations for
selecting a machine include its capacity, versatility, safety features, and quality.

The material thickness you process will indicate whether to use an ironworker or a turret
punch press. An ironworker punches plate up to 1 inch, and sometimes even thicker.
Typically, turret punch presses are used on sheet material 1/4 in. and thinner. Ironworkers
usually are used for shorter production runs and applications for which tolerances are not
as critical.

Determining Capacity

Ironworkers typically are rated by tonnage at the punch station. A 40-ton ironworker
should punch a 1-in. hole in 1/2-in. material;
a 60-ton machine should punch a 1-in. hole in
3/4-in. material; and an 80-ton machine
should punch a 1-in. hole in 1-in. material
(see Figure 1).

The first step, therefore, is to determine the

maximum material thickness so you can

Figure 1

establish the tonnage range needed for your punching application. Examine the steel rack
and the product that you are fabricating. Determine the maximum hole diameter to be
punched; the maximum thickness of the material to be punched; and the maximum
thickness and width of the channel, angle, and rod to be sheared or bent.

The material or part width plays a part in your ironworker selection. The throat depth of
an ironworker punch station should be greater than half of the part or material width.
Material length, however, really is not an issue. An ironworker can process almost any
material or part length.

Because many different types of steel and ranges of hardness in mild steel exist, it is
advisable to get a machine that is at least 20 percent larger than you think your everyday
use requires to avoid getting a machine that is too small. Most machines are rated for
material with tensile strengths between 60,000 and 65,000 pounds.

Many mild steels have tensile strengths between 50,000 and 70,000 lbs. or higher, and
your machine may not have the power to punch the material at the higher end of the
hardness values. When punching hard steel, such as stainless steel, it is better to increase
the estimated tonnage by 50 to 100 percent, depending on the grade of steel.

Beware! Not all tons are created equal. A metric ton actually is heavier than a U.S. ton
(2,200 lbs. versus 2,000 lbs.). A machine rated for metric tons should be able to punch a
larger hole than a machine rated on the same number of U.S. tons. For example, 80 tons
of pressure by U.S. standards can punch a 1-in. hole through 1-in. material; 80 metric
tons should be able to punch a 13/32-in. hole through the same material thickness.

Be sure to compare the rating of the machine not only in tons, but also the diameter of the
hole and thickness of material it can punch. Ironworker tonnage ratings can vary from
ironworker to ironworker.

Assessing Versatility Needs

All ironworkers are equipped with flat bar shears. The main differences between flat bar
shear stations are the length and the approach of the blade to the metal. Some ironworkers
use a guillotine, or fixed-rake-angle shear, and others use a scissors-type shear (see
Figure 2).

The advantage of the fixed-

rake-angle shear is that the
angle of the blade as it
approaches the work remains
constant throughout the cut,
sometimes offering larger
capacity without increasing
machine tonnage. The
disadvantage is that without
the ability to vary the rake
angle, the distortion of the
drop piece will remain the Figure 2
same throughout the cut. The advantage of the fixed-rake-angle shear is that the
blade angle remains constant throughout the cut,
The advantage of a scissors- sometimes offering larger capacity without increasing
type shear is that it can vary machine tonnage. The advantage of the scissors-type
the rake angle of the blade. shear is that it can vary the rake angle of the blade,
Thicker material is cut closer thereby minimizing distortion.
to the pivot point, and thinner material is cut farther from the pivot point, where the rake
angle of the blade is flatter, thereby minimizing distortion. Scissors machines typically
have a longer flat bar shear, some up to 24 in. long.

On some ironworkers, the rake angle of the bar shear blade is adjusted by inserting and
removing wedge-shaped shims above the shear blade. This may require substantial
mechanical ability and substantial time. Also, if the shims are not adjusted each time
material thickness changes, the machine could be damaged.

Ironworkers are available with different designs to enhance versatility. For example, the
stations on some machines are permanently built in. These machines offer punching
stations, angle shears, rod shears, notchers, and short flat bar shears.

If you are a structural steel fabricator, you may prefer these machines because the stations
cover the majority of the materials you process and do not require tooling changes.

If you are a general welding, fabrication, maintenance, and structural steel fabricator who
does not know what a customer will bring in the door tomorrow, you may want an
ironworker that offers the capability to adapt to all customer needs. Tabletop tooling
concepts, which provide a wider variety of tooling, may suit your needs.

In addition to angle shears, rod shears, notchers, and flat bar shears, tabletop ironworkers
offer options such as larger press brake bending attachments, tube shears, channel shears,
pipe notchers, V notchers, picket tools, square tube shears, and a variety of special
tooling. Although these machines can use a larger variety of tooling than those with built-
in stations, time is required to switch from one operation to the next.

Addressing Safety Issues


Safety is an important factor when choosing an ironworker. Be sure to choose an

ironworker that meets ANSI B 11-5 standards.

Examine the guarding. Be sure it can be adjusted down to within 1/4 in. from the top of
the material to be punched, and to the bottom of the guard or stripper (this is an ANSI
standard). This will prevent operators from placing any part of their bodies between the
material being punched and the stripping mechanism. All other stations should offer
complete safeguarding as well.

Beware of machines with automatic urethane hold-downs. Most operators realize the
danger of the blade but do not expect to be hurt by safety guards and may not watch
them. Automatic urethane hold-downs, if not adjusted properly, also come down with
many tons of force and can be dangerous pinch points.

For productivity as well as safety, the machine you choose should offer an infinitely
adjustable stroke control to minimize machine movement, decrease the number of pinch
points, and increase strokes per minute and production. This is especially important in
bending applications and for special tooling for which the upstroke must be adjusted in
addition to the downstroke.

Electric stroke controls offer advantages over mechanical linkage controls. Electric stroke
controls have quicker cycle times and more precise stopping because they use switches
that send signals to the control valve almost instantly. Machines that use mechanical
linkage stroke controls must be in motion to cause the linkage to close the control valve.
As the valve closes, the machine slows down and is more difficult to regulate.

Safety instructions should include proper alignment of the punch and dies. Because
punches are usually hardened to 58 Rockwell, the punch will not bend as it collides with
a die. If it is out of alignment, it is more likely to flake or even explode, causing serious
harm to the operator.

The preferred and most widely used method of aligning the punch and die is similar to
the way punch presses have been aligned for many years. This is done by bringing the
punch ram to the bottom of the stroke and installing the punch and dies with the stroke
down. This way, the punch already has been entered into the die, the alignment can be
checked, and guards may be replaced without machine movement.

Assessing Quality

In trying to determine quality, consider the size of the pivot points and beam strength of
the steel that is under pressure. Since your ironworker produces many tons of force, the
force must be generated and transferred through the pivot points as well as the beam.

Another good indicator of quality is how much shock is produced when the ironworker
punches. Excess shock, which can be identified by a loud popping or banging noise as the
punch goes through the material, could indicate the beam or side frame is stretching and

snapping back into place. Continued shock can cause welds to break, as well as other
failures. Higher-quality machines control this by increasing side frame, beam, and pin

The number of grease points also can be an indicator of quality. Although all machines
have grease points on pivot points and guide assemblies, some machines have an
excessive number of grease points—as many as 20 or more. Usually these additional
grease points have been added in an effort to correct galling problems. It is unrealistic to
expect operators to grease more than five or 10 grease points, and machine failure or
galling most likely will occur.

The hydraulic system also should be a consideration. You are buying the machine for the
tons of pressure it produces, not for the motor's horsepower rating. Some ironworkers are
designed through mechanical advantages to produce more tonnage with less horsepower,
thus making the machine more efficient. Machines with higher-horsepower motors
usually operate at a higher hydraulic pressure, or pounds per square inch, and this
increased pressure can produce more wear on hoses, pumps, and valves.

Because an ironworker is an important part of most shops, when even one ironworker
breaks down, the negative impact on production is significant, even paralyzing. Before
purchasing an ironworker, take the time to analyze your needs and carefully assess the
quality of the ironworker. It will be time well spent.

Jim Hoag is marketing director for Scotchman® Industries, 180 E. Highway 14, Philip,
SD 57567, phone 605-859-2542, fax 605-859-2499, e-mail,
Web site Scotchman Industries designs and manufactures
ironworkers and saws for metal fabricators, machine shops, and technical schools.

Getting more punch life

Alternate tooling alloy and
coating reduce friction, heat
July 13, 2004

Augur Metal Products, a custom fabricator in

Independence Ken., performs a variety of
processes for manufacturers. While the
company’s capabilities include shearing, cutting,
forming, welding, and finishing, chief among
them is sheet metal punching.

One of its processes involves punching 750 small holes in 33-inch by 36-inch 10-gauge
stainless steel sheet panels used in the manufacture of large commercial separators.
Because stainless steel is hard and abrasive, it heats up and puts stress on both the tooling
and the punch press. With its previous tooling, the company was limited to punching just
10 to 15 panels before tool maintenance and sharpening were required. Stopping the line
to sharpen punches often caused production bottlenecks.

On a different operation for perforating compressor panels,

two 0.750-in. round punches were installed side by side in a
turret so that when one tool became dull, the turret could be
indexed to the next punch to continue punching without
stopping the machine. When both the punches became dull,
the machine had to be stopped and the punches removed for
sharpening, at times disrupting part flow through the cell of
five presses.

“Our punch press operators do a great job of maintaining

constant work flow through our press department,” said Joe
Shotwell, senior purchasing buyer. “Premature tooling wear Figure 1
in the middle of a part run is disruptive. Our part runs vary Augur Metal Products
and we punch a lot of different materials and thicknesses, punches hundreds of holes
everything from aluminum and mild steel to stainless steel. in stainless steel sheets for
So continuous work flow minimizing press downtime for commercial separators.
tool maintenance is a challenge we take seriously and try to Holding a punched panel is
improve on because it influences our quality and Joe Shotwell (left), senior
productivity.” purchasing buyer, and Pat
Walker (right), press
Getting Longer Life From Tougher Punches operator.

The company performed a trial run using Mate Precision Tooling’s Strippit punches made
of DuraSteel™ in an existing guide assembly to see if it could improve the hit count.

“We didn’t have to touch the Mate punch until well after perforating 40 of the 10-gauge
stainless steel panels,” said press operator Pat Walker. “All 40 of the panels had between
650 and 750 holes punched in them. The holes are cleaner with less burr on them. And
we’re getting three to four times the tool life with the new Mate punches.”

“Stainless is very abrasive to punch, creating a high degree of friction and heat in the
punch when it penetrates the material,” explained Tim Kraus, Mate sales representative.
“Stainless dulls ordinary tools very quickly, especially at higher press speeds. Even if you
slow the machine down, the abrasive effect continues and wears out the tool prematurely.
You lose productivity two ways—with lower press speed and by having to maintain the
tooling frequently.”

The new punches resist the abrasive effects of the

stainless material and reduce heat buildup in the punch.
In addition to the DuraSteel punches, a special tool
coating called Maxima™ was used to coat the punch.
The coating bonds with the substrate and adds both
durability and lubricity.

Punch Anatomy

In addition to the DuraSteel punch and Maxima coating,

the tools design affects productivity. For example, punch
points are machined with a 1/4-degree back taper to
reduce friction during the stripping phase of the
punching cycle, which further extends tool life. Also,
slug pulling is a longtime problem in the punching
process, and thus the use of a special die design to
counter this foe is useful. During punching the slug can
pull back out of the die and then interfere with the next
punching cycle. This is generically called slug pulling.
Mate’s Slug Free® die is designed with a slight
hourglass shape that causes a pressure point that acts like a one-way door to keep the slug
from pulling back out of the die. Once the slug is squeezed through the pressure point, it
is free to fall down the slug chute as it should and away from where it could cause

Using the new punches, Augur says it was able to increase press speed by 20 percent.
Shotwell added that switching to the new Mate tooling actually cost 10 percent less than
the old tooling. “When you add up the longer tool life, increased press output, and less
downtime for tool sharpening, you’ve really improved overall productivity and
profitability on that job.”

Is metal roofing fabrication right for your

How to ensure your roll forming operation is a good fit
By Paul Williams
April 10, 2007

When deciding wheher or not to produce roofing panels, you need to determine your
ROI, based on if you can use existing equipment or need new equipment, the required
panel appearance; possible line configuration; and material handling options.

In recent years the metal building industries have grown substantially. According to the
Metal Roofing Alliance, the residential metal roofing market doubled its market share
from 3 percent to 6 percent in five years. To take advantage of this growth, more
fabricators are increasing the versatility of their manufacturing capabilities by adding to
or expanding the metal building products they offer.

Besides the more commonly produced metal studs, fabricators have been adding metal
roofing and accessories to their current product lineups. The roofing panels come in many
different types, with the more common ones being R, A, AG, corrugated, standing seam,
and roof decks (see Figures 1, 2, and 3).

Figure 1,2,3
Roofing panels come in many different types, with the more commone ones being R
(left)A,AG,corrugated (center),standing seam, and roof decking (right).

Existing or New Equipment?

When deciding whether or not to produce these panels either as an expanded line or a
new product, you must decide if your return on investment (ROI) makes sense for your
business model. The rule of thumb is if you must run at least 500,000 linear feet of sheet
metal to justify purchasing a new, complete roll forming line.

If you have an existing roll forming line and are planning to run fewer than 500,000
linear feet of sheet metal, you must calculate the current capacity of your line to see if the
new components can be run on it. You might be able to retool your existing line, which
can be a big cost savings.

Of course, the type of product you are going to run and its requirements (number of
passes, horizontal spacing, roll space, and so on) will dictate whether you can run it on
existing equipment. Your tooling vendors should be able to help you with this

If you do not have an existing roll forming line or have insufficient capacity on your
current equipment, you will need to purchase a new, complete line. New lines come in
many configurations; some are high-speed, in-plant machines while others are less
capital-intensive feed-to-stop and portable units for smaller footage requirements. The
portable machines usually are entry-level, with capacities limited to the smaller footage
requirements of on-site fabrication.

Panel Appearance
Roof and wall panels are highly visible "appearance" components. Most are fabricated
from prepainted coil, so care must be taken to avoid damaging the coil's coating during
the roll forming process (see lead image). This is achieved by having enough roll tooling
passes and by chromed roll tooling.

In addition, roll forming can contribute to oil canning, which is the waviness in the flat
areas of roofing and siding panels. Generally, the period and amplitude of the wave
depend on the continuous width of the flat, so that must be monitored closely. The panels
need to be straight, especially on the sides of standing seam panels, so that they can be
joined. Therefore, flare must be minimized.

R, A, AG, and other panels run on wide roll formers (44- to 48-inch-wide roll space
mills) that produce a panel with 36-in.-wide coverage. The most common standing seam
panel widths are 12 and 18 in., and there is no center forming. To change widths quickly,
you can produce standing seam panels on a duplex-style mill. The panels also can be run
on conventional, raft-style roll formers. Portable mills have made big inroads in this
market, because contractors can produce panels on-site, oil canning and all, and put them
right on the roof.

Line Configurations
Panel roll forming lines can be configured in a couple of different ways.

One is a start-stop line. The material starts moving by ramping up to speed and then
decelerates and stops when it is time to cut. This type of line typically is inexpensive
overall, because you do not have to fly the cutoff die. However, since the line has to stop,
total throughput is limited. The line might run at a top speed of 100 feet per minute, but
the average line speed for the day might be only 60 FPM.

A continuous roll forming line runs constantly. However, the overall cost usually is
higher than on a start-stop line, because you must add a flying cutoff configuration.

With either of these configurations, you can add a precut/shear die or a postcut die (see
Figure 4). Most new panel lines have a precut die. Precut dies use a common stationary
or flying cutoff set for the maximum width, which provides versatility. Even a common
stacker can be applied. You can change part widths (such as from 36-in. to 24-in.
coverage) with a simple stock guide adjustment and coil change and no die changeout.

Figure 4
Most new panel lines have a precut shear die (top), which use a common stationary or
flying cutoff set for the maximum width. Typically, you will get a better overall profile
with a postcut die (bottom) because you eliminate some of the additional flare that can
occur during precutting. Depending on the panel type, a postcut die might require a die
insert changeout or complete die changeover.

Depending on the panel type, a postcut die might require a die insert changeout or
complete die changeover. When running precut products, you need to be careful not to
add flare on the ingoing and outgoing ends of the material—a common occurrence on
precut lines.

With a postcut die, you will typically get a better overall profile because you eliminate
some of the additional flare that can occur during precutting. Also, depending on the
panel profile and the roll tooling design, you might be able to use a common cutoff die by
simply changing the material strip width. For uncommon shapes, a cutting blade or entire
die changeover might be required.

Roll tooling change is an issue because the sets have a lot of rolls. Rafting, double-wide
roll formers, two-part roll formers, and machines with combination tool sets can help
minimize the machine downtime. However, making the roll forming system more
complex to decrease downtime usually increases the overall machine cost.

Material Handling Options

To further customize your line, you can add different material handling options at the
feeding end. There are more options than a typical uncoiler (in a continuous-feed line) or
hand-feeding sheets (in a precut line). You can use coil cars, coil upenders, turnstiles, and
stacking systems to help decrease changeover time. Quick coil change is important,
because the faster you can feed new materials and different colors of coils into the roll
forming line, the more panels you can run overall.

The most common choice for the exit end of a panel roll forming mill has been a drop
stacker. Another option is a magnetic stacker. While it costs more, it involves less

Additional building products that can be roll formed on dedicated machines are soffits,
fascia, gutter guards, and drip edges. Most of these lend themselves to being produced on
precut or postcut roll forming lines, with the same benefits and limitations as panel

For an in-depth analysis of metal roofing panels for your specific application, it's best to
contact a roll forming equipment manufacturer.

Worn out roll forming tooling and no

Reverse-engineer it
By Steve Ebel and River City Roll Form
Inc., Contributing Writer
March 25, 2004

You may have found yourself saying, "I

need to make an engineering change to
my roll form tooling, but I don't have the
roll tooling designs or drawings." Maybe
you have a product change; or the tooling
is worn out, chipped, or broken; or your
company just needs to improve the

When you are faced with this situation, you have to start at the beginning, basically, and
reverse-engineer the complete set of roll form tooling.

Recut or Replace Tooling?

Depending on a couple of factors, the roll form tooling may be recut and dropped, or
decreased, in diameter to eliminate wear. The first consideration is the vertical range of
your roll form equipment. The vertical range (centers) is the distance between the top
spindle and the bottom spindle, and on most machines it is adjustable (see Figure 1). A
large vertical range allows for recutting of the roll, but a very small vertical range does
not allow for diameter changes, which means the roll tooling must be replaced when it
becomes worn.

The second consideration is spindle wear. If the roll form

tooling has been run without keys in it, the bores of the roll
tooling may be worn more than the specifications allow, which
means the bores must be replaced or reconditioned. (Keys are
the square pieces of cold-rolled steel that are inserted into the
keyways of the roll tooling and the spindles to prevent the roll
tooling from spinning on the spindles.) If the bores are
overworn because they were allowed to spin on the spindle of
the roll former, they will have to be ground, then hard-chromed,
and ground again to achieve the precision fit required between
the bore on the roll tooling and the spindles on the roll former.

You need to gather as much information about your roll form

tooling and equipment as possible before you can get started.
Measure and record:
Figure 1
• Horizontal centers. Measurements must be
• Vertical centers (minimum and maximum). taken at the vertical
• Spindle diameter (keyway size). centers, horizontal
• Roll space (base to centerline of bottom spindle). centers, spindle
diameter, amd roll
Tooling Material space.

It is important to know what steel grade the roll form tooling was
made of originally. In the past many sets of roll form tooling were
made out of tool steels that would case-harden only when heat-
treated, meaning that the hardened surface was only about 1¼32
inch deep. Roll form tooling constructed this way cannot be recut; it
has to be replaced. If the roll form tooling is made out of tool steel
that can be through-hardened, the chances of being able to recut it
are better.

Tooling Construction
Figure 2
Itâ??s also important to know how your current roll form tooling is Split contruction is
built. Many times roll form tooling is built in a way that allows it to better-suited for
be recut easily. A roll tooling set that is built with many splits or recutting than one-
individual pieces is better-suited for recutting than a set that has a piece construction.
one-piece roll construction (see Figure 2). One-piece roll construction does not allow for
easy changes, and if a change or wear in the roll form tooling is extensive, replacement is

Product Drawing

The roll designer reviews the product drawing and final profile to generate the new roll
form tooling drawing. Once the designer has this information, he can determine the
practicality of changing the roll form tooling.

At this point the roll form tooling has to be shadow-graphed and measured (see
introductory photo). Each pass and each roll must be put into an optical comparator that
projects an image scaled 10 times the original size onto a screen. This image has to be
traced by hand to examine the current condition of the roll form tooling and compared to
the product drawing.

Typically this can be done in about a week, depending on the size of the roll form tooling
and the number of forming passes. Companies that offer this service can work with the
customer to minimize the amount of lost production time by doing a few passes of roll
form tooling at a time.

After the shadow-graph tracing is

complete, the roll diameter, roll width,
angles, and bore size have to be
measured and recorded. This information
is used in conjunction with the tracing to

Figure 3
develop the CAD files for each roll and forming
pass. At this point the roll designer also looks at
the tracing to determine the amount of wear and
how much the roll diameters have to be
decreased to eliminate the wear or chips in the
roll form tooling. If some of the rolls are worn
more than the others, the designer may elect to
replace a few rolls rather than recut the entire

Once all this information is collected and the

decision is made to recut or replace the roll
form tooling, the designer uses CAD to draw
the roll form tooling flower (see Figure 3).

After the flower pattern is determined, the roll

designer inputs the data from the tracings and
the measurements into the CAD system to
Figure 4 produce the roll form tooling design. The math
The CAD drawings that are developed must show data generated will be used in the CNC turning
measurements, specs, and details for each pass. centers to recut or make new rolls as needed
(see Figure 4).

If the roll former has additional stations, usually extra passes can be added at strategic
spots that can help reduce wear, improve part quality, or reduce production problems. For
example, if a lot of forming is being done between passes 5 and 6, an extra pass can be
added between these passes to help slow down the forming. These types of ideas can help
improve production issues and part quality.

Auxiliary Tooling or Fixtures

If you have added side roll stands, supports, or straighteners to work in conjunction with
the roll form tooling, the roll designer needs to have as much information about them as
possible so they can be made to fit if any changes or replacements are needed.

Obviously, a lot of time and effort go into reverse-engineering a set of roll form tooling
and reproducing the design. However, once the design is complete, performing an
engineering change, replacing or recutting damaged tooling, or duplicating a set of
tooling will be easier the next time.

Die Basics 101: Part XVI

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer
October 9, 2007

This article continues the discussion of bending in stamping operations. It focuses on

rotary and reverse U bending and addresses the advantages and disadvantages of rotary
bending. Descriptions of and links to the first 15 parts in this series can be found at the
end of this article.

Part XV of this series about stamping die fundamentals described several bending
methods—wipe, coin relief, pivot, and V bending. It also discussed springback and how
to compensate for it when using these methods. This article focuses on other bending
processes. Keep in mind that the key to success is to design the bending process so that it
can be easily, quickly, and safely adjusted to allow for material variables.

Rotary Bending
Rotary bending perhaps is one of the most popular and effective ways of creating a
precision bend. Rotary benders, also known commercially as Ready Benders® or Accu-
Bend™ benders, have many advantages over conventional wipe bending methods. First,
let's examine how they work.

Rotary or rocker benders consist of a foundation block, often referred to as the saddle.
The saddle has a spring-loaded V-shape component called the rocker. This rocker rotates

about its centerline and performs the bending action. It acts as both a holding pad and the
bending mechanism.

Although this type of bender can be installed in almost any direction with respect to the
ram travel, it most commonly is fastened to the upper die shoe. As the bender moves
down, the rocker makes contact with the sheet metal. One contact point acts as a holding
pad, while the opposite contact point rotates, creating the bending action. After the bend
is completed and on the press's return stroke, the spring forces the rocker to return back to
its original or idle position (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Advantages. Rotary bending has some advantages over other methods. The most
advantageous feature is the simplicity of adjustment. Changes in the bend angle can be
made simply by shimming or grinding the height of the assembly. Doing so takes very
little time, and time is money.

Rotary benders can bend as much as 120 degrees and are well-suited to bending high-
strength material. One company in Sweden has successfully created two 90-degree return
bends in steel with yield strength of 980 mega pascals. This translates into steel that by
U.S. standards has a yield strength of more than 142,000 pounds per square inch (PSI)—
five times stronger than low-carbon steel. Attempting to make such a bend in a
conventional wipe-bending operation most certainly would be impossible.

Another advantage is that, unlike conventional wipe bending, rotary benders require
much lower forces to create the bend. Anywhere from a 40 percent to 80 percent
reduction in force can be expected. This makes this method ideal for producing long,
heavy-gauge, large parts, such as truck and semi frame rails.

You can expect less hole distortion in rotary bending. Consider a hole that is pierced in a
flat blank and later bent into a vertical wall. During conventional bending, this hole can
be subjected to a great deal of tension, which causes the hole to distort. Because rocker
benders fold the metal around the punch, hole distortion is eliminated (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Inserting rockers with a special hard plastic called Delrin® can make them nonmarking,
which is desirable when bending cosmetic-quality stainless steel or prepainted materials.

Rotary benders can used to bend up or down. They also can be placed on cam slides.

Disadvantages. Despite the many advantages, rotary benders do have some

disadvantages. First, they can be quite expensive; however, consider the advantages of
the reduction in downtime and frustration. Overall, they often pay for themselves in a
short period of time.

Figure 3
Poor Candidate for Rotary Bending

Also consider that you most likely will not need an external pad, which reduces die cost.
Often the true cost of designing and building a conventional wipe bending die is much
greater than the rocker bender. Don't confuse cost with value. In my opinion, rotary
benders are worth every penny.

Because these benders have moving parts, there is a risk of galling up and failing to
rotate. This can be prevented by periodically cleaning and lubricating them.

Remember that rotary benders can be used for straight-line bending only. Avoid using
them to bend special-shaped trim lines that do not allow for simultaneous punch contact.
Angled corners are not good candidates for rocker benders (Figure 3).

Overall, I highly recommend using rotary benders for appropriate applications. They are
available commercially from a few reputable suppliers.

Reverse U Bending
Reverse U bending is a unique but effective way of obtaining either a 90-degree bend or a
bend with a slight negative angle. This process utilizes a high-pressure pad with an insert
that can be adjusted in height by shimming or grinding it. The insert causes the part to
bow upward in the center of the punch where a void has been created. Raising or
lowering the insert changes the severity of the bow. Keep in mind that this bow must be
created with the pressure exerted by the pad. This often requires the use of high-pressure
gas springs.

After the bow has been created, the pad moves downward and the bends are established.
Upon punch removal, the part has a tendency to spring back in the center, which causes
the bends to "toe in." This method works well with materials that exhibit a great deal of
springback. If the metal permanently deforms in the center bowed area, it may be
necessary to push the part back flat in order to achieve a 90-degree angle (Figure 4).

Figure 4
Reverse U Bending Process

Remember that the true key to bending success is to design the tool in such a fashion that
it can be quickly, safely, and accurately adjusted with respect to ever-changing incoming
variables. Avoid using the grinding and welding process whenever possible.

Die Basics 101: Part XIV

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer
June 12, 2007

Fineblanking and GRIPflow® are cold metal extrusion processes used to produce what
appear to be blanked parts. These processes are alternatives to casting, forging, and
machining. This article explains these processes. Descriptions of and links to the first 13
parts in this series can be found at the end of this article.

Although fineblanking and GRIPflow® often are categorized as metal cutting operations,
they more closely resemble a cold metal extrusion process that creates what appears to be
a blanked part. The processes can be defined simply as methods in which a part is
squeezed from the strip.

Figure 1
Results of Conventional Cutting

Unlike parts made with conventional metal cutting methods, the parts made using
fineblanking and GRIPflow have little or no fracture zone (Figure 1). In other words,
these parts appear to have smooth, square machined edges.

These processes also can produce parts with very close flatness and dimensional
tolerances and roughness of about 2 to 3 µm, which means that, in many cases,
postprocessing operations such as grinding and milling can be eliminated.

Parts commonly made using fineblanking and GRIPflow include gears and parts that
require close flatness tolerances or a square cut edge. These processes also can pierce
holes with diameters as small as one-third of the metal's thickness and very close to the
part's edge.

Before these methods were available, the metal had to be shaved in one or several
shaving operations to achieve a smooth cut edge. Shaving in a die often produces slivers
and debris that can create tool problems and product defects.

Invented in Switzerland in the 1920s, fineblanking, unlike conventional stamping
methods, utilizes a special triple-action hydraulic press called a fineblanking press.
Fineblanking requires the use of extreme-pressure pads. These high-pressure pads hold
the metal flat during the cutting process and keep the metal from plastically deforming
during punch entry.

In fineblanking presses, a V-ring is incorporated into one of the high-pressure pads. This
V-ring also is commonly referred to as a stinger or impingement ring.

Before the punch contacts the part, the V-ring impales the metal. It surrounds the part
perimeter and functions both to trap the metal from moving outward and push the metal
inward toward the punch. This action reduces the rollover that occurs at the part's cut
edge. Using high-pressure pads combined with the stinger ring and close clearances
keeps the metal from fracturing and creates a smooth edge (Figure 2). Because the part is
held extremely tight between the high-pressure pads during cutting, part distortion is

Figure 2
Fineblanking Process

Unlike conventional cutting operations that use approximately 10 percent of the metal's
thickness for the cutting clearance, fineblanking operations usually use clearances less
than 0.0005 in. per side. This small-clearance requirement combined with high pressure
also contributes to the fully sheared part edge.

Once again, don't confuse fineblanking with a cutting operation. It's not a cutting
operation at all; it is more like a cold extruding process. The slug (part) is pushed or
extruded from strip held so tightly between high-pressure holding plates and pads that the
metal cannot bulge or plastically deform during the process. These high-pressure pads fit
precisely around all cutting components. Fineblanking can be used to produce parts as
thick as 0.5 in. from a variety of metals.

Not to be confused with fineblanking, the GRIPflow process does not use a stinger or
impingement ring to stop outward metal movement but relies solely on hydraulically
applied pressure to the blank. The pressure is applied through precision-guided pressure

Figure 3
GRIPflow Part
Source: Ebway Corp.

Think of the GRIPflow process as similar to compound blanking. However, unlike a

compound blanking operation, GRIPflow uses very small cutting clearances between
each of the cutting components. This small clearance, combined with high blank holding
pressures and precision clearances between all moving components, produces a smooth-
edged part that can be held to very tight dimensional tolerances (Figure 3).

Once again, keep in mind that GRIPflow is not a metal cutting process but a cold
extruding process. The cutting sections do not have cutting shear ground on them.

It is difficult to tell the difference between a part that was fineblanked and one made
using the GRIPflow process just by looking at them. Unlike fineblanking, GRIPflow does

not require a triple-action press. Because it uses hydraulic cylinders mounted in the die,
the process is best-suited to a hydraulic action press.

Both fineblanking and the GRIPflow process now are being used to produce many parts
previously made by more costly processes, such as casting, forging, and machining.
Because other minor forming operations can be combined with these special processes,
they both lend themselves to many geometries. Keep in mind that each process has its
own advantages and disadvantages.

GRIPflow is a registered trademark of EBway Corp.

Die Basics 101 -- Part XIII

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer
April 10, 2007

Pinch, breakout, and shimmy trimming

are cutting methods often used in
stamping operations. This article, which
is a continuation of a series on die basics,
discusses these processes. Descriptions
of and links to the first 12 parts in this
series can be found at the end of this

Various specialty metal cutting methods

are used in stamping operations. Among
them are pinch, breakout, and shimmy. Figure 1
Pinch trimming die design
Pinch Trimming

Pinch trimming is a special method in which the vertical walls of a drawn or stretched
vessel are cut by pinching the metal between two hardened tool steel die sections. In most
cases, the clearance between the die sections is as little as possible (Figure 1).

Unlike a conventional metal cutting process, no shearing or fracturing takes place in

pinch trimming. Items such as deep-drawn cans often are pinch trimmed.

Although pinch trimming is a very popular method, because the metal basically is
pinched off, a very sharp burr usually remains on the part (Figure 2). This burr must
often be removed by tumbling the parts in a tub containing abrasives.

Pinch trimming also places a great load

on the sides of the die sections, which
results in high wear. Most pinch
trimming operations require a great deal
of maintenance.
Figure 2
Breakout Trimming Result of pinch trimming

Breakout trimming is a specialty metal trimming process in which the metal is forced to
fracture or break free from the vessel's flange. If you are accustomed to conventional
cutting operations, this process most certainly may look harebrained to you. Unlike a
conventional metal cutting process, the lower die section has a 45-degree angle ground on
its edge. This angle has two basic functions: first, to allow the cup to fully nest in the
lower die, and second,. to force the flange to bend upward slightly.

The cutting clearance also is much greater in breakout trimming than the clearance
commonly used in conventional cutting
operations. This additional clearance
causes leverage action, but does not
allow for the metal to be bent into a
vertical wall. However rest assured, this
process works well, especially for metals
that severely work harden (Figure 3).

Breakout trimming takes advantage of

the metal's work hardening and reduced
thickness in a given localized zone. This Figure 3
method works best for round or axial Break out trimming
symmetrical drawn parts.

For breakout trimming to work effectively, the drawn cup must be properly prepared for
the process. The inside radius on the cup's flange must be reduced to a dead sharp corner
before using this method. This is
achieved by drawing the cup deeper in
the drawing operation or compressing it
back over a dead sharp corner on the die
section (Figure 4). Doing so reduces
thickness in the radius and allows work
hardening to take place.

After the cup has been prepared properly,

it can be introduced into the breakout
trimming process, in which the cup
flange will be forced upward, causing the Figure 4
metal to break at the dead sharp corner Creating a small radius
(Figure 5). Because the cup flange is

round, as it is pushed upward it is forced into radial compression. This compression

works to your advantage by forcing the cup to be fractured out of the flange.

Breakout trimming does not produce a burr as large as

that produced by pinch trimming. Also, because the
loads on the tool steel sections are minimal, the die
requires less frequent maintenance. However keep in
mind that this method can be used only in situations in
which the metal must be cut at the intersection of the
flange and the cup's vertical wall.

Shimmy Trimming

Shimmy trimming is a unique metal trimming process

in which a series of specially designed cams are used
Figure 5
to force the part to move side to side. Unlike
conventional cam trimming, the part does not remain stationary, but rather moves
horizontally in the die. It moves in such as fashion that it can be trimmed true to the
surface of the vessel. Trimming 90 degrees or true to surface results in a much cleaner
cut and considerably lower burrs than pinch trimming.

A great advantage of shimmy dies is that they can cut the entire perimeter of a part in a
single press stroke. Unlike conventional pinch trimming, a shimmy trimming operation is
not restricted to straight line cuts.
Features such as notches, curved cuts, as
well as a various other cuts can be made.
Many common items such as cigarette
lighters and gun shells are made using
the shimmy trimming process.

Shimmy trimming operations also can be

designed to cut metal as thick as 0.250
in. and, unlike conventional pinch Figure 6
trimming, can keep the original metal Parts trimmed with a shimmy trim die
thickness in the trimmed area. Not like Images courtesy of Vulcan Tool Corporation
conventional cutting operations, shimmy
dies require a pressure system such as a press cushion or a nitrogen gas manifold (Figure

Which metal cutting operation a die design engineer chooses is based on many factors,
including allowable burr height, parts volumes, metal type and thickness, and trim line
geometry. No single trimming operation is best for all scenarios. The next article in this
series will continue the discussion of metal cutting.

Die Basics 101: Part XII


By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer

February 13, 2007

Part XI of this series covering stamping die fundamentals defined slug pulling and
discussed some underlying reasons that it occurs. This article describes some methods for
resolving slug pulling problems. Descriptions of and links to the first 10 parts in this
series can be found at the end of this article.

Slug pulling, which occurs when scrap metal—the slug—sticks to the punch face upon
withdrawal and comes out of the button, or lower matrix, is a serious problem that can
damage parts and dies. Various methods can help reduce the occurrence of slug pulling.

Air Vents
Putting air vents in cutting and piercing sections most likely will not completely stop
cutting slugs from pulling, but it's a good start. This is because trapped air that creates
vacuum pockets is a major cause of slug pulling. It is good die-building practice to drill
air vents in all cutting punches whenever possible, especially if they are piercing

Spring Pins

Figure 1
Spring Ejectors and Air Vents
Images courtesy of Dayton Progress

A common, popular method for preventing slugs from pulling is to use a pierce punch
with a spring-loaded ejector pin. However, this method is effective only if the punch is
large enough to accept a spring pin.

The spring-loaded pin pushes slugs from the punch point and into the matrix. Keep in
mind that to maximize the spring pin's effectiveness, it must be accompanied by an air
vent. This can be achieved by drilling an oversized hole for the pin and allowing the
trapped air to escape around the spring pin.

Spring pins work well in large dies containing large pierce punches, but they do not lend
themselves well to small-die, high-speed operations. Many commercial punch
manufactures can provide these types of punches for you. Some commercially available
punches even have a special wire retainer that allows the maintenance technician to
depress the spring pin, lock it in place with a special retention pin, and grind the punch
with the spring depressed. This capability allows the punch to have the same amount of
spring travel as a new punch (Figure 1).

Reduce the Punch-to-Die Clearance

Although reducing the cutting clearance shortens the life of the punch and matrix, it helps
minimize slug pulling. This is because reducing cutting clearance forces the slug in
compression during cutting. After the cutting is completed, the slug decompresses in the
matrix for an interference fit.

For short-term runs and low-production parts, reducing the clearance may be your
answer; however, for high-production dies, it is recommended that you use an engineered
cutting clearance combined with an alternate method for slug retention.

Special Die Inserts, Buttons, and Matrix Alterations

Many commercially available inserts orbuttons can help address slug pulling problems.
Some common commercial names are "slug huggers" or "slug-control buttons" (Figure

Figure 2
Commercial Slug Control Buttons

A slug-control button consists of two small slots machined at an angle in each side of the
matrix. These slots cause a burr to be generated on the slug. The burr is forced downward
at an angle, wedging the slug in the matrix.

A slug-hugger button has barbs in the matrix that impale themselves into the slug. Both of
these methods work well and are highly recommended.

A reverse-tapered "bell mouth" button also works well. Most die buttons have a bell
mouth taper machined into them, with the hole diameter increasing toward the bottom of
the button. Although it may seem strange to use a button with a hole in the matrix that
gets slightly smaller as it nears the clearance opening, this is an effective slug retention
method. The reverse taper holds the slugs in compression in the matrix. Keep in mind that
in most piercing operations, 0.0005 inch to 0.001 in. is more than sufficient taper. Too
much taper and compression can cause the matrix to split (Figure 3).

Figure 3
Alternate Slug Control Buttons

Vacuum Units
Commercially available vacuum units can be incorporated in your piercing operation.
These units create a vacuum and pull the slug downward into the matrix. In a pinch, try a
simple wet and dry vacuum. In my experience, it works fairly well. However, keep in
mind that these vacuums typically are not meant to run for hours and hours. Even the
higher-quality models burn up quickly.

Other Ideas
Although it may be somewhat crude, using a weld spatter technique on the inside of a
button can be a relatively effective slug-pulling remedy. Commercially available deposit
machines work best to execute this application. These special deposit machines deposit
tiny barbs on the inside of the button. These barbs impale themselves into the slug and
help prevent it from pulling upward.

These portable application machines have significant advantages over ordinary weld
spatter. First, they can deposit tungsten or vanadium carbide on the button surface, which
decreases button wear and increases slug-retention life. Second, the deposits can be made
accurately with as little heat as possible. This helps to reduce tool steel and button
damage. Deposit amounts can be carefully controlled.

Keep in mind that each cutting and piercing operation may require a different slug pulling
method. The key is to remember that one pulled slug is one too many. Even a single
pulled slug can result in extensive die damage. Don't risk ignoring the issue: An ounce of
prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Future articles in this series will cover

specialty cutting methods, such as pinch,
breakout, and shimmy trimming, as well
as tricks for piercing multiple layers and
on angular suDie Basics 101: Part X
By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer
October 10, 2006

This article, Part X of a series covering stamping die fundamentals, begins an in-depth
look at the metal cutting process. It covers piercing and cutting clearance and discusses
some common piercing misconceptions. Descriptions of and links to the first nine articles
in this series can be found at the end of this article.

Cutting is the most severe metalworking process that takes place in a die and shouldn't be
taken lightly.

Cutting Basics

Cutting metal requires great force. For example, it takes approximately 78,000 lbs. of
pressure to cut a 10-in.-diameter blank from 0.100-in.-thick mild steel. Consequently, the
punch, die, and press must absorb overwhelming shock.

Overshocking the press and die components usually is what causes them to fail
prematurely. If you work in a shop that blanks heavy metals, you know what I mean. You
can hear and feel the press shock. Doing everything you can to reduce the unnecessary
loading and shocking is important. Factors such as cutting clearance and shear angles
contribute significantly to the amount of force required. They also affect the amount of
shock that is generated.

Piercing Misconceptions

If you participated in a tool and die apprenticeship, you probably were taught the
following rules for piercing punches:

• The punch determines the hole size.

• The cutting clearance always should be even (equal) around the punch.
• 10 percent of the metal's thickness is a good cutting clearance for each side of the

These are good starting guidelines for cutting, but they aren't entirely true. Let's examine
each misconception.

The punch determines the hole size—Although the punch produces a hole that is very
close to its actual diameter, altering the clearance between the punch and the button
(sometimes referred to as the matrix) also affects the hole size. The simple truth is that a
hole can be made slightly larger or smaller than the punch diameter by increasing or
decreasing the cutting clearance. This is because of the way that the metal deforms before
the cutting actually takes place.

Think of the metal that you're cutting as Silly Putty® or a rubbery plastic. If the clearance
between the cutting punch and the button is insufficient, it will cause the metal to
compress or bulge out away from the punch before the cutting takes place. After the slug
is created, the metal grips the punch sides. This increased friction between the sides of the
punch and the metal raises the amount of force necessary to strip or pull the punch from
the metal.

The insufficient clearance between the punch and the button means that a greater force is
needed to create the hole. Inadequate clearance also increases the load on the edges of the
punch and the matrix, which causes premature edge breakdown.

After the punch is removed, the metal that once was compressed decompresses and
collapses around the void area (the hole). The result is a hole that is smaller than the
punch's diameter (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Insufficient Cutting Clearance

If the clearance between the punch and button is increased, the metal is pulled inward in
slight tension into the button. After the slug is created, the metal pulls away from the
edges of the punch, resulting in a hole that is slightly larger than the pierce punch.

Increasing the cutting clearance also reduces the cutting force needed to create the hole.
In addition, because the hole is slightly larger than the punch, the force needed to strip the
metal from the punch is greatly reduced (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Using Increased Cutting Clearance

Keep in mind that changing the clearance does not affect the hole size to a great extent—
about 0.001 in. to 0.002 in. Although it might seem small, this change can reduce the
friction generated during punch withdrawal significantly and extend the punch life.

The cutting clearance always should be equal around your punches—Once again,
unless you are piercing only round holes, this statement is not entirely true.

Cutting clearances should change around the punch perimeter with respect to the punch
geometry. Let me explain using this example: If you are piercing a square hole, you may
notice that the corners of the punches are the first areas to break down. Once the corners
break down, the entire punch must be sharpened. Ever wonder why the corners break

down first? It's because this is the area that is subjected to the highest cutting loads. Very
simply, wherever there is a small radial feature in a cut (nothing is worse than a dead
sharp corner), the compressive forces will be greater.

Excessive compression can be compensated for by increasing the cutting clearance in

areas with small radial features or sharp corners. Increasing the clearance in these areas
helps to increase punch and button life and reduce the probability of a large corner burr. A
good rule of thumb is to increase the clearance in the corners to approximately 1.5 times
the normal clearance. An even better scenario is to avoid dead sharp corners whenever
possible (Figure 3).

Figure 3
Increasing Cutting Clearances in Corners

10 percent of the metal's thickness is a good cutting clearance for each side of the
punch—Once again, this statement isn't always true. While 10 percent is by far the most
popular cutting clearance used, it most certainly is not always the ideal cutting clearance.

Cutting clearances can range from as little as 0.5 percent up to as much as 25 percent of
the metal's thickness per side. Among the many factors that determine the best cutting
clearance are the metal's thickness and hardness and the punch size and geometry. For
example, the ideal cutting clearance for piercing a 0.500-in.-diameter round hole in a
sheet of 0.100-in.-thick 300 series stainless steel is about 13 percent of the metal's
thickness per side, or 0.013 in. per side. This calculates to a total clearance of 0.026 in.

However, changing from a 0.500-in.-diameter punch to a 0.100-in.-diameter punch

requires more cutting clearance, from 13 percent to 20 percent per side. This is because
the smaller punch has a smaller radius, and compressive forces congregate at the smallest
radial feature of a cut (just as in the rectangular punch example noted above).

Metal type also affects cutting clearance selection. Harder, higher-strength materials
require more cutting clearance, while softer metals, such as aluminum, require smaller
cutting clearances.

As you can see, metal cutting is slightly more complicated than often perceived.
Understanding the many variables and how they affect the cutting process are key.

The next article in this series will continue the discussion about cutting. Topics to be
covered in the next and subsequent articles include methods for preventing slug pulling
and punch breakage; specialty cutting methods, such as pinch, breakout, and shim
trimming; and tricks for piercing multiple layers and piercing on an angular surface.

Die Basics 101: Part IX

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer
August 8, 2006

This installment in the Die Basics 101 series picks up where Part VIII left off in
describing the mechanical properties and behavioral characteristics of metals used in
stamping operations. Among the topics discussed are strain, springback, stress, stretch
distribution, n value, r value, and surface topography.

Editor's Note: This article—Part IX of a series covering stamping die fundamentals—

continues the discussion of mechanical properties as well as behavioral characteristics
of metals. Part VIII expanded upon Part VII's overview of metals used in stamping. Part
VI explained specialty die components. Parts IV and Part V covered common stamping
die components.Part III discussed several different production methods used to produce
stamped parts. Part II covered various forming operations, and Part I explained what a
die is and described several metal cutting operations.

Figure 1
Strain and Thickness Distribution

Part VIII of this series discussed some of the specific mechanical properties of metals—
ductility, elongation percentage, tensile and yield strength, and hardness—and how to
derive these properties. This article describes other important mechanical properties, as
well as a few behavioral characteristics.


Strain can be defined simply as a measurable deformation of the metal. In other words,
metal must be "strained" in order to change its shape. Strains can be positive (pulling the
metal apart, or tension) or negative (pushing the metal together, or compression.) Strains
also can be permanent (plastic) or recoverable (elastic). The result of elastic straining
commonly is referred to as springback, or elastic recovery.

Remember, every metal type wants to return to its original shape when it's deformed. The
amount the metal springs back is a function of its mechanical properties. When engineers
refer to part areas that are "high strain," they typically are referring to areas that have
been subjected to substantial stretch or compression. Figure 1 shows a simulation image
of a part that has been stretched. Each color represents a different type and amount of
strain. Some of the strains are positive and others are negative.


Stress is simply the result of straining the metal. When subjected to stress, metal incurs
internal changes that cause it to spring back or deform nonuniformly. Trapped stresses
within a part often result in a loss of flatness or other geometric characteristics. All cut or
formed parts incur stress.

Stretch Distribution

Stretch distribution is a very important

mechanical property. A metal's stretch
distribution characteristics control how
much surface area of the stretched metal
is permanently deformed. Stretch
distribution is determined primarily by
checking the metal's thickness when it's
deformed in tension during the tensile
testing process. The more uniform the
thickness distribution, the better the Figure 2
stretch distribution. Stretch distribution Stretch Distribution / Tensile Test
also is partially expressed in the metal's n value. Figure 2 shows different stretch
distribution results. The red areas of the sample test coupon represent areas that have
been stretched.

n Value

To understand n value, otherwise known as the work or strain hardening exponent, you
must understand that every time metal is exposed to permanent deformation, work
hardening occurs. It's the same thing that happens when you bend a coat hanger back and
forth. As you bend the hanger, it gets harder and harder to bend. It also becomes more
difficult to bend it in the same place. This increase in strength is the result of work or

strain hardening. However, if you continue to bend the hanger in the same spot, it will
eventually fail.

Ironic as it may seem, materials need to work-harden to achieve both good stretchability
and stretch distribution. How they work-harden is the key. The n value of a material can
be defined fundamentally as the metal's stretchability; however, it also is an expression of
a material's stretch distribution characteristics.

Perhaps one of the most important mechanical properties to consider if the stamped part
requires a great deal of stretch, the n value is expressed numerically in numbers from
0.100 to 0.300 and usually is carried out two or three decimal places. The higher the
number, the greater the metal's stretchability and stretch distribution. Higher-strength
metals, such as spring steel, have very low n values, while metals such as those used for
making oil pans and other deep-formed parts usually exhibit higher n values.

The metal's n value also is a key mechanical value used in creating forming limit
diagrams. (This will be discussed in subsequent parts of this series.)

r Value

The metal's r value is defined metallurgically as the plastic strain ratio. To understand this
concept, you must clearly know the difference between stretching and drawing.
Stretching is a metal forming process in which the metal is forced into tension. This
results in an increase in surface area. Items such as most automobile hoods and fenders
are made using this process.

Drawing is the displacement of metal into a cavity or over a punch by means of plastic
flow or feeding the metal. Items such as large cans, oil pans, and deep-formed parts
usually are made using this process.

Figure 3
Plastic Strain Ratio r Value

The metal's r value can be defined simply as the metal's ability to flow. It also is
expressed numerically using a value from 1 to 2, which usually is carried out two decimal
places. The greater the r value, the more drawable the metal (Figure 3).

The metal's r value is not uniform throughout the sheet. Most metals have different r
values with respect to the metal's rolling direction. Testing for a metal's r value requires
tensile testing in three different directions—with the rolling direction, against the rolling

direction, and at 45 degrees to the

rolling direction. The test results
usually are averaged and expressed as
the r bar, or average of the r values.

Differences in the plastic strain ratio

result in earring of the metal when
being drawn. For example, when
drawing a round shell from a round
blank, the results will be a near square Figure 4
bottom on the flange of the cup. This Earring Caused by Differences in the Metal’s r
effect (Figure 4) is caused by Value
different amounts of metal flow with
respect to the metal's

Surface Topography

A metal's surface topography, defined simply as the metal surface finish, is created
mainly during the metal rolling process. Surface topography is an important metal
characteristic. When being drawn, metals often require a surface finish that has the ability
to hold lubricant. Surface topography is determined with a measuring tool called a

This wraps up the discussion of sheet metal characteristics. The next article in this series
will focus on metal cutting.

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer

April 11, 2006

Although many metals are used in stamping, all fall into one of two basic categories—
ferrous and nonferrous. All metals have certain characteristics that must be considered
when determining which stamping dies, production processes, and equipment to use. This
article introduces the most basic metals and their properties.

Editor's Note: This article—Part VII of a series covering stamping die fundamentals—is
an overview of metals used in stamping. Part VI explained specialty die components.
Parts IV and V covered common stamping die components.

Part III discussed several different production methods used to produce stamped parts.
Part II covered various forming operations, and Part I explained what a die is and
described several metal cutting operations.

Previous articles in this series focused on stamping dies and production methods. This
article discusses stamping materials—both ferrous and nonferrous.

To process, design, and build a successful stamping die, it is necessary to fully

understand the behavioral characteristics of the specific material to be cut and formed.
For example, if you are forming 5000 series aluminum and you follow the same process
you use for deep drawing steel, the operation most likely will fail—not because
aluminum is bad, it's just different from steel.

Each metal has its own unique mechanical characteristics. The metal type that the die is
forming and cutting often determines the tool steel that must be used, as well as how
many operations are required. In addition, different metal types require different
lubricants, press speeds, and capacities. Because stampers are end users of metals, this
article focuses on selecting and understanding the end-product behavior only and not the
metal-making process.

Two Metal Types

Although there are literally thousands of metals that can be stamped, all fall within two
basic categories—ferrous and nonferrous. Ferrous metals contain iron, and nonferrous
metals are those without iron. Steel is a classic ferrous metal because it is derived
essentially from iron ore. Aluminum, however, contains no iron and is classified as a
nonferrous metal.

With the exception of a few exotic specialty metals, ferrous metals are magnetic and
nonferrous metals are nonmagnetic. Because nonferrous metals do not contain iron, they
are less likely to deteriorate through oxidation or rusting. Some commonly stamped
nonferrous metals are aluminum, brass, bronze, gold, silver, tin, and copper.

Aluminum is a very popular metal for applications in which strength, weight, and
corrosion resistance are factors. Aluminum is approximately one-third the weight of steel.
Although hundreds of alloyed steels exist, plain carbon steel is by far the most commonly
stamped ferrous metal.

Steel Basics

Carbon is a basic element of the steelmaking process. In its raw form, carbon could be
described as a chunk of coal or pencil lead. A piece of coal buried a mile or so beneath
the surface of the earth and subjected to intense heat and pressure for about a thousand
years yields what? A diamond. A diamond is nothing more than pure, compressed carbon.
(Yes, "Carbon is a girl's best friend." Just make sure that it's natural, highly compressed
carbon that you are giving her.)

From this basic knowledge of carbon, it is easy to deduce that the more carbon present in
the steel, typically the stronger and less formable it will be. For example, tool steel used
in manufacturing dies contains far more carbon than the sheet metal being processed.
Keep in mind that the carbon content of a particular metal does not fully determine the
metal's mechanical properties. Carbon content is only one factor.


An alloy is a homogeneous compound or mixture

of two or more metals that enhances the metal's
chemical, mechanical, or physical properties.
When combined, the metals must be compatible Figure 1
and resist separation under normal conditions.
For example, two common alloys added to steel are chrome and nickel. Chrome is very
hard and resists oxidation, and so does nickel. Adding chrome and nickel to steel
produces stainless steel. These added alloys enable the stainless steel to resist oxidation.

If you have purchased stainless steel flatware recently, you may have noticed different
grades are available. These grades usually are designated as good, better, and best. The
main difference in the quality depends primarily on the alloy content. The numbers that
you see on the packaging, such as 18/8 or 18/10, refer to the percentage of chromium (18
percent) and nickel (8 percent or 10 percent) in the stainless steel. Chromium is known
for its stain resistance, and nickel is known for its high luster and shine. Higher alloy
numbers mean higher quality and cost.

Alloys can be introduced into both ferrous and nonferrous metals. Many aluminum alloys
are available today. A very common steel type used in the automotive industry is high-
strength, low-alloy steel (HSLA). Alloys are combined with medium carbon steel to give
the metal good load-carrying ability and
reasonable formability. These mechanical
properties make HSLA a good candidate for
frame rails and other automotive structural
parts that require strength.

The number of alloyed metals used in

stamping are far too numerous to mention in
this article. The thing to remember is that
alloyed metals are a combination or mixture Figure 2
of two or more metals that create a new metal
with special characteristics.

Plain Carbon Steel

Plain carbon steel can be defined as pure steel, meaning that it contains no intentionally
added alloys. Plain carbon steel—among the most popular steel types used in stamping
today—usually is assigned a four-digit number, such as 1006, 1020, 1050, and 1080. To
determine the steel's carbon content, simply place an imaginary decimal place between
the four digits and read the last two digits as a percentage of 1 percent. For example,
1010 steel contains 10 1/100 of 1 percent carbon, or 0.10 carbon (see Figure 1).

The more carbon in the steel, the harder it will be to cut and form. Metals with increased
carbon can be hardened further by heating them to a critical temperature and cooling

them quickly in the proper quenching medium. Processing harder metals requires dies
made from tougher, more wear-resistant tool steels. Also, greater force is needed to cut
and form the metal. Knowing the metal's carbon content can help you make a better
decision about the appropriate tool steel and press capacity. Figure 2 shows a few typical
applications with respect to the steel's carbon content.

This article covered very basic metal types and properties only. The next article in this
series will discuss the mechanical characteristics of different metals in more detail. It also
will explain how the metal selection affects the die processing method and die materials.

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer

February 7, 2006

In-die tapping units, rotary benders, pierce nut units, HYDROCAM®s, and thread-
forming punches/buttons are among the specialty dies that can help reduce the number of
required operations and costs to produce holes in stamped parts. This article discusses
these components and their applications.

Editor's Note: This article—Part VI of a series covering stamping die fundamentals—

discusses specialty die components. Parts IV and V covered common stamping die
components. Part III discussed several different production methods used to produce
stamped parts. Part II covered various
forming operations, and Part I explained
what a die is and described several metal
cutting operations.

Previous articles in this series discussed

common stamping die components. This
article focuses on less common specialty
components found only in certain dies,
most of which are available from various
Figure 1
In-die Tapping Units Inidie Tapping Units
Image courtesy of Danly IEM.
Many dies produce parts that contain
holes or extrusions that will be tapped or threaded to hold a fastener. These holes often
are tapped in the die rather than in a separate, offline operation.

In-die tapping units use a series of helix-style shafts and gears to transfer linear motion
(press ram) into rotary motion. The mechanical rotary motion can be press ram-driven, or
it can be created by special electronic servo-drive motors. Besides moving downward, the
tap spins and creates the threaded hole.

Unlike a regular cutting tap, an in-die tapping unit uses special roll forming taps. Instead
of removing chips, roll forming taps gradually deform the metal into the shape of a

thread. Using a standard cutting tap in an in-die tapping unit would create a cutting chip
removal problem.

Because the work hardens during the metal deformation process, an in-die tapped hole's
strength can be similar to a standard cut
thread's strength. The difference is cost—
using an in-die tapping unit instead of an
offline tapping process can reduce costs
significantly (see Figure 1).

Rotary Benders

Rotary benders, often referred to as

rocker benders, are specialty metal
bending units that feature a rotary action-
producing V-grooved cylinder. This
cylinder is spring loaded and secured into
a special retainer called a saddle. As the
die closes and the cylinder makes contact Figure 2
with the sheet metal, it rotates about its Image courtesy of Danly IEM
centerline and creates the bend. Rotary
benders can be used to create straight-line bends only.

Unlike conventional metal bending equipment, rocker benders require no additional

pressure pad. Rocker benders can be easily adjusted and require less force than
conventional bending methods. When inserted with a special hard plastic, they are
nonmarking and can overbend the metal to create an acute or less than 90-degree angle.
They also can create double bends (Figure 2).

Pierce Nut Units

Fasteners, such as screws, nuts and rivets, can be inserted into a stamped part in various
ways. Using a pierce nut unit currently is a common method. This special mechanical
unit (Figure 3) both pierces a hole and fastens a threaded nut to the stamped part.

Figure 3

Pierce Nut Installation Unit

Image courtesy of Multifastener Corp.

Pierce nut units can feed fasteners in several different ways and can be incorporated
easily in progressive, line, and transfer dies. Unlike tapping, in which the hole relies on
the amount of thread engagement that can be achieved by the specific extrusion length,
pierce nut units can work with a variety of nut sizes, strengths, and thread series.

Pierce nut units can be used in almost any hole-piercing operation and are very popular in
both the automotive and other industries.


Activated by press ram-driven hydraulic cylinders, HYDROCAMs (Figure 4) pierce

holes and create special forms in die areas that are inaccessible using standard cams.
Using HYDROCAMs can reduce the number of stamping operations necessary, as well
as the die cost.

Figure 4
Image courtesy of Ready Technology.

The drive unit can be placed almost anywhere beneath the press ram and can be used to
activate one of several cams. Because these cams run on hydraulics, they can achieve a
great force. HYDROCAMs also can be adjusted easily to fine-tune the timing to execute
specialty cutting and forming operations.

Thread-forming Punches/Buttons

Thread-forming punches and buttons (Figure 5) both pierce and form the metal into a
special shape. The specially shaped pierced hole functions to hold a variety of screws and
increases the force necessary to pull the screw out of the sheet metal.

Figure 5
Image courtesy of Danly IEM.

The punches and buttons can be incorporated into standard ball lock retainers, or they can
be the headed type. Because the metal simply is being pierced and formed, no press speed
reduction is necessary.

Holes created with special thread-forming punches and buttons have improved holding
ability over putting a screw into a flat piece of sheet metal.

Metal cutting and forming methods are virtually endless and limited only by the
imagination. Each die has its own special function. To list all commercially available and
custom-made die components available would be nearly impossible.

Part VII of this series will discuss sheet metal properties.

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer

October 11, 2005

Stamping dies can comprise many components. This article discusses the basic
components, including die plates, shoes, die sets, guide pins, bushings, heel blocks, heel
plates, screws, dowels, and keys.

This article—Part IV of a series covering stamping die fundamentals—explains the

purpose and composition of common stamping die components. Part III discussed
several different production methods used to produce stamped parts. Part II covered
various forming operations, and Part I explained what a die is and described several
metal cutting operations.

While many specialty components can be used in manufacturing dies, most dies contain
certain common components.

Die Plates, Shoes, and Die Sets


Die plates, shoes, and die sets

are steel or aluminum plates
that correspond to the size of
the die. They serve as the
foundation for mounting the
working die components. These
parts must be machined so that
they are parallel and flat within
a critical tolerance. The
machining methods are milling
Figure 1
and grinding. Although
Various die set types
grinding is the most popular, a
milled surface now can be obtained that is as accurate as a ground surface.

Most die shoes are made from steel. Aluminum also is a popular die shoe material.
Aluminum is one-third the weight of steel, it can be machined very quickly, and special
alloys can be added to it to give it greater compressive strength than low-carbon steel.
Aluminum also is a great metal for shock adsorption, which makes it a good choice for
blanking dies.

The upper and lower die shoes assembled together with guide pins create the die set. The
lower die shoe often has machined or flame-cut holes that allow slugs and scrap created
in the die to fall freely through the die shoe onto the press bed. The holes also may serve
as clearances for gas springs and other die components.

The die shoe thickness is based on how much force can be expected during cutting and
forming. For example, a coining die, one that compresses metal by squeezing it between
an upper and lower die section, requires a much thicker die shoe than a simple bending
die (Figure 1).

Guide Pins and Bushings

Guide pins, sometimes referred to as guide posts or pillars, function together with guide
bushings to align both the upper and lower die shoes precisely. They are precision-ground
components, often manufactured within 0.0001 in. Although numerous specialty
mounting methods can be used to install these components, there are only two basic types
of guide pins and bushings—friction pins and ball bearing-style pins.

Friction pins are precision-ground pins that are slightly smaller than the guide bushing's
inside diameter. Pins are made from hardened tool steel, while bushings often are made
from or lined with a special wear-resistant material called aluminum-bronze. The
aluminum-bronze may contain graphite plugs that help to reduce friction and wear that
occur to the pins and bushings.

Friction pins also help to heel the die shoes and prevent them from moving from side to

Figure 2
CVarious guide pins and bushings

Precision or ball bearing-style guide pins comprise precision-hardened pins, ball cages,
ball bearings, and bushings. Unlike friction pins, these pins ride on a series of ball
bearings contained in a special aluminum ball cage that permits the bearings to rotate
without falling out. These pins have several advantages. First, friction is reduced so the
die can run at faster speeds without generating excessive friction and heat. Second, they
allow the diemaker to separate the upper and lower die shoes easily. Third, because they
use ball bearings, they can be manufactured with greater accuracy than friction pins
(Figure 2).

Remember, guide pins are meant to align the upper and lower die shoes, not to align a
poorly maintained or sloppy ram in a press! Some companies try to compensate for a
poorly maintained press by adding oversized guide pins or grinding the guide pin ends to
a cone shape. Care must be taken
when flipping die shoes over so that
the guide pins are not bent.

Heel Blocks and Heel Plates

Heel blocks are special steel blocks

that are precision-machined, screwed,
doweled, and often welded to both the
upper and lower die shoes. They
contain components called wear plates
and function to adsorb any side thrust
that may be generated during the
Figure 3
Heel blocks

cutting and forming process. They are especially important if the generated force is one-
directional. Too much force generated from one direction only can cause the guide pins to
deflect, which results in misalignment of critical cutting and forming components.

Most heel blocks have steel heel plates, and the heel block on the opposite shoe has a
wear plate made from aluminum bronze or some other dissimilar metal. The plate
selection process is critical. Using two opposing plates made of the same metal type can
result in high friction, heat, and eventually galling or cold welding of the wear plates.

Heel blocks can be used to heel the die in any or all directions. Box heels often are used
to heel the die in all directions (Figure 3).

Screws, Dowels, and Keys

Screws fasten and secure the working

components to both the upper- and
lower-die shoes. The socket head cap
screw is the most popular fastener
used in stamping dies. This hardened
tool steel screw, often referred to as an
Allen head screw, offers superior
holding power and strength.

Dowels are hardened, precision-

ground pins that precisely locate the
die section or component in its proper Figure 4
location on the die shoe. Although Keys, dowels and screws
dowels have much heeling ability, their main function is to locate the die section properly.

Keys are small, rectangular blocks of precision-ground steel that are inserted into a milled
pocket in the die shoes and sections called keyways. Keys locate and heel die sections
and components (Figure 4).

While these are the most common, other components can be used in manufacturing
stamping dies. These will be discussed in Part V of this series.

By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer

December 13, 2005

Stamping dies comprise many components. Continuing the discussion of common

stamping die components began in Part IV of this series, this article focuses on pads,
including stripper, pressure, and drawing; the methods used to secure them—spools,
shoulder bolts, keepers, and retainers; and springs—gas, coil, and urethane.

Editors Note: This article—Part V of a series covering stamping die fundamentals—

continues the discussion about common stamping die components that began in Part IV.

Part III discussed several different production methods used to produce stamped parts.
Part II covered various forming operations, and Part I explained what a die is and
described several metal cutting operations.

Many specialty components can be

used in dies, but the most commonly
used are die plates, shoes, die sets,
guide pins, bushings, heel blocks, heel
plates, screws, dowels, and keys—all
of which were explained in Part IV
of this series. This article focuses on
other common components—pads,
retainers, and springs.

Figure 1
A pad is simply a pressure-loaded plate, either flat or contoured, that holds, controls, or
strips the metal during the cutting and forming process. Several types of pads are used in
stamping dies. Depending on their function, pads can be made from soft low-carbon steel
or hardened tool steel. Contoured pads must fit very closely to the mating die section.
Precision requirements determine whether the pads are positioned with guide pins and
bushings or left unguided.

Stripper Pads/ Plates. Stripper pads are flat or contoured, spring-loaded plates that pull, or
strip, the metal off the cutting punches. When it's cut, metal naturally tends to collapse
around the body or shank of the cutting punches; this is especially true during piercing.
The stripper pad surrounds the cutting punches and mounts to the upper die shoe. As the
punch exits the lower die, the spring-loaded pad holds the metal down flush with the
lower die section, which allows the cutting punches to withdraw from the sheet metal or
piece part.

Often stripper pads are inserted with a small block of steel called a pad window. This pad
window usually is small and lightweight and can be removed easily to allow the die
maintenance technician to remove the ball lock-style pierce punch from the retainer
without removing the entire stripper pad. Stripper pads also function to hold the metal flat
or to the desired shape during the cutting process (Figure 1).

Pressure Pads/ Plates. During the wipe bending process, the metal must be held down
tightly to the lower die section before the forming punch contacts the metal. Pressure
pads must apply a force that is at least equivalent to the bending force. Most pressure
pads use high-pressure coil or gas springs (Figure 1). When loaded with very high-
pressure springs, contoured or flat pads also can form sheet metal. These pad types often
are referred to as power punches (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Figure 3

Draw Pads. Draw pads control metal flow during the drawing process. In drawing, the
amount of pressure, or downward force, exerted on the sheet metal determines how much
metal is allowed to flow and enter the draw die cavity. Too much pressure may stop the
metal from flowing and cause splitting; too little downward force may allow excess metal
to flow inward and cause loose metal or wrinkling.

Draw pads, often referred to as binders or blank holders usually are made from hardened
tool steel. They can be flat or contoured, depending on the piece part shape. Most
drawing dies use a single draw pad; however, in special cases, some use two (Figure 3).

Spools, Shoulder Bolts, and Keepers

Spools, shoulder bolts, and keepers are used to fasten pads to the die shoes while
allowing them to move up and down. They are secured to either the top or bottom die
shoe with screws and often dowels for precision location. Of all of the components used
for securing pads, spools are the most common, especially in larger dies (Figure 1 and
Figure 4).

Figure 4


Retainers hold or secure cutting or forming die components to both the upper and lower
die shoes. One of the most popular retainers is a ball-lock retainer, a high-precision,
accurately manufactured die component that secures and aligns both cutting and forming
punches. It uses a spring-loaded ball bearing to locate and secure the punches, which
feature a precisely machined teardrop or ball seat. The spring-loaded ball bearing locks
into the teardrop shape and prevents the punches from coming out of the retainer.

Figure 5

The advantage of ball-lock retainers is that they allow the die maintenance technician to
remove and reinstall punches quickly. The punch is removed by depressing the spring-
loaded ball bearing and pulling up on the punch. Specialty retainers also can be made to
hold and align irregular punch shapes, as well as headed-style punches and pilot pins
(Figure 5).


Springs supply the force needed to hold, strip, or form metal. Many different springs are
used in stamping dies. Spring selection is based on many factors, including the required
force and travel, the spring's life expectancy, and, of course, cost. Among the most
popular are gas springs, which, when filled with nitrogen, can supply a great deal of
force. They also have an excellent life expectancy.

Figure 6

Other types are coil and urethane springs, often called marshmallow springs (Figure 6).
Coil springs are very popular when a reasonable amount of force is needed and budget
constraints are present. Urethane springs
work well in short-run or prototype
stamping operations. They also are

The next part of this series will cover

even more common stamping die
By Art Hedrick, Contributing Writer
April 11, 2005
When I conduct conferences, it isn't unusual to have one or two
attendees who are new to the stamping die and pressworking
world. Some are young new hires trying to learn about stamping,
and others are individuals who have been transferred from a
different department and thrown to the wolves in the stamping
department. Figure 1

This article is the first in a series intended to introduce beginner toolmakers, die maintenance technicians, engineers, and press technicians
to stamping. The series will define a die as well as a stamping operation. It will also discuss cutting and forming operations, components
and functions, and different methods used to stamp parts.
What Is a Stamping Die?
A stamping die is a special, one-of-a-kind precision tool that
cuts and forms sheet metal into a desired shape or profile.
The die's cutting and forming sections typically are made
from special types of hardenable steel called tool steel.
Dies also can contain cutting and forming sections made
from carbide or various other hard, wear-resistant
Stamping is a cold-forming operation, which means that no
heat is introduced into the die or the sheet material
intentionally. However, because heat is generated from
friction during the cutting and forming process, stamped
parts often exit the dies very hot..
Dies range in size from those used to make Figure 2
Typical Cut Edge of a Stamped Part
microelectronics, which can fit in the palm of your hand, to
those that are 20 ft. square and 10 ft. thick that are used to make entire automobile body sides.
The part a stamping operation produces is called a piece part (see Figure 1). Certain dies can make more than one piece part per cycle
and can cycle as fast as 1,500 cycles (strokes) per minute. Force from a press enables the die to perform.
How Many Die Types Exist?
There are many kinds of stamping dies, all of which perform two basic
operations— cutting, forming, or both. Manually or robotically loaded
dies are referred to as line dies. Progressive and transfer dies are fully
Cutting is perhaps the most common operation performed in a stamping
die. The metal is severed by placing it between two bypassing tool steel
sections that have a small gap between them. This gap, or distance, is
called the cutting clearance.
Figure 3
Cutting clearances change with respect to the type of cutting operation Trimming
being performed, the metal's properties, and the desired edge condition
of the piece part. The cutting clearance often is expressed as a percentage of the metal's thickness. The most common cutting clearance
used is about 10 percent of the metal's thickness.
Very high force is needed to cut metal. The process often introduces substantial shock to the die and press. In most cutting operations, the
metal is stressed to the point of failure, which produces a cut edge with a shiny portion referred to as the cut band, or shear, and a portion
called the fracture zone, or break line (see Figure 2).

There are many different cutting operations, each with a

special purpose. Some common operations are:
Trimming—The outer perimeter of the formed part or flat
sheet metal is cut away to give the piece part the desired Figure 4
profile. The excess material usually is discarded as scrap Notching
(see Figure 3).
Notching—Usually associated with progressive dies, notching is a process in which a cutting operation is performed progressively on the
outside of a sheet metal strip to create a given strip profile (see Figure 4).

Blanking—A dual-purpose cutting operation usually

performed on a larger scale, blanking is used in operations
in which the slug is saved for further pressworking. It also is
used to cut finished piece parts free from the sheet metal.
The profiled sheet metal slug removed from the sheet by
this process is called the blank, or starting piece of sheet
metal that will be cut or formed later (see Figure 5).
Piercing—Often called perforating, piercing is a metal
cutting operation that produces a round, square, or special-
shaped hole in flat sheet metal or a formed part. The main
difference between piercing and blanking is that in blanking,
the slug is used, and in piercing the slug is discarded as
scrap. The cutting punch that produces the hole is called
the pierce punch, and the hole the punch enters is called
the matrix (see Figure 6).
Lancing—In lancing, the metal is sliced or slit in an effort
to free up metal without separating it from the strip. Lancing
often is done in progressive dies to create a part carrier called a flex or stretch web (see Figure 7).
Shearing—Shearing slices or cuts the metal along a straight line. This method commonly is used to produce rectangular and square
blanks (see Figure 8).
Part II of this series will discuss forming dies and stamping processes.

Reducing scrap, inventory costs with coil optimization software

Maximize material usage
By Lloyd Wolf
April 10, 2007

Coil optimization software is a valuable tool that fabricators can use to attack the problems of high scrap and high
inventory. It offers the ability to quickly and easily make sound decisions regarding the purchase and use of master coil

sizes. By using computers and specialized optimization algorithms, fabricators can minimize manual selection of coil

Specialized coil optimization software analyzes the parts to be made and determines the optimal coil sizes (widths) to purchase and maintain in
inventory. Multicut blanking line photo courtesy of Red Bud Industries, Red Bud, Ill.

Metal fabrication is one of the most competitive industries in the U.S. Fabricators are always looking for new ways to decrease
manufacturing costs to maintain profitability and a competitive edge. Identifying and implementing cost-reduction opportunities often mean
the difference between long-term survival and plant closure.
Many companies report that raw steel can represent as much as 70 percent of total manufacturing costs. Therefore, reducing scrap and
inventory costs are at the center of many cost-reduction efforts. Even the smallest reduction in these costs can have a huge impact on the
company's financial bottom line.
Specialized coil optimization software helps analyze the parts to be made and determine the optimal coil sizes (widths) to purchase and
maintain in inventory.

The Coil Handling Process

Master coils that fabricators purchase from mills and service centers typically are from 30 to 72 inches wide (see Figure 1). The master
coils are decoiled and processed through a series of cut-to-length or multicut blanking operations to yield rectangular blanks.

Figure 1
Master coils 30 to 72 inches wide are processed through a series of cut-to-length or multicut blanking operations to yield rectangular blanks.

The process begins when a master coil is loaded onto a cut-to-length or multicut blanking line. As the coil is unrolled, the length is sheared,
or cut to length. The blanks generated from the cut-to-length operation are sent to a manual shear, where the coil's width is cut in a
secondary shearing operation. The rectangular blanks generated from these operations are then sent to the fabrication, welding, paint, and
assembly departments to create the finished part.
If the coil is on a multicut blanking line (a cut-to-length line with slitter blades), the blank's width also is slit at the same time the length is
being cut.
The difference between the width of the master coil and the sum of the blank widths across the coil is scrap. It is dumped into a scrap
hopper and resold for only a few pennies per pound.
Cutting from master coils can result in inefficient material utilization, because, typically, hundreds of rectangular fabricated parts—each with
unique dimensions—must be cut from only a few master coil sizes. To make the math even more complex, each part has its own production
requirements: Some parts may be produced in very high volumes—more than 100,000 pieces annually. Other parts may be needed in very
low volumes—as few as 100 pieces annually. A coil size that utilizes material efficiently for one part number often is inefficient for another
part number.
For example, four 12-in.-wide parts placed across a 48-in.-wide coil results in 100 percent material utilization and 0 percent scrap. However,
four 10-in.-wide parts placed across the same 48-in.-wide coil results in about 17 percent scrap. Three 15-in.-wide parts placed across the
48-in.-wide coil results in more than 6 percent scrap.

Many Coils, Many Foils

One method some fabricators use to reduce scrap is to increase the number of different master coil sizes that they purchase and maintain
in inventory to increase the chance of maximizing material utilization. Unfortunately, this method of scrap reduction conflicts with just-in-time
(JIT) manufacturing and low coil inventory goals. With many different coil sizes in inventory, each coil's usage is reduced. Also, this
increases inventory carrying costs, because the coils tend to sit idle in inventory for extended time periods. Purchasing and maintaining
numerous different coil sizes also force more frequent setups and changeovers on the cut-to-length line. This is because the more coils that
are in inventory, the less likely that the coil required for the next shop order will be the same as the coil required for the last.
In addition, purchasing many coil sizes reduces the purchasing power of volume discounts.
Another method some companies use to reduce material costs is to purchase standard-size master coils, typically 30, 48, 60, and 72 in.
wide. These are common sizes, readily available from many suppliers. Accordingly, they are sold for several cents per pound less than the
"special"master coil sizes. However, in some instances, this method can be penny-wise and dollar-foolish, because many parts may not fit
efficiently into these standard coil sizes. If 5 percent can be saved on the purchase price per pound, then an extra 2 percent or 3 percent

scrap might be acceptable. But does it make sense to save 5 percent on the purchase price per pound with a scrap rate that is 10 percent
to 15 percent higher than it would be with special master coil sizes?

Manual Calculations
Fabricators try to minimize the amount of scrap they produce by selecting coil sizes that best fit the part sizes. However, for the large
number of different part sizes that most fabricators produce, a nearly infinite number of solutions could be considered as to which coil sizes
—and combinations of those sizes—;would provide the lowest overall scrap.
Selecting the most desirable coil sizes typically means relying on personal experience or a set of complex manual calculations using
spreadsheets. These calculations can take several days or even months to perform, especially when a different set of calculations must be
performed for each unique material specification (gauge, grade, chemistry, and so on). Unfortunately, during that time, product line and mix
changes may render those results invalid. Also, without having knowledge of complex optimization algorithms, fabricators may base their
calculations on invalid assumptions.
Further complicating manual calculations are that purchase prices and part rotation often vary as the coil width changes, because a
premium is charged for narrower coils, while discounts are provided for wider coils.
Second, if grain direction does not matter, each part can be considered both with-the-grain and rotated. This factor alone more than
doubles the number of possible solutions.

Optimization Software
Specialized coil optimization software can help fabricators attack the problems of high scrap and high inventory. The software analyzes
forecast production requirements for a set of parts, manufacturing constraints, and material and manufacturing costs. It determines the
optimal coil sizes (widths) to purchase and maintain in inventory, and it shows how to cut parts with lower scrap, lower cost, and fewer coil

Figure 2
The parts database stores part blank information—such as part number, width, length, forecast demand, and rotatability— for each material

Because of powerful optimization algorithms, the software can effectively consider the cost of every possible combination of coil sizes that
can be used—more than could ever be considered manually. It finds the optimal coil sizes, thus reducing scrap loss and the number of
different master coil sizes.

Typical Optimization Process

The user starts an optimization study by providing parts and constraint information for the material type to be optimized.
The parts database (see Figure 2) is a spreadsheet-like window where part blank information is stored for each material specification.
Information typically includes part number, width, length, forecast demand, and rotatability. This may be entered directly by the user, copied
and pasted from other software, or imported from other systems via file transfer.

Figure 3
The costs and constraints database is where equipment limits, material costs, and manufacturing costs are specified.

The costs and constraints database (see Figure 3) is where equipment limits, material costs, and manufacturing costs are specified.
Equipment constraints include maximum and minimum coil widths, the quantity of slitter blades, and edge-trim allowance. Using a material
cost table, the user can specify the purchase price per pound for varying ranges of coil widths, along with the reimbursement for scrap.

Costs for material handling and labor also can be broken out. Constraint information needs to be set up only once for various material
specifications and does not require modification for each optimization study.
Once that data is input, the user starts the optimization routine. The software automatically determines the optimal master coil sizes in less
than five minutes, typically (see Figure 4). About halfway through the optimization process, the optimal coil sizes are displayed. The user
can continue with the optimal master coil sizes, or other sizes may be entered to facilitate "what if"scenarios.
When the calculations are finished, the optimization results can be reviewed both on-screen and in printed reports. The cost and scrap
summary report provides summary information such as total scrap, total cost, and total weight for different master coil sizes.

Figure 4
During the optimization routine, the software automatically determines the optimal master coil sizes. Other sizes may be entered to facilitate “what if”

For example, if only one coil size were selected, what would be its width? What would be the scrap rate? What would be the overall cost? If
two coil sizes were selected, what would be the width and volume of each, the overall scrap rate, and overall cost? Having more coil sizes
will result in less scrap, but other, intangible costs would also increase at the same time, offsetting the material savings. If adding an
additional coil size saves an extra $25,000 per year in scrap, that probably makes sense. But if the savings were only an additional $500
per year, then the additional, intangible inventory costs would probably far exceed the material savings.
Using the cost and scrap summary, it is fairly easy to decide on the solution containing the optimal number of master coil sizes to use,
considering scrap, material costs, and inventory all together.
Once the number of master coil sizes is decided, a part assignment report can be viewed on-screen or printed. This report shows which
parts are assigned to which master coil for the selected solution, and the corresponding number of pieces cut across the coil width. This
report typically is used by the engineering department to update bills of materials and routings in the company's manufacturing software

Typical Investment, Savings, and Ongoing Periodic Analysis

The initial investment in coil optimization software typically is from $15,000 to $25,000 per manufacturing location—depending on the
number of users, the amount of user training, and the need for any customization. Ongoing annual costs for software maintenance and
support are typically 15 percent to 20 percent of the initial investment. Depending on the annual steel tonnage the company needs, material
costs, and the part mix, annual savings typically are from $30,000 to $200,000. Because operating costs and material costs tend to
increase over time, annual savings typically increases too.
Because the mix of parts can change each year, as older product lines are discontinued and new product lines and changes are introduced,
the optimal coil sizes also may change. Barring any major product changes, typically a company will use the optimization software to re-
evaluate master coil sizes about once each year to see how any changes in part mix have affected the optimal coil sizes. If part demand
and mix have changed significantly, different coil sizes likely will be recommended.
If a year from now the results from a new optimization study show that changing two of the four coil sizes for a material specification yields
a $25,000 savings, then it probably makes sense to change those sizes. If, however, changing the sizes would produce only a $2,500
savings, meaning that the part mix has not changed much and the prior coil sizes still "fit"the parts fairly well, then it may make sense to
simply keep the current sizes, because there will be some cost associated with the time and effort to switch. n

Leaving the lab behind: Australian students move stamping research to the
By Michael Cardew-Hall, Peter Hodgson, and Noel Miller, Contributing Writers
April 24, 2001
Stamping Technology for Automotive Manufacturing Processes (STAMP) is a novel type of research program developed in Australia. The
unique aspect of this program is that research is conducted for industry inside actual companies--a radical departure from traditional
research, which typically involves experimentation in laboratories. This research model is well-suited to the manufacturing industry,
particularly in Australia, where small and medium-size companies are predominant.
The Need for Assistance
STAMP was launched in mid-1997 as a collaborative venture between two Australian universities–The Australian National University and
Deakin University--and Ford Motor Company, along with three of its suppliers, BHP Steel Ltd., Castrol Pty Ltd., and Imag Australia. The
program was created to address some specific needs of the collaborating partners in the general areas of stamping and sheet metal
As many other stamping professionals throughout the world do, these partners perceived stamping as a black art and believed that
problems experienced with new or ongoing parts could be solved only by experts with many years of experience. While this had been the

mode of operation for many years at these plants, the continuing need to be efficient and competitive had resulted in the loss of many
experienced personnel through downsizing and early retirement.
The black art needed to be replaced by more scientific approaches, and new experts with sound understanding needed to be trained and
brought into the industry.
It also was recognized that day-to-day pressures present in stamping operations do not allow long-term projects to be addressed. These
projects may have great potential benefit to a plant's operational effectiveness, but they often require extensive background research,
experimentation, analysis, and reflection on results–a luxury to busy plant engineers.
When STAMP was initiated, the Ford Stamping Plant in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, was working with a number of separate universities on
disparate, sometimes overlapping projects. It was identified that by drawing together the strengths of several institutions and suppliers into
a virtual center structure comprising existing industrial and academic facilities, a focused approach could be adopted to meet identified
needs. It also provided plant personnel with a single window for access to knowledge and expertise.
The Model
Universities and the stamping industry working together is nothing new. What is novel is the model used within STAMP.
Projects are designed for university research students, who usually are enrolled in two-year Master of Engineering (and occasionally Ph.D.)
research degree programs. The length of the projects allows significant problems to be addressed.
The students are in the plant setting for more than 80 percent of their time, working alongside plant personnel. They dress the same as
company employees and attend regular operational meetings so that they can better understand the motivations and problems that the
plant personnel experience. To maintain the academic nature of their work, students also spend periods of time, either one day a week or
longer blocks, at their university campus to read, work on problems using university facilities, or consult academics.
In addition to having an academic supervisor, each student is assigned an industrial supervisor, who typically is a line manager in the plant,
and a technical mentor, who helps with the day-to-day facilitation of the project. Both people are key to the success of the students' project.
Students meet with their academic supervisors either on the university campus or in the plant. The academics are regular visitors to the
plant, spending, on average, one day there every three weeks.
Students have access to production presses to carry out experiments in context, rather than in the abstract in a university laboratory, and
findings are likely to yield direct benefits to the operations. In addition to production plants, the students have access to a number of small
presses set aside for their use. These have a wider variety of instrumentation and allow students to carry out more fundamental
The stamping lines and individual presses are considered to be part of the experimental facilities available to the STAMP program. The
plant-based experimentation is supported by university-based testing facilities and workshops as needed.
While some projects involve large amounts of experimentation, others focus on the use of computer-aided engineering and manufacturing
(CAEM) and finite element modeling methods to improve process understanding and limit problems. Students have access to two UNIX-
based engineering workstations located in the Ford plant. These run CAD, CAEM, and metal forming simulation software and are
connected via a microwave link to the university network. This link effectively allows a minicampus to exist within the plant.
In addition to the plant-based students, one or two research students work at their university on more long-term projects. They create
another avenue of communication for the students in the plant. Further support is provided by a postdoctoral fellow and two research
engineers who spend extended periods of time in the plant when projects require them.
Two committees manage the STAMP activities. Both are chaired by senior plant personnel and meet every six weeks:
1. The technical committee is responsible for defining, monitoring, and controlling the projects. It includes some plant personnel, particularly
the technical mentors and industrial supervisors, as well as all of the collaborating industrial partners, academics, and students. The
projects are identified and scoped by the industrial partners and the academic colleagues. This ensures that a balance is maintained
between addressing real problems and academic merit and integrity.
2. The management committee oversees the financial and resource management of the program. It provides guidance on the students’
career development beyond the life of their project.
Each year, an independent review of the program's activities is carried out. Each student presents his or her work to an audience of plant
personnel, senior academics from the two universities who are not associated with the program, and an eminent professor who has worked
extensively in the sheet metal forming area. This group provides an important quality check and critical feedback on the direction and
nature of the work being done.
At the technical level, this program allows relatively long-term projects to be addressed that normally would be too long for production
personnel to be involved in. Because the research is carried out in context, project input and output remain relevant. Researchers are able
to understand the limitations of current processes and organizational structures.
Through this program, the partners can attract and retain well-qualified, motivated technical staff within the manufacturing sector.
Development and retention of graduates within the partner organizations is a major focus of STAMP, and each student is viewed as a
potential employee. Students are recruited through a competitive interview and assessment process. The program attracts both fresh
graduates and those who have been in graduate training programs and want a higher degree and more technical work experience in an
industrial environment.
A side benefit is that findings and real-world problems can be incorporated into the undergraduate engineering programs at the two
universities. Guest speakers now are regularly invited to speak to undergraduate students, providing a knowledge path from industry to the
The structure and organization of the program have created a multidisciplinary team. There is an open environment for the discussion of
ideas and problems. This is partly due to the individuals involved, but also to the high level of commitment shown by the participating
companies and universities.
Specific Outcomes
Each project has three outcome measures:

1. Improvement in process/increase in
technical knowledge base in the plant.
This is a key outcome. Each thesis
generated by the students must have an
appendix of how the results will be
adopted by the industry partner.
Projects completed to date have
reduced lubricant and die coating costs,
increased practical understanding of
forming bake-hardenable steels,
enabled viewing of the deep-drawing
process as a system, and more.
2. New employees. To date, all of the
graduates either have been employed
by the partner companies or have gone
to supplier organizations upon
completion of their projects.
3. Publication of academic works. The
industrial partners recognize the
academic partners’ need to publish
scholarly articles. Much of the work that
is not of a sensitive nature has been
published in international journals or
presented at conferences. In addition to Figure 1
being presented at public conferences, One significant project result has been the development of a knowledge capture and dissemination
the work carried out within STAMP is system called Simpress, which initially was developed by research engineers in conjunction with the
regularly reported to the industrial student projects as a way to use project outcomes as useful tools in the plant.
partners' global headquarters in the
U.S. through various technical stamping forums.
While project results have significantly improved understanding of the stamping process in the plant, the most significant outcome has been
the development of a knowledge capture and dissemination system called Simpress. This system initially was developed by research
engineers in conjunction with the student projects as a way to use project results as useful tools in the plant (see Figure 1).
Developed in close cooperation with staff and students in the plant, the system now forms the basis of a wider knowledge-capture system
for stamping operations. It has been designed to allow knowledge and methods from student projects to be incorporated in a modular