Aging Presses Ripe For Renewal
Canada has been a good hunting ground for tool and die shop X-Cel Tooling, Iron Ridge, WI. That’s where the metal-stamping tool and die shop has foraged recently for two used big-bed high-tonnage mechanical presses. The two newly refurbished presses have greatly extended the firm’s die-tryout capabilities, allowing it to bid on and earn contracts heretofore unattainable.
X-Cel’s newly refurbished 1000-ton Danly four-point press rises on a newly poured foundation (top) within a 60- by 100-ft. addition to its facility. The press has greatly extended the shop’s die-tryout capacity.
The key to strategic growth opportunities in die build and tryout is having presses with the magic combination of a big bed, large windows, and vast stroke and shut height. That according to X-Cel vice president of manufacturing Dave Mamerow.
“I consider our two newly refurbished presses just as good as any new press,” says Mamerow, “particularly for tryout and even for limited production stamping. They’re solid and tight, well made and built to last. With key surfaces remachined and the addition of new coil feeds and press controls, they’re performing perfectly for us and our customers.”
Not to mention that “since we don’t run a significant amount of production work (being a die shop), justifying a new press simply isn’t possible,” adds Mamerow. “Used presses make more sense.”
Coil Feed a Necessity
Forty-two-year-old X-Cel acquired its first used big-bed press in 2003, a 1250-ton 1950-vintage Clearing model with an 84- by 144-in. bed, 50-in. shut height and 24-in. stroke. Along with a new control for the press came a coil-feed line, a real value when pitching new die projects. Prior to acquiring the press, the firm’s capacity maxed out at a 600-ton press with an 84- by 180-in. bed. One problem with that press: It’s landlocked and positioned in such a that prohibits operation with a coil line.
“During the last few years we’ve found that more and more customers want to try out their dies with coil feed,” says Mamerow. “Performing 300-part runoffs and capability studies using a blank feeder no longer suffices for many of our projects. We can run 300 parts coil-fed in 20 min.; from strip the process can take hours. And, customers want us to prove out their dies using exactly the same procedures as they will run the dies in production. Strip feed just doesn’t correlate to coil feed.”
Larger, more complex progressive and transfer dies certainly are the norm in the metalforming industry these days, particularly in the automotive and appliance industries where X-Cel focuses. Those industries account for some 75 percent of the firm’s business, while the lawn-and-garden, electronics and recreational-vehicle markets also account for several new programs each year.
Almost immediately after X-Cel installed its first big-bed tryout press, it became “buried with work,” Mamerow says. “We do a lot of work for Ford, and even though that press has a 144-in. bed it’s still not quite large enough for much of the Ford work that goes out for bid. A lot of Ford’s recent projects comprise 180-in. dies.”
To avoid being limited on what projects X-Cel could bid on, the call went out for yet another used big-bed press. That was in 2007. Among Mamerow’s search specifications: a minimum shut height of 44 in., windows wide enough to accommodate a 72-in. feed line, and enough stroke to allow toolmakers unencumbered access to dies during tryout.
Almost a Needle in a Haystack
Mamerow’s 5-yr. search for the answer to his tryout-press needs took him again to Canada, where he found (in mid-2011) a 1000-ton 1970-vintage Danly with a 180- by 102-in. bed. A $350,000 refurbishing process launched almost immediately after X-Cel acquired the press. Simultaneously, X-Cel excavated and poured a new concrete bed for the press in a 60- by 100-ft. addition added to its then 58,000-sq.-ft. building. It also extended an existing 30-ton crane into the new press’ new home, to allow die setting onto the press’ rolling bolster.
The press—72-in. shut height and 33-in. stroke—took three weeks to disassemble and ship to various locations for remachining, in sections weighing as much as 150,000 lb. Work began in June 2011 and by November X-Cel began reassembly of the main frame of the press, on its newly poured foundation. The building addition rose around the press frame in December and by April 2012 the press was completed and ready for work. Tryout of new, large and complex dies for the Ford Transit program launched in June.
Supplied with the newly refurbished press by local machinery dealer Crane Production Systems Corp., Waukesha, WI, is a 72-in. Cooper-Weymouth, Peterson high-capacity feed line and a Wintriss SmartPac2 press control. As an option for the control package, Crane Production included a frequency inverter that allows the press to run at varying speeds, allowing X-Cel to try out dies at the same speed they’ll run in production. The SmartPac2 also manages the press’ four-point tonnage-monitoring system, “a must for die tryout,” adds Mamerow.
Along with increased bed size, Mamerow specified the new press line to handle an influx of higher-strength steels, noting that the 72-in. feed line on the 1250-ton press limits runoff to 1⁄8-in.-thick by 72-in. material. The new, beefier CWP feed line supplied with the 1000-ton Danly boasts several features, among them a heavy-duty straightener and coil breaker, that enable it to tackle thicker and stronger steels. And while the feed line on the 1250-ton press has 2.8-in.-dia. backed-up straightening rolls on a 3.25-in. center distance, the new straightener features 5-in. straightening rolls on 6-in. centers. Further, it’s a four-roll feeder, rather than the standard two rolls, which gives X-Cel the required flexibility to handle the extraordinarily wide variety of jobs it processes. Twice the number of feed rolls allows roll pressure to be cut in half, helping to avoid sheet distortion or marring.
Along with more horsepower, the tougher straightener allows X-Cel to feed 72-in.-wide material as thick as 0.169 in. (45-KSI yield strength), or 0.156- by 72-in. high-strength (65 KSI) steel. A secondary floor-mounted coil-clamping arm optimizes safety when cutting the bands on the high—strength material to prevent clock-springing.
Included with the coil line are features meant to ease line setup and operation, “extremely helpful to a company such as X-Cel where tool makers often asked to run the line might only do so once or twice per month,” says Crane Production Systems’ vice president of sales Gary Matthies. He refers to a consolidated control system “highly recommended to customers buying large, complicated lines.
“The control system is a great tool for line operators,” Matthies continues, “because it contains the entire operations manual and provides prompts for threading and other functions. This makes it quick and easy for operators to find information or troubleshoot right there at the machine.”
Included with the consolidated system control package is an Auto Ready function that, when pushbutton-triggered, automatically moves all threading features to a neutral position in preparation for automatic operation.
Two Busy Tryout Presses
2012 has been a busy year for X-Cel, and its two high-tonnage tryout presses have lead the to a 75-percent uptick in revenue year over year, and a 20-percent revenue increase since 2007.
“Our dies can range from $50,000 to $500,000,” says Mamerow. Among its 2012 workload were six 100- by 180-in. dies to stamp structural parts direct to Ford for its Transit utility van, and 25 dies for Ford’s Tier One supplier Victor Mfg., for stamping smaller parts for the Transit. MF