Saturday, 23 Febbraio 2019

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Precision tube bending takes next step in evolution

unison 08Groundbreaking software to manage the tube bending process from programming to production is being launched by Unison. Its latest software tools package provide significant progress in three areas: simulation, machine programming flexibility, and data collection. The resulting optimisation and versatility of tube bending will help tubular part manufacturers to substantially boost the productivity of operations. The first element of the new software release is an all-new version of the company's three-dimensional simulator - Opt2Sim - to accelerate the development of control programs for all-electric tube bending machines. Previously a discrete add-on to Unison's Unibend machine control software, the simulator has been completely re-engineered for total compatibility and accuracy of simulation. It now employs exactly the same embedded code that the machine runs on, ensuring that the simulator always performs in exactly the same manner as the machine - even as new machine control software features are added. The package will also now simulate the bending of additional tubular profiles such as square and rectangular - extending the versatility of application. Unison's latest Opt2Sim package enables fully validated bending programs to be created entirely off-line, and is suitable for any machine in the company's Breeze range of all-electric tube benders. The new version also incorporates a completely re-engineered collision detection utility, substantially simplifying a time-consuming task faced by users. 

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Bend the tube exactly the way you want it

unison 07One of the pioneers of all-electric tube bending technology, Unison, will release groundbreaking new machine control software at MACH. Among numerous new features are an extended “teach” facility giving users unprecedented access to the underlying machine control code - effectively allowing virtually any aspect of machine operation to be controlled. All a user needs to do is right-click on the relevant part of any tube bending program, and the underlying code is presented in an easy to understand and editable form, allowing rapid changes to be made. This can be exploited in many ways, to optimise speed of operation for example by controlling individual and multiple axis movements, or slow movement - adding pauses, stops, etc. In this way, users can fine-tune the standard bending and machine control sequences that the Unibend software package generates, to create highly optimised programs for individual parts. This might be used to pause a program to allow inspection for example, to slow movements to dampen vibration, to better handle lighter or heavier parts, to position the carriage to simplify unloading, and in many other ways. Another related new feature will be a means of customising the motion profiles for machine axes. “All-electric bending technology has revolutionised the production of tubular parts”, says Unison’s Mark Gerard. “This new software release adds another layer of programming flexibility into the equation - giving users the means to micro-manage the bending and handling cycle for optimum results, whether the desired outcome is speed, smoothness, ergonomics, or other factors”.  

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Automated tube bending cell

unison 06The Walsall Wheelbarrow Company has installed a second custom-designed automated production cell from Unison to help meet huge demand for its unique “barrow in a box” product. The cell is part of a new production line that makes the frames for these wheelbarrows, and fully automates all tube bending operations. Commissioned during the summer of 2105, it has enabled the company to dramatically increase manufacturing throughput – from 1800 to 3500 wheelbarrows per day. As Jonathan Thacker, Operations Director at The Walsall Wheelbarrow Company points out, “Our first Unison production cell was the catalyst for production expansion. It enabled us to re-engineer our manufacturing operations for high volume production and freed up skilled staff for future product development. The success of our barrow in a box range is due in no small part to the manufacturing flexibility that the cell introduced. Increasing demand meant that we needed to expand capacity even further, so in 2014 we invested in a 6-robot press line for wheelbarrow pans, followed about six months later by this second Unison cell for frame manufacturing”.

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All-electric pipe bending machine

unison 05Unison has installed and commissioned one of the world’s largest and most powerful all-electric pipe bending machine, at the Norwegian offshore and maritime services company, Westcon Yard AS. Capable of generating a colossal 660,000 Nm of continuous, servo-controlled torque, the custom-designed machine will be used for precision bending of thick-walled carbon steel pipes up to 10 inches (273 mm) in diameter. This is the second all-electric pipe bender that Unison has supplied to Westcon’s pipe production facilities in Ølensvåg, Norway. The first, a 90 mm single-stack model from Unison’s Breeze range, was installed at the beginning of 2015 and enabled the company to bring fabrication of all pipe sizes up to 60.3 mm in diameter in-house. It has also helped Westcon to simplify and accelerate its production process dramatically, by allowing parts to be fabricated from single-piece piping stock, instead of from multiple cut-to-length straight sections and pre-formed bend parts bought-in from external suppliers. Westcon has similarly high expectations for its new 10-inch machine. The company now intends producing virtually all the pipe sizes that it needs for its outfitting, service and repair operations entirely in-house, without having to use pre-fabricated bend sections. Although Unison’s bending machines are used by a number of the world’s leading ship and submarine builders to produce large pipe and tube assemblies, this is by far the most powerful that the company has ever designed and built. It highlights the inherent scalability of Unison’s machine architecture and underlying motion control technology – the company’s range of all-electric bending machines now extends all the way from 16 mm (5/8 inch) to 273 mm (10 inches). 

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Eliminating cut-off waste of tubular parts

unison 04Unison has won an order for a custom-designed tube bending machine and special tooling from Cybex International, manufacturer of premium physical exercise equipment. Incorporating a unique servo-driven wiper die mount, the machine has been specifically designed to enable Cybex to reduce waste material costs by eliminating the need to cut shorter tubular parts to length after bending. Cybex produces a diverse array of physical exercise machines at two large state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Medway, Massachusetts and Owatonna, Minnesota. Its unique machines are developed with the help of exercise science principles to be biomechanically correct and generate optimum results with minimum stress on the body. Nearly all Cybex exercise equipment is based on high quality tubular steel framework, most of which is produced at the Owatonna plant. The framework is a highly visible part of the brand image and therefore needs to combine an aesthetic look and feel with structural strength. To achieve this, Cybex constructs frames from three different sizes of robust 11 gauge steel tubing, using a variety of proprietary tube profiles including flat-sided oval and compressed octagonal shapes. The custom bending machine that Unison has designed will bend complex and short tube shapes without generating cut-off waste. Instead of a stationary wiper die, Unison’s machine uses a unique swing-away tool mount which – like all motorized axes on the machine – is driven by a software-controlled servomotor. Moving the wiper die away from the pressure die towards the end of the bend cycle allows the tube feed mechanism to be driven closer to the rotary bending head, facilitating fully automated production of short parts. The new machine is based on a 4-inch (100 mm) all-electric CNC tube bender from Unison’s Breeze range. It has also been configured with multi-radius bending capability and multi-stack tooling to allow complex parts to be produced in a single, uninterrupted machine cycle. The precision of the new machine is also aided by the inclusion of a unique laser-based system that automatically measures and adjusts bend angles to compensate for tube spring-back after bending.

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Tube bending machine

unison 03Unison launches a new category of tube bending machine designed to substantially lower the cost and skill level required to produce precision tubular parts in small volumes. Target sectors for the new machine - which can bend tube diameters of up to 2 inches/50 mm – include shipbuilding, and equipment for oil, gas and other processing sectors. The new EvBend 2000 rotary draw tube bending machine has a unique architecture combining manual set-up with semi-manual operation of the bending arm - which has servomotor power assistance. This approach makes the machine intrinsically easy to understand and use - requiring just a few minutes of training - and inherently safe. However, very precise tube bending results are also assured by a unique CNC control system for the tube feed, carriage rotation, and bend axes. EvBend 2000 is a variant of Unison's successful EvBend 1000 manual machine which can handle tubing diameters up to 22 mm and is widely used in the aerospace sector. The new 2000 series machines can provide a bend torque of up to 5500 Nm to assist operation of the bend arm. This assistance allows machines to handle larger tubing diameters up to 2 inches/50 mm, including tubing made from hard high-performance alloy materials. With the launch of the EvBend 2000, Unison has found a way to extend this formula to larger tubing sizes, without sacrificing either safety or simplicity. Operator safety continues to be assured by the requirement for human force on the bend arm to engage the power assistance, plus a form of “dead man's switch”, which provides a fail-safe mechanism that instantly removes the power assistance if the operator lets go or relaxes the grip on the handle.

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All-electric bending machine


One of the UK’s leading manufacturers of grab poles for public transport vehicles, Dealercast, has installed a second Unison all-electric CNC tube bending machine to expand manufacturing capacity at its Manchester plant. The order for the machine was placed during Unison’s open house event, when tube fabricators were able to tour the company’s design and manufacturing facilities and review the latest tube bending automation and CAD/CAM software tools. Following installation and commissioning, the machine - a 50 mm Breeze model with multi-stack tooling - has now entered service at Dealercast’s premises. According to Dealercast’s Managing Director, Michael Lythgoe, said: “We are increasing our production capacity – and our manufacturing flexibility – to stay ahead of our clients’ needs. Although we could have bought a low-cost tube bender from the Far East for perhaps half the price of the new Unison machine, this would only have been a stop-gap solution. Instead, we sought a machine that would provide reliable long term performance and a reasonable return on investment, while retaining high residual value. Unison’s tube benders fit these requirements precisely - they are the best on the market and the company’s technical support is excellent”.

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Aerospace Engineers Choose Tube Bending Technology

unison 02Unison has won a significant order for tube bending machinery from the precision aerospace engineering company, Supercraft. The machinery will help Supercraft to expand operations at itsnew manufacturing facility in Brough, UK, in preparation for contracts recently secured from major aerospace customers. It will also provide the software flexibility needed to enhance productivity of specialist low volume parts through use of “closed-loop” manufacturing techniques. The order calls for two Unison machines. Supercraft wanted another Evbend 1000 low-cost CNC tube bender - a novel machine which minimises the costs of producing small-batch high value parts by means of manually powered tube feed, rotation and bending, but with smart CNC-controlled braking on these axes to ensure precision. The second machine is a 30 mm model from Unison's Breeze family of all-electric tube benders. The Evbend machine was installed at Supercraft’s Brough facility in December 2014; the 30 mm Breeze is scheduled for delivery in Q1 2015.  

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All-electric technology for tube manipulation

unison 01All-electric CNC tube bending machines from Unison have helped the specialist tube manipulation company Toolspec Manufacturing Company Limited to implement a flexible right-first-time manufacturing strategy, enhance production capability and win a major export order worth £500,000. According to Toolspec Manufacturing’s Operations Director, Howard Dean, “Moving from hydraulic to all-electric tube bending technology is like coming in from the Dark Ages. The complex art of precision tube bending, known only to highly skilled operatives, is replaced by a system that is easy to understand and use. We took delivery of two Unison machines less than eight months ago and by integrating them with our CAD and CMM (coordinate measuring machine) facilities we have implemented a much more efficient and flexible manufacturing system. We are now able to produce prototype parts in a fraction of the time that it took with our old hydraulic tube benders, with significantly reduced labour costs and much less scrap material”. The new Unison all-electric tube benders were installed at Toolspec’s manufacturing facility in Luton, UK in May 2014. Both machines are 50 mm Breeze models, equipped with multi-stack tool heads designed for fast, easy tool changeover. They are also both fitted with Unison’s unique laser-controlled springback correction system. This accurately measures bend angles as they are produced and automatically applies any necessary correction to compensate for the tendency of tubes to spring back slightly after being bent.  

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