We visited AMADA AMERICA’s corporate headquarters and Los Angeles Technical Center (LATC) in Buena Park, CA to get a look Under the Hood at the company’s HRB 1003 press brake combined with the Automatic Tool Changer (ATC).
The HRB 1003 ATC, the full name for this combination, boasts 100 metric tons of bending pressure (110 U.S. tons, or short tons) and a three-meter bed length. It is made at the company’s High Point, NC manufacturing facility, and began life in 2019. The HRB 1003 has a larger brother, the HRB 2204, a 220 metric ton (243 U.S. tons), four-meter unit.
The ATC has been paired before, with predecessors the HG series of press brakes—more about the HG and its tooling in a moment. The ATC already has many users in the field. The company keeps in touch with ATC customers and gets input about their experience using the product. As a result, the ATC series (launched in 2012) is mature, tested, and monitored.
What it’s all about
Among other things, the product combo provides speed. Average time removing current setups and installing new setups is said to be about two minutes; only rarely does a job require four minutes. How does it achieve such speed?
Three stockers serve up the tooling inside the ATC. Unlike many competitive systems, the ATC doesn’t have to serve up the tooling in linear fashion because there are some aspects of punch removal and installation that go beyond the linear. Additionally, the desired tool can be picked among tools of different width. The Tool Layout Units (the red box-like structures that move along the bed) can work in three dimensions.
The product is designed so that a veritable newcomer can make excellent bends. For the most part, jobs are programmed offline and loaded onto the control before the operator shows up. Then it’s just a matter of accessing that job on the control, hitting start, and the tooling setup begins. Two other methods are possible, scanning in a job from a printed page, and using AMADA’s Lite interface to hand-draw a simple job. We’ll see those methods shortly.
Meanwhile you may wonder how the setup speeds are possible. Those Tool Layout Units do move quickly. Other factors contribute to the speed. If there is common tooling between jobs, that tooling is simply moved to its new location (or kept in place, as the case may be). Additionally, the system is so good at sequencing that often a new tooling setup is underway before all the tooling from the previous job is gone.
At the LATC, we were lucky to have application engineer Tyler Fontanilla to assist us with information and demonstration. We get a quick introduction to the HRB 1003 ATC, with a look at the punch holders, the tooling, automatic hydraulic clamping of tooling, and the system’s use of sensors. Let’s check out the intro:
The ATC’s stockers provide punches and dies to the Tool Layout Units inside the ATC enclosure. Next the Tool Layout Units bring the tools to the appropriate position. The software in the control has already decided the sequence as well as the method of deployment. We also get a demonstration of the system’s light curtain safety feature. Fontanilla takes us through the processes:
Let’s look at the setup of multiple stages. Before we begin, the control tells us the estimated time of completion. At the end of the setup the control reports on the actual time elapsed. Is it the same as predicted, is it slower, is it faster? Find out:
Let’s get a closer look at the tooling, which changed with the launch of the HRB series. As mentioned, the HG series also optionally uses the ATC. HG tooling is 220 mm in height. For the HRB, the tooling is made at the AMADA’s tooling manufacturing plant in Batavia, NY. It’s called AFH for AMADA Fixed Height, the fixed height being 120 mm. (See the photo below for a comparison of a gooseneck tool, AFH 120 mm tooling on the left compared to the single HG-compatible, 220 mm tool on the right.)
AMADA AMERICA’s Bending Product Manager Scott Ottens explains how important the tooling is to the automated solution: “The tooling,” Ottens notes, “is a core part of the system; you really don’t think about them separately.” He says that although the two sets of tooling—the HG’s and the HRB’s–are of very different lengths, the punch holders on the HRB ATC add more room for larger bends and the difference is not as great as you might think. The tooling for the HRB ATC also fits the HRB version.
In our next short video, we get a look at how the fingers of the Tool Layout Unit “catch” the right spot of the opening in the tooling. When it hooks in, it activates a pin inside that finger that locks it in place temporarily. Let’s see it at work:
After creating our six-stage bend job, we are going to change the entire setup. As mentioned above, there are multiple ways to enter a job.
For the occasional simple job that does not require offline programming, AMADA provides Lite mode. If you can sketch a part with your finger, you can enter the part at the control. It’s not designed to be the main job entry method, but when it’s needed it’s handy to have and fascinating to see at work.
You can drag your finger on the screen to get a certain angle, touch the screen where the bends are, and you get an approximate side view picture. Next, you enter the type of material and the actual dimensions of each straight. The system looks at the bends you create, and if it detects crashes, it automatically will attempt to rectify that situation by using a different bend sequence. Let’s get a look at this process:
Now, we are going to physically remove the previously-used tooling and install the next set. Total time is around three minutes. We see the system verify the tooling position, then begin removing the dies and punches. You may spy tools being reversed in the upper portion of the ATC—it’s a bit hard to see because of the reflection as well as the speed at which it happens. We asked Fontanilla to show us what happens in a slow/stop motion version, and there you can see it’s a pretty simple and efficient job when the machine takes over:
Some of the system’s flexibility lies at the backgauge. Not only is it fast (a few seconds) to change, it’s also managed at the control. And as Fontanilla shows, it will tell you where you can or cannot set the back of the piece to be bent. Here’s how it works and how it’s installed:
Now it’s time to set up the last job. This job is entered via barcode scan again. A quick setup, less than a minute, and we’re in business:
A number of things differentiate the HRB ATC from its HRB brethren. First, AMADA’s adjustable crowning technology is standard on the HRB ATC, and is available as an option on the HRB. The Bi-S sensor is a probe-style sensor available as an option only on the HRB ATC. It measures and adjusts the bend angle on the fly; in our last video you can see the delicate moves of the ram in achieving a perfect angle. The settings to achieve that final angle are saved and used for the rest of the same parts in the bend job (see photo).
Some niceties, like the auto slide foot pedal, have a practical use (like not dragging a foot pedal around) but have a secondary use too. In this case, the control moves the foot pedal to the next stage, taking out the possibility that an operator goes to the wrong stage for the next bend. In a setup like our six-stage operation, this makes a lot of sense. Let’s take a look at the use of it in this very short video:
Now we’re ready to bend. The control has all the information we need, and in fact helps the operator visualize the stage and the bend in three dimensions. During the bend we’ll also see the deployment of the Bi-S sensor and watch as the system makes tiny adjustments until the angle (in this case, 90 degrees) is perfect. We’ll also see Fontanilla use the dual levels of the backgauge tools he installed. Let’s get a look at the control and then bend away:
Targets and results
Years ago, manufacturing plants were great at making a million of the same part. Now with mass customization, it’s a different world. No matter how good or how fast your equipment is, you need to reduce time in other areas (like setup changes, a defining activity in the 2020s).
Job shops and OEMs with many different daily jobs are where the HRB ATC brings the most payback. How much payback? “The customers who have bought the HRB ATC are finding a lack of work-in-progress,” notes Ottens. “If you are in a high mix, low volume situation, then an ATC replaces three standalone press brakes. At first, it’s really difficult to tell that to a customer, it almost sounds outrageous. But we are indeed finding this to be true in our customer base.” And with most shops having a hard time finding people, savings come from both productivity and reduction in labor cost. “It can be a quick justification,” Otten says.