An airline captain I knew in the 1990s summed up his job and its equipment thusly: “In the cockpit are me and a dog. My job is to feed the dog.” He was decrying, in good sport, the level of automation in modern aircraft.
You could say the same thing today with fabricating and machine tools. Of course, the old ways of aviation have a certain appeal—following railroad tracks, dipping low enough to read the water tower in a small town, one hand on the yoke and one on a coffee cup—but those days are gone and some people miss them. I have yet to meet a fabricator who misses doing everything by hand.
If you are prepared, and if you have the right modern equipment, your job gets much easier. Load in a blank, shut the enclosure, press the button, and the program runs. That’s really the case with Salvagnini’s (Hamilton, OH) P2 panel bender, a recent entry into that segment for the company. The P2 has a reasonably small footprint and does most of the things its bigger brother can do, save for sheer size capacity and a few other differences.
The P2 comes in three flavors: P2-2120, P2-2225, and P2-2520. Although motors spin, tooling moves, and bends happen, the machine checks in at a very quiet 68 dB. We worked with the P2-2120, the machine in the series with the least capacity but also the lowest power consumption (the models consume 3kW, 4kW, and 5kW, respectively).
Few things limit what bends you might throw the P2’s way. Your only true limitation (as with any panel bender) is a discrete bracket of stock or part thicknesses. With the P2-2120, your minimum thickness is 27 gauge (steel) and the max is 7 gauge (aluminum). If your company or its customers keep their material within those boundaries, then it’s very much worth taking a look at the P2-2120.
The gains you make when you stay within the boundaries of the P2 are substantial. One of the parts we’ll be working on today requires 49 bends and seven setups. Other than putting the blank in the machine up to the stops, you don’t have any other real work to do. All of those things happen in less than three minutes.
Let’s get started. Functioning as our narrator, equipment guide, and foreman today is Nate Gevedon, who last year gave us a tour of the B3 AU-TO press brake at the then-new Salvagnini North American headquarters near Cincinnati (https://fifthwavemfg.com/savagnini-b3-au-to-press-brake-under-the-hood/).
Let’s spend a minute meeting up with Nate again and talking about what we’re going to do:
We’re going to run a simulated production job consisting of four parts, each one different and with different requirements. We input the parts into the job by scanning them (the code has been lased into the surface).
First, we take a look at how jobs are organized in the “normal” way in the P2 controller. The controller has all the information on the parts—and groups of parts–from the offline programming. However, you can enter jobs where the blanks are stacked, and the system knows what’s being scanned and how many of them there are. Let’s allow Gevedon to walk us through this process before we scan:
Now we know that the machine is set up correctly at the controller and in the software. It’s time to unholster that scanner, get the blanks into the system, and start with the first part. We insert the first blank, putting it up against two stops that position the part perfectly. This is a key video among all of those in this episode of Under The Hood, because it shows this machine’s efficiency and versatility. As mentioned above, this first part includes 49 bends, 7 tooling setups, and complexities like tapered sides front to back and top to bottom. A bump-bend operation is thrown in for good measure. The total time to bend the part is 2:38.
The next part doesn’t have the same number of bends but it also is very interesting. One thing to note is something Salvagnini calls the CLA, which allows you to do bending tabs, welding tabs, inside window bends, really anything that’s off the bending line. You’ll see that deployed during the video and the part will reflect the results. The P2 makes quick work of this: less than 40 seconds.
Each of the four parts selected shows a variety of bends. Part 3 is a very long part at 72 inches. If you’re comparing a panel bender to a press brake, keep in mind that with the P2 you never have to change the tooling. What’s included on the P2 will do every bending job within the material constraints. We’ll see another special device deployed in the next video, this time it’s the UPDPM, which allows us to get inside a smaller opening like a channel. The P tool is also shown at work. Gevedon watches over and narrates the process:
On to Part 4. We’re going to create a part with four different profiles—one on each side. No special tools are necessary. Additionally, you could make Part 4 in a variety of lengths, using exactly the same tooling. The P2 can make this part from one foot wide to eight feet wide.
Finally, we actually do the job they way it would happen on a shop floor. Remember the challenges each one of the parts presents. Let’s see how long it takes from start to finish, including loading blanks and unloading parts:
There’s always more
There are a few other things to consider when looking at the P2. First, we didn’t really talk about the manipulator (the vertical bar that moves and rotates the part) but check out its speed when a job is running. As long as the operator has set the blank against the stops as required, there’s no need to worry about any other placement.
Second, the software is FACE software that you’ve seen before when we explored the S4 + P4 line (https://fifthwavemfg.com/salvagninis-s4-p4-line-under-the-hood/). All machines have FACE software in the controller. Although the machines may be different and the controller has a whole list of other duties in another machine, the layout will be familiar to anyone working with any Salvagnini machine.
Third, the MAC 3.0 software included with the P2 constantly monitors accuracy and the material characteristics of the part being bent. It will automatically make corrections if necessary.
There are many more features, but this Under the Hood should give a taste of what’s possible with Salvagnini’s P2.
More information: https://www.salvagnini-america.com/panel-bender#P2LEANCOMPACTPANELBENDER