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Folded sheet metal work

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Folded aluminium sections

Folded aluminium sections

I often marvel at the complexity that can be produced in sheet metal components with the simplest of CNC punch press tooling. These 0.7mm thick aluminium lighting gear trays have been produced with some custom made tooling to pierce complex shapes in a single hit. They have also been CNC programmed with a combination of rectangular slots, rounds and squares. The overall effect is a complex sheet metal component that can be produced again and again. The advantage of CNC punching is the inclusion of taptite screw plunged forms and small bent tabs along the length of the gear tray without the need for any post punching operations.

Folded mild steel sections

Folded mild steel sections

Here’s a great example of the repeatability and accuracy that can be achieved using the latest CNC sheet metal manufacturing equipment. Some of these parts were produced on our Trumpf 3030 3KW fibre laser with other parts and some were punched out on our Trumpf 3000 CNC punch press. Both parts were then folded together on one of our Trumpf 7036 CNC press brakes. They were all brought together and tack welded just the same producing a welded fabrication. Our ability to swap sheet metal parts from the laser to the CNC punches and back again when production loadings require it give us a great advantage in flexibility for our customers. This machine flexibility is also supported by the ease of using Radan software to program sheet metal parts across both types of machine allowing us to tool for either production method instantly.

Zinc plated mild steel brackets

Zinc plated mild steel brackets

These small zinc plated mild steel brackets demonstrate the advantages of purchasing custom CNC tooling. The large window shape in the middle of the bracket has been CNC punched with one hit using a custom CNC punch press tool. This enabled us to produce the bracket nice and quickly when there were batches of 1000 to 2000 at a time keeping the part cost down and removing lots of nibble marks.

If you have a sheet metal project and you not sure whether it might be beneficial to invest in some custom CNC punch press tooling just give us a call and we will be happy to provide you with quotes with and without tooling costs to see where the cost break points will be.

Laser cutting and folding 4mm thick stainless steel brackets

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

The manufacturing processes we go through to produce sheet metal work illustrated by a batch of 4mm thick 304 stainless steel brackets


3D Software model of 4mm stainless steel bracket

Most sheet metal components that we manufacture here at V and F Sheet Metal start with us creating a 3D software model, the only exception being flat panels. The 3D model enables us to test out any hole alignment issues that might occur when assembling several parts together such as lids fitting on housings or front panels lining up with enclosures. We can use the 3D model to create a flat developed blank with the correct cut size calculated for any given material type and thickness. The 3D model also has the advantage of enabling us to show our customers any problems that we think may occur in manufacturing their sheet metal components before we have to start CNC punching or laser cutting any sheet metal. It also allows us to give some customers their first view of their part in 3D if they only use 2D CAD software. We are lucky and have some customers who also use 3D software and can output either SAT or STEP files which we can then read straight into our Radan CAD/CAM software speeding up the whole process of CNC program generation. The next stage after generating a 3D model is to create the CNC tooled part and then the part nest.

laser cutting nest

Laser cutting nest in Radan software

A single sheet metal part is taken from the 3D model as a flat blank which is then refined and cleaned up to produce the profile needed for the customer. This part is easily tooled up for laser cutting with all the cutting lead ins and profile allowances calculated by the software. Then, as with CNC punching we can use the software to calculate the most economical fit of components for any given sheet size. The software will also automatically find the quickest path to cut all the parts on the sheet so that the laser head doesn’t travel over any areas that have already been cut, reducing the risk of head collisions with sheet metal that might be protruding from the surface of the parent sheet and keeping heat build up to a minimum within the sheet.

Laser control software

Trumpf 3030 laser cutting control

This image perfectly illustrates the Trumpf laser cutter controller with the job cutting in progress. The green parts on the screen have been laser cut and the grey are still to be cut, so at this stage 10 and a half parts have been laser cut. The path will follow exactly that which has been laid down by the Radan CAD/CAM software and output in the compiled laser block file. The operator has control over the speed of the cut, gas flows, nozzle size and focus but cannot change any design details of the components being cut. You can just see inside the laser cutter (on the left hand side) through the filter glass, the operator has a view of the machine while it’s cutting being able to monitor cutting progress and act on any error messages that may arise on the control at the same time.

Laser cutting 4mm stainless steel

Laser cutting 4mm thick stainless steel

Here’s a view inside the Trumpf 3030 fibre laser machine as it’s cutting the 4mm thick stainless steel sheet. You get a good idea how close to the edge of the sheet we can program parts and laser cut them enabling us to use as much material as possible keeping the component part prices down for our customers. The image has a yellow/green look as it’s taken through a special filtered glass door which is essential on fibre laser machines to filter out certain light wave lengths given off by the fibre laser that could be harmful to the naked eye. The operator can stop the machine at any time open the safety doors, reach inside and remove a part to check the edge quality, change a parameter if needed and then safely resume cutting from the same point without wasting any material or potential finished components from a sheet. If more than one sheet is required to satisfy the order volume the Trumpf 3030 3KW fibre laser cutter has a pallet changer that allows a cut sheet to be swapped with a fresh sheet of metal automatically to keep the laser cutter working while cut parts can be removed and another fresh sheet loaded on the pallet changer.

Fast Tube by Casper

And here’s the Trumpf 3030 3KW fibre laser in action cutting straight through the 4mm thick stainless steel plate. The laser cut edge quality means that no other de-burring was needed on these parts.

Fast Tube by Casper

One of our Edwards Pearson CNC press brakes being used to fold up the stainless steel blanks into brackets.

And finally the stainless steel brackets being folded up. It’s not that easy to see here but the tooling we use on this machine enables us to fold more than just 90 deg bends, this type of V tooling is called air bend tooling. We can fold up angles from just a fraction of a degree to approx 30 deg inclusive angle, if we need to fold a component right over into a dutch fold (safe edge) we apply a second bending operation to flatten down the V bend. The back stops behind the CNC press brake tooling can move from side to side and in and out towards the tooling. This enables us to program in different bend lengths, bend angles and a range of bends on the same part along the full bed of the machine if necessary so that a completed component can be produced in one series of bends rather than having to set the CNC press brake several times for each bend type. This enables us to produce the first finished component much faster for inspection and on a large batch of parts we can part batch if needed to get an urgent job started for our customers.

Finished 4mm thick stainless steel brackets

Finished 4mm thick stainless steel brackets

The final bracket has been processed through the CAD/CAM software from a 3D model, laser cut and CNC bent all within our production factory in Fareham, Hampshire. There were 2 slightly different brackets run together with slightly different angles but all the same manufacturing processes and materials, the flexibility of CNC laser cutting and CNC bending allows us to easily use these machines to make a range of parts with minimal set up times and fuss.

If you have a sheet metal project that needs laser cutting, CNC punching or CNC bending please let us take a look and see how we can help remove cost from your parts.

Another busy day at V and F Sheet Metal

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Sheet metal work facility

Sheet metal work facility

Here’s a quick snap shot across our main factory area showing all our bending machines in action.

Sheet metal work can start in the CNC punching and laser cutting area and then be transferred into the main factory production area you can see here. The red and white machines on the left hand side are both able to fold sheet metal sections up to 2.5M long and well as take a range of specialist tooling for curved components and press tools for production work. The white machines in the middle of the picture are our newest Trumpf 7036 CNC press brakes which we use for all our small sheet metal work up to 1M long. They are very quick to set up and have a great accuracy which is perfect when repeating batches of work again and again using the same CNC programs and tooling. The person on the right hand side of the image is preloading sheet metal panels with studs before they are pressed into the job using our Haeger bush inserter machine. Further down the factory on the right stands our HME 55 ton power press which we still use on some projects where press tools are needed for higher volumes. And finally in the distance on the right we have 2 welding bays for TiG, MiG and gas welding.

The work flows from machine to machine as needed on any particular job and finally to inspection and goods out. Having such a range of sheet metal manufacturing equipment means we can turn our hand to most jobs for people.

The CNC punching and laser cutting machines are housed in a separate area within the factory enabling us to contain the noise in one area when we are CNC punching thicker material or stainless steel sheet. It also works well for us keeping all the sheet metal together and when the factory doors are open for unloading packs of material we don’t have cold air coming into all the factory.

Sheet metal angle bracket projects

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Aluminium sheet metal angle brackets

Just another day at V and F Sheet Metal and I spot brackets being manufactured in aluminium, mild steel and stainless steel. These small aluminium sheet metal angle brackets are typical of the manufacturing projects we are producing all the time. The have been CNC punched and bent up in batches of several hundred. The final brackets didn’t need to be edge deburred or painted as these were being used inside a larger housing and wouldn’t be seen by the final customer.

Stainless steel brackets

Simple stainless steel brackets cut and folded from 0.9mm thick material. Items like this we all walk past and pay little attention to until the moment that our customers need the to finish an import order and then they become the most important sheet metal bracket in the world!

mild steel angle brackets

3mm thick angle brackets laser cut using oxygen as the assist gas to produce a smooth burr free outer profile. Any oxide burning on the cut edges will be removed when the parts are zinc plated and passivated.

If you have any sheet metal brackets that you need manufacturing give us a call or email your drawings and we will be happy to quote for your project.

Laser cutting CNC programs using Radan software

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Laser cut nest

Laser cut nest

Here’s a small section of a much larger CNC nest program that filled up a 2m x 1m sheet of metal. We only have to worry about programming 1 part and then the software takes care of finding the best most efficient pattern wasting as little material as possible. The programming software even picks the fastest route through all the parts so that the laser cutting head doesn’t have to keep going over sheet that has already been cut. This image shows just one type of part nested over a whole sheet but the same principle works with multiple part types on a nest.

Full sheet nest of stainless steel components

Full sheet nest of stainless steel components

This image shows a CNC laser nest used to laser cut out 4mm thick 304 stainless steel plates. The panel on the right hand side shows us the different profile conditions for the holes and outer profile. The bottom panel shows the order cutting text where we can later the order that features and parts are laser cut. The main window shows the parts as they will appear within the actual sheet of metal on the laser bed. We can simulate the cutting sequence to verify that all parts will be cut and that there won’t be any problems with parts flipping up and catching the laser cutting head.

Laser nest with 3D model and production notes

Laser nest with 3D model and production notes

This view shows all the information that can be used to aid production staff when manufacturing a component. Not only is there the nest shown filling a standard sized sheet of metal but there are notes giving part numbers, laser cutting run times, assist gas types, sheet type and thickness information as well as a 3D images and dimensions bends ready for production. It’s easy to provide a print out of this information to go with the customer drawing and route card to answer most of the questions setters need when setting up each work centre.

For more information on Radan sheet metal software follow the link or give us a call.