Cutting, welding and grinding equipment manufacturer and supplier First Cut assists the automotive sector through its extensive range of Italy-based BLM Group’s tube bending machinery.
BLM is dedicated to designing, manufacturing and digitising systems for processing of tubes, wires and sheet metal.
Owing to its high-quality software and technology, First Cut has been able to offer BLM’s tube bending solutions to clients in a variety of sectors – guaranteeing performance together with a high degree of precision, accuracy and productivity.
First Cut machine division GM Anthony Lezar explains that all-electric tube bending machines are far superior, as they offer more control and repeatability than their hydraulic predecessors.
“We currently have 11 machines installed on the tube laser side and about 30 to 40 machines on the tube bending side,” says Lezar.
First Cut’s substantial installed base has given the company an edge in the local tube laser and tube bending industries. Lezar adds that because the average capital investment for every machine is substantial, strong client relationships are key to the creation of these sales.
First Cut long-standing client, automotive seating company Adient Pasdec, recently invested in the purchase of two BLM Elect 40 all-electric multistack computer numeric controlled tube benders, which were chosen for their capabilities.
“These tube benders are used in the production of car seats and have ultimately been acquired to increase the accuracy and speed of production,” explains Adient Pasdec project engineer David McIntyre.
“With a capital equipment investment of this size, we wanted a guaranteed improvement on what we were currently using, which were earlier-model hydraulic tube benders. The BLM Elect tube benders have more than surpassed our expectations,” McIntyre points out.
A key competitive advantage of the tube benders is their distinctive software capability. Programming and three-dimensional (3D) simulation software add a whole new dimension to the tube bending process, with operators using part geometry data or 3D computer-aided draughting data to instantly create a parts programme.
Operators can quickly check for parts feasibility and accurately calculate cycle times. The software allows operators to simulate the machine, tooling and parts bending sequence. Collisions can be visualised, or the software can be pre-set to select the most efficient sequence automatically. The entire system reduces the time required to create cycle time estimates and shortens the response time to the customer.
“When a client is making a substantial investment into their business, there must be a definite return on that investment,” says Lezar.
BLM Elect 40 tube bending machines are more intelligent and intuitive than their predecessors. With quick programming and short set-up times, operators save substantially on production time. Repeatability and accuracy are maintained because the part, machine and tooling information are saved in the bending programme.
The Elect range covers a variety of tube diameters from 10 mm to 150 mm, depending on the centre line radius requirements. The machines have multiple tool stack capability and can produce both fixed and variable radius bends. A maximum of up to eight tool sets can be mounted simultaneously within the stack height and loading options of manual or automatic.
Tubing, as a raw material, comes with a host of imperfections (dimensional tolerances, chemical composition) that causes it to react inconsistently when bending. This often results in bends that are created out of specification for tolerance, repeatability or quality. Operators can now select a BLM exclusive special working cycle that makes it possible to obtain high part-to-part repeatability even in complex shaped parts.
The power of control that an operator has over the BLM Elect 40 is also marked when compared to its hydraulic predecessor.
“Being fully electric and automated, with high-quality software programming, the BLM Elect 40 tube benders enable multiple tool changeovers between the different size tubes. The precise control and positioning of the electric bender guarantees that the optimum parameters can be produced exactly, first time and every time.”
When running in fully automatic mode, on-board process sensors can stop the machine when problems arise, allowing for unattended production on site. The right torque can also be accessed when needed, allowing for continuous control over the entire bending sequence, taking into consideration material behaviour and spring-back.
Spring-back correction is another notable feature of the Elect 40 tube bender: a special bending cycle can be used on stainless, mild steel or other high tensile tubing to measure and correct the spring-back in the material. The cycle automatically calculates the necessary programme corrections needed to produce good parts - and good cosmetic finish with minimal marks or scratches is a given, with the correct bending tooling and machine parameter settings.
“Most of the technical support and training on the machines we do ourselves, on site. We can also access remote diagnostics from BLM at any time by simply connecting the machine to a local area network cable,” says Lezar.
Installation, service and technical support from First Cut and BLM are included with any sale. Tube bending requires a high degree of skill so a client must know that a full package of support, backup and training comes with their purchase.