Case Study Pressing ahead with precision metal part manufacturing

From Christian Gummich, Bernhard Fuchsgruber

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A recent technological partnership between Parker and Peter Wolters, a brand of Precision Surfacing Solutions (PSS), has resulted in the development of a next-generation fineblanking press

Six electro-hydraulic axes are controlled by Parker’s new axis-controller.
Six electro-hydraulic axes are controlled by Parker’s new axis-controller.
(Source: Parker)

Fineblanking is a special type of high precision metal stamping used for the mass production of ready-to-install flat metal parts that can achieve characteristics that are impossible to recreate using conventional metal cutting or stamping processes.

While compressing the metal, an upper punch and a lower counterpunch supports and extracts the blank without any fracturing of the edges, allowing for tight tolerances. As a result, secondary manufacturing operations such as polishing are reduced or no longer required. Common materials that can be fineblanked include carbon alloy steels, stainless steels, aluminium, brass, and copper. For most manufacturers, fineblanking becomes cost effective from annual production volumes of around 30,000 parts and above. Fineblanking’s greater cost efficiency, better production quality and higher productivity put it far ahead of other metal stamping processes. Highly complex shapes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses can be reliably produced with completely even surfaces and clean breakaway edges.

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But for forward-thinking organisations, even the most innovative technology needs to be pushed further to retain its competitive advantage. One such company innovating in the fineblanking press field is Rendsburg-based Peter Wolters, a part of the Precision Surfacing Solutions (PSS) group.

This precision and flexibility become exceedingly necessary in the manufacture of parts for the automotive industry, where increasingly complex flat metal parts are needed in the rapidly evolving drivetrain. In the near future, while the number of different fineblanking components required will grow significantly, the actual volume of orders looks set to decrease. There is thus a need for increased manufacturing flexibility when it comes to changing tools and parameters.

A smart, efficient solution

As the technology partner for the development of the new Peter Wolters Fineblanking Press ML700, Parker developed and supplied the complete hydraulic system, including manifolds, valves, controllers, hydraulic power unit, motors, pumps and an IIoT solution.

The PAC120HC controller is not only used for the cushion cylinders, but also on all other closed-loop controlled axes, which can work in position and force control. In total, six electro-hydraulic axes are controlled by Parker’s new axis-controller, situated in the ram, the ram cushion, the table cushion, feeder leveling, feeder piloting and the scrap chopper. The new generation axis-controller utilised plays a key role within the ML700 safety-concept as the software allows a tool-safety-stop of all axes to take place in microseconds whenever a malfunction has been detected.

Also designed into the system is a hydraulic power unit including a variable speed drive, Parker’s Drive-Controlled Pump (DCP). The benefits of the DCP include higher energy efficiency, noise reduction, less or no cooling required, and an overall cost reduction due to the smaller pump and tank and fewer valves.

Greater control and flexibility

As a result of its superior components and design, the ML700 press offers OEMs increased flexibility, extensive machine control, integrated, high dynamic tool-safety, easy and simple operation, and service-friendly maintenance.

In addition to the automatic adjustment functions of the base machine, the ML700 offers decreased tool wear, patented leveling control and enlarges the tool design possibilities from simple tooling up to the most advanced and complex fineblanking tools. Due to the patented functions of the ML700, it is possible to use a compound die instead of a progressive die to obtain complex fineblanking parts, the machine also provides savings on tooling and maintenance costs. A closed-loop control allows the user to have position and force control on all axes, with the ability of changing parameters for force, speed and position on the fly, which makes it possible to achieve complex and precise parts as well as to use specific tooling kinematics. The table design, which is patented by Peter Wolters, allows for more efficient and flexible clamping and as a result, the option to use a wider range of tooling concepts.

The ML700 press can now continuously monitor environmental elements such as viscosity, particles, and water contents, which is a key factor for ensuring process stability and reliability. The system can also monitor the condition of the press by actively and continuously reporting the live status of its components. Through the use of advanced machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), production can be optimised by analysing historical raw data and find various failure patterns, and predictive maintenance can also be practised thanks to system statements about the condition and maintenance of functional groups within the system as a whole.

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New generation of fineblanking

With new developments already well underway in the automotive industry, new possibilities and opportunities are opening up for OEMs producing precision-cut and formed metal parts for example in terms of new drivetrain solutions and non-traditional seating patterns in self-driving vehicles.

The advancement in press technology has brought about a significant increase in the number of components which can be produced by the fineblanking manufacturing process. The development of Peter Wolters’ ML700 new generation fineblanking press with Parker as a trusted technology partner has brought quality and innovation together to deliver increased productivity well into the future.