Automatic press brake bending

Robotic installed together to press brake for automatic bending

As you probably know we like robotic bending technology — it is really marvelous. First, for sure it is connected to the press brake tools we are selling. Second, we just like automation in the sheet metal industry and like to describe some details in our articles. Third, we cannot miss so active technology in the sheet metal production world.

Automation in bending

Today press brake with a robot or gantry device is quite common to see at the exhibition — it shows the more hi-tech and modern product and allows to catch more attention of visitors. But to tell the truth any automation in real production should answer one question — how valuable and effective is your investment? And if you can show a robot at the exhibition to bend even very simple parts in your factory you really should keep money or invest in the way to return it as soon as possible. So in other words nobody wants to have an expensive toy which leads to increased costs without sufficient returns.

Automation with a press brake exists as a gantry or robotic loading-unloading device, robots, or other automatic movements to perform the tooling change, and stacking of final parts. A lot of separate integrators and manufacturers of press brakes offer complete robotization and automation of press brakes based on your needs. Moreover, we know about some tool makers who make tooling for automatic change and also allow grippers for robots exactly for their tooling.
It is very strange but during our study, we found nothing for complex automation with the use of another technical process together with bending, for example inserting, punching or forming, point welding, etc. And it is not very uncommon to have these processes together with bending, probably or it is very rare for companies to realize in an automatic way or companies prefer to keep their know-how with such projects.

Reasons for automatic bending with press brake

Let’s return directly to the bending process.

For automation, it is necessary to have two parameters — a high quantity of the same parts and the wish of the factory to increase their production in this field. Hard to speak in numbers but we will try — should be considered around 100 thousand euros for a standard robotic cell without the press brake itself — it will be the price for the robot, auxiliary units, and fences for a complete cell, security devices, integration of controls, etc. Luckily for all robot production, today is a very competitive industry with new names, new models, and new developments which leads to a bigger variety of choices and reduction of prices for robots themselves.

Could be one more important parameter that is not clear at the beginning — the production of parts more than 6–8 bends of each. Even if you have a qualified operator, it is impossible to keep the same concentration during complete work time and it could leave to mistakes and faults together with slowing the production itself. And it is impossible to do something with it because any operator is a human. But if it is 2–3 bends only the part that could be easy will be done with the operator during the full day without real big problems.

One more big activity — handling heavy pieces, even more than 10 kg for continuously handling during the working day is quite hard to do constantly.
If you have a really big or heavy part with continuous daily production the problem means the use of a crane or other lifting device for any loading-unloading of each part. And in a manual way, it will be quite slow. Necessary to add that if the part will be big for any bends should be used sheet follower to be the base for the part. The robot could replace all — load, unload, and follow so economically could be very interesting together with increasing speed i.e. quantity of production pieces per working shift and availability to work without any stops.

Effective automation

Sure automation should be implemented to be effective. We saw when sellers speak with customers about automation of press brake tools changes and magazines more than 100 meters of tools when the customer uses just a single set. So every factory has its own reasons but if they have them — better to leave them with manual bending because it will be more effective and more economical.
We understand also that in mixed production replacement of the operator by the robot will make more problems, hard programming, different cycles, and the complicated algorithm of cell work so it is better not even to make it.

The same things for automatic tool changers when it is really not necessary to make so many tooling changes or more logically to purchase more universal or even special geometries for all your parts.
Gantry-type automation and linear devices for the press brake for our view are less interesting than a robot. The answer is quite simple — the robot is the most universal and flexible industrial machine tool that could be used for various jobs. So if you will not it with the press brake tomorrow you can organize the welding configuration for example. Or you can leave it to install with a turning or milling machine or whatever robots could be used. Moreover, the robot can use several different types of grippers to change to it can handle tools, parts, or even a welding torch if necessary.

Classic robotic bending includes peripheral devices like special grippers (probably even several to change between during work), tables for part positioning, stacking unit and part splitting, posts for collecting final parts, pedestals, guides, or columns for robots if necessary to enlarge the working area, etc. The modern robot is a very precise device with a positioning tolerance of approx 0,1 mm which is sufficient for any positioning or human possibilities.
For sure automation of the press brake could be made if it has modern control and the possibility to make complete integration with other devices, probably even with the additional installation of new boards and software.

At the end

From our view, the automatic of small parts bending is one of the most winning configurations as well. Small parts require maximum care and attention from the operator, it could be quite complicated based on positioning and connected work of safety devices to prevent the injury for hands. Moreover, today the market offers complete and very fast electric press brakes for small dimensions and such automatic cells offer the maximum possible speed and very fast efficiency.

At the present to recompensate COVID losses and to restore industrial activities, European governments try to support the manufacturers and propose the reduction of taxes or other stimulation programs for factories that purchase new equipment and are specially integrated with Industry 4.0. press brake automotive cells could be a good production to enter such programs and for sure it is possible to integrate it inside the factory network, information and activity export, and control of parts routes.

We wrote also the article about advantages and disadvantages in robotic bending so you can read it as well.

This post is also published on @Medium