Highly flexible bending center with the same productivity
Prima Power's BCe bending center offers the ideal solution for those who, like Astra, deal with single pieces, small batches or mass production. In fact, this panel bender aims to combine the well-known benefits of the panelling product, i.e. flexibility, precision and high quality, with a semi-automatic but highly productive process where the machine is always running thanks to the LUT loading and unloading table that allows piece loading and unloading during operation. Manual feeding also allows bending of pieces that are not easily transported via automatic loading systems. The production of fully perforated pieces, long or wide shapes, or even parts that have larger inner openings thus becomes completely feasible. Servoelectric and equipped with 8 independent motors and several CNC axes, the BCe 2720 allows you to process thicknesses of 0.5 up to 3.2mm of steel (up to 2.2mm of stainless steel and up to 4mm of aluminium). This has also allowed the company to increase both the maximum bending length of the previous system from 2,250mm to the current 2,750mm, as well as to raise the level of process automation. The AUT (Auxiliary Upper Tools) system is also highly valued. This is a system of upper auxiliary tools that help perform particular bends, further demonstrating the flexibility of the machine.
“Our decision to opt for a new and higher performing panel bender,” Peruzzetto explains, “is based on our conscious belief and experience over the last decade of just how difficult it is to find specially qualified personnel, in this case for panel bending machines. This skills shortage can occasionally jeopardize the company's future vision or, at least, change its growth path. I therefore chose to focus on a different bending technology, where programming and automation are the basis of productivity. At first glance, the bending machine is certainly easier to program because it is a more commonly-known technology and, due to its characteristics, you can even process pieces that wouldn't be possible with a panel bender. But identifying the correct product and our design ability to adjust certain pieces to make processing them possible on this machine have allowed us to obtain great benefits in terms of execution time, as well as tooling to achieve the expected quality.”
This technological equipment has significantly expanded the production potential for the company, which can now process larger formats.
Process efficiency (also) starts from management of the raw material
As already highlighted, Astra also integrated the new Night Train FMS automatic storage system, complete with LU6 loading/unloading robot to support laser cutting, and once again this was provided by Prima Power. The owners decided on this investment in order to optimise sheet metal management, which has exceeded 100,000 kilograms per month for some time now, equalling about 200 pallets in continuous assortment and rotation.
“This is too large an amount in terms of efficiency,” says Peruzzetto, “compared to the resources required for locating and the procurement of the raw material for laser cutting, and the operational dynamics to which we have to respond with maximum flexibility.”
The new automatic storage system has been linked to the internal management software and keeps track of all movements from a 4.0 perspective. In other words, once the sheet is loaded, its availability is updated in real time, while effectively removing any errors and synchronising the actual presence each hour with management software. It should be borne in mind that the company's vast customer portfolio brings with it the need to coordinate a multitude of different sheet metal formats, many of which are not standard and entail many intricacies.
“The effectiveness and value of the investment,” observes Peruzzetto, “didn’t take long to show itself. In fact, in the first month after commissioning, laser production has already almost doubled, while also minimising downtime due to the management of raw materials. So the need to create order and keep the material under control brought with it additional indirect benefits. Last but not least, we also saved floor space that was previously occupied by the various pallets of sheet metal, either in transit, or waiting to be processed.”
Thanks to the loading/unloading robot and the stacking system, the new Prima Power FMS can also be fed with pre-cut semi-finished products, which can then be processed at a later stage, as required.
“The nesting phase has also been improved,” adds Peruzzetto, “since the new methodology allows you to include pieces to be cut in the same batch that are not strictly relevant to the order, but these can be temporarily ‘stored’ in the cassette (in whichever wagon is available), further optimising efficiency. In short, the automated storage has become the beating heart of our internal workflow. This technology allows you to rely on continuous unsupervised processes.”
Work better to produce more
The fleet of machines at Astra (which in addition to the Prima Power machines, includes other press brakes, as well as welding and cleaning cells, and shot peening) allows the entire manufacturing process to be delineated and closely monitored. Production excellence arises precisely from the close collaboration between the professionalism of qualified personnel and cutting-edge technology, allowing for reduced production times and improved operational results which can then be perfected, if necessary.
“In this set up,” concludes Peruzzetto, “the most recent additions have brought about an increase in productivity and efficiency with the same workforce. Thanks to the new Night Train FMS, we can now plan unmanned production over 3 shifts, while sorting the pieces that are already stacked at the end of the shift and ready for further processing. My goal is to pursue automation wherever possible, to allow staff to work better while increasing our production capacity.”
This search for greater efficiency and competitiveness is reaffirmed by new projects under development which will connect other systems to the automatic storage in the future.