Talking of Industry 4.0 for press brakes is undoubtedly more difficult if compared with laser cutters, punching machines and panel benders. The dictates of Industry 4.0, to date, have not really been accepted by the press brake industry. Adding a network card or a CAM software for the creation of bending programs is certainly not enough to make a press brake turn 4.0. But what holds us back from doing this evolutionary transition that we already see in other fields?
Metalforming is an art that requires imagination and inventiveness, as well as a good dose of dexterity. The CNC and the included software greatly facilitate the work of the press brake operator, but the human factor remains irreplaceable. For this reason, press brake bending remains a “black hole” in the production flow, because the variability given by the operator makes the process less integrated and predictable than others.
Nevertheless, in recent years there have been many steps forward. There are many technologies and devices that aim to make the machine more and more “intelligent”, reducing the variability and dependence on the human factor, as well as the risks of accidents.
Gasparini is along the road to the industry 4.0, focusing on two fundamental elements. The first is the integration with upstream and downstream processes. Gasparini’s press brakes can interface with ERPs, file servers, or laser cutting machines. They can be equipped with barcode scanners to track individual pieces and automatically load the bending program. The operator can receive information and instructions that make his/her work easier. The managers will be able to have the time per piece, the required number of folds, and any errors, completely under control.
The second element is the complete sensorization of the press brake. Detecting machine parameters allows you to collect a huge amount of data, which can then be analyzed using Big Data approaches.
The information helps to detect potential problems and intervene even before a failure occurs. The machine can collect statistics on the time required for each piece, the number of pieces produced, and on the orders being processed. In addition, it can perform a series of checks on the quality of the material, size and thickness, as well as manage springback more effectively. This data can be very useful at a managerial level to optimize flows and calculate costs accurately.
One example is the latest automated bending line Gasparini is building for a major customer in the field of radiant panels, that will be showcased in our next Open House in May 2017. This is a press brake equipped with automated loading/unloading, sheet picking, thickness control, traslation and rotation of the workpiece.
The machine can work unattended and be programmed remotely to make different items fully autonomously, performing tool changes and managing variation in the sheet size. The press brake can also be used to create pieces that usually are produced by roll forming, such as corrugated sheets and shaped panels, but without the restrictions of roll forming lines.
Adding the detection network of on-board parameters, the company gains high-level information on the production flow. This information allows you to flexibly modulate material supply and the re-allocation of internal resources, such as personnel and equipment, depending on the expected workload. Combining the increase in production capacity to a complete control over all production stages, we will achieve a reduction in costs, errors, and faults.
Industry 4.0 will be an evolutionary change much to the advantage of company competitiveness, while maintaining high levels of innovation and quality.