Metal Forming Tech SA

If you think back to how cars came out in 1965, people were amazed by the “new features and innovations” that had been added. At that time you were considered lucky if you had a car with an AM/FM radio or an automatic transmission, but these features are so common place in today’s world that you think it odd if a car doesn’t come with them.

Likewise, roll forming and tube mill equipment that used to be thought of as an optional extra, are now normal features that you need to make sure they include in the next line that you buy.

Roller-type Coolant System

If your roll former has a nozzle, wand, and piping system with a large recirculation tank for the roll coolant, your company may be using equipment out of the 1960s. A common grumble about this process is how messy the roll coolant is on the apparatus (and therefore the floors).

If your part has no holes in it, you may find a crib of coolant inside the part right up to the cut off procedure, where it annoyingly tips it onto the floor. This not only makes recovering the slopped coolant trying and pricey, it also makes your plant floor look like a disaster and forces the client to rethink if your company is really dedicated to the good of the environment.

A roller-type coolant system has the skill to measure out a set amount of lubricant for only the coil strip as it is going into the mill. This system can be tweaked to accommodate the correct amount of lubricant for the substrate, which permits the strip itself to carry the required liquid downstream in small droplets.

Plug-and-Play Line Electrics

Mostly, electrical connections for equipment can be fitted together with large industrialized plugs and locking repositories the same day the line arrives on your shop floor. It is unnecessary to label each wire systematically during the testing stage at the build facility and have faith that each wire will discover its way back to the same terminal during start-up and commissioning at your plant.

You no longer need to worry about a huge electrical bill for re-connecting all the wires. A plug labelled A1, a big, industrial-sized electrical connection, snaps into the receptacle labelled in bright yellow letters as A1. The procedure takes about one minute and is economical, particularly if you ever have to reposition your equipment.

Make sure to read your quotation proposal carefully. If this plug-and-play ability is not itemised, then don’t expect it in your new equipment. If you don't see it, request it.

Reverse-Engraved Operator Panel Screen

The secret to any quality improvement is in the details. Like any new apparatus, a roll forming line looks wonderful when it first comes off the truck. The mill base is free of galvanizing shavings; the paint shimmers; and the operator control panel clearly shows all the essential line controls for each button and switch.

There is one conundrum however: The white control labels were silk-screened with paint onto dark plastic. The muck and dirt of a steel processing factory, along with the rough material of the operator's work gloves, methodically and thoroughly erode these labels, leaving a button with no title anywhere near it.

Which button controls the press? Where is the safety override button? These are not questions you want fresh line operators asking themselves.

Many suppliers offer reverse-engraved black control panels with the chief labels imprinted permanently into the bottom underside of the panel and coated underneath with white paint. This etching technique has a clear, level surface on top of the panel so the operator can read the button labels easily.

Quick-release Jog-and-Lift Rafting

Many corporations have started seeing the benefits of using a roll former or tube mill with quick-change rafting. The tops of the roll former are interchangeable. You can literally remove the first set of tops and change it for a second set of tops. This allows the mill to go from roll set A to roll set B without suffering the interruptions of a manual roll changeover, which could take a good few hours.

Old roll forming mills have the normal rafted cassettes which have to be manually detached. They also have the top and bottom universal couplings that extend from each gearbox (permanently straddling the mill bed) to the spline on the end of each upper and lower shaft on the mill that have to be removed. If one looks at the logistics, that means that on a 16-station roll former, the operator must separate 32 couplings, swap the rafted plates and then relink the 32 couplings to the new rafted top. The amount of time and energy is one thing, but many operators also suffer with lumbar back pain after finishing the task.

An easy way to make this chore simpler is with jog-and-lift (or no-touch) rafting machinery. This reduces downtime dramatically as there is no manual disconnection and reconnection and it needs no tools. More modern systems require the operator to simply hold the electrical jog pendant and jog the mill a few centimetres and watch the quick-release connector until it is in the north/south or 12 o’clock position. That means that rafted top (A) can be hoisted up directly by an overhead forklift or crane and changed for rafted top (B) which will fit into the same spot.

Entry Guide Digital Readouts

Another useful extra on a roll forming line is an entry guide with individual digital readouts for the inboard and outboard sides of the strip.  This allows the operator to set the inboard and outboard sides of the entry guide to a pre-set value which will increase product quality by decreasing dissimilarities in the setup. 

That means operators don’t just lay the strip into the mill and close the entry guide alongside the coil’s edges. They can choose the “sweet spot” of the strip alignment in the roll tooling and produce a part with a recurring standard of quality instead of using costly hours trying to remove problems and scrap produced by an incorrect setup.

Don’t settle for 1960s technology on a new roll forming or tube mill line. Make sure to look over your roll former's specifications, and then demand that these features be included as standard without your having to pay a premium price.

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