Typically associated with high-volume sheet metal production, press brakes can form metal components for medical instruments, surgical tools, and testing devices, still meeting stringent tolerances for quality, size, and precision. Press brakes can form a large variety of medical components and allow manufacturers to maximize production and save costs with today’s technology.
Forming medical parts
Growing demand for autoclave sterilization, surgical trays, and robotic surgery systems means companies must produce parts faster with higher consistency. Elk Grove Village, Illinois-based MC Machinery offers two main press brake series that offer higher throughput with medical-grade consistency. BB series all-electric, small form factor, small footprint machines are driven by AC servo motors and ball screw drive mechanisms. They maximize productivity with high ram speeds and high-precision repeatability (1µm).
The BB series also offers a more ergonomic forming environment. Operators can sit down to form parts at the press brake and don’t have to bend or move around a large machine. Several press brakes can be placed into the same footprint of a larger machine, allowing users to maximize revenue per square foot. Also, because the machines are electric, there are no temperature effects that would impact angularity.
“Customers are looking to increase revenue per square foot and with them reviewing their product mix, they are seeing in some cases 80% of their current lineup can fit on a 6ft or smaller press brake,” says David Bray, national press brake product manager at MC Machinery Systems.
BH series press brakes use an innovative dual drive system to improve productivity, positioning accuracy, and energy use compared to conventional or hybrid press brakes. The drive technology allows up to 200mm/sec. ram movement while maintaining accuracy and repeatability.
“For the most part, the industry is relatively new to what’s considered a third-generation hybrid,” Bray explains. “Both of our machines are driven down by an electric ball screw. In the BH series, it’s only using the servo hybrid system for the forming.”
Servo hybrid forming provides three primary benefits to users:
Increased speed – The ball screw’s fast down, fast up movement is almost instantaneous.
“Whether an 8ft, 80-ton machine or 250-ton machine, all my machines have the exact same speed, and I have faster cycle time against all my competitors in 2.3 seconds,” Bray says.
Accuracy – The machine drives down the ball screw using the hybrid system for each cylinder, measuring each side of the machine three times. The typical hydraulic machine offers ±0.0004" accuracy, while the servo-driven machines offer 1µm repeatable accuracy.
Bray adds, “A customer is able to get that first part/right part much faster with these machines.”
Longer life cycle – Only using the pressurized servo-hydraulic system for bending increases component life by 60%. Machines that typically had 10-year life cycle for major component failure, could now last up to 16 years. Throughout the machine’s lifetime, downtime events decrease to one or sometimes even zero before customers are looking for new capital equipment.
Knowing that finding qualified workers remains challenging, MC Machinery developed the Videre operator support system, which turns a press brake upper beam into a head-up display, reducing setup time by displaying tool shape, position, and length in real-time. It shows operators how to form parts to reduce the risk of bending parts backwards. The display also reduces operator movement to and from the control, allowing them to view the bending sequence or dimensional information for the part while bending.
“We’ve made our controls very similar to a tablet or cell phone. This way, it’s easier for younger people when they enter into the world of manufacturing,” Bray explains. He adds that in most cases, it only takes a few hours to train new operators who have never used a press brake before.
The system displays control information on the front of the ram, allowing the operator to be much more attentive and informed about what is being formed on the machine. The screen displays the bending sequence and shows where to put the tooling, what shape the tools are, and how to handle the parts, whether it’s a top-down view or isometric view.
“It makes an inexperienced operator a great operator. As manufacturers, it’s our responsibility to provide that capability because our customers are buying these machines and having a difficult time finding employees who can run them,” Bray says.
Bray predicts that future medical forming trends will focus on easier functionality and more automation. The increasing need for qualified individuals to work the machines means customers are looking at automatic tool changers or collaborative robots (cobots) to integrate into their applications. These types of capabilities will increase due to the lack of manpower that the industry faces.
“All of my machines are now equipped and ready to go with these robots,” Bray concludes. “This is where the industry is going and how manufacturing is pushing more and more for automation.”
MC Machinery Systems Inc.