Air-Powered Clamping Breaks Press Brake Bottleneck

With bottlenecks a routine challenge for busy job shops and OEM's, it's not uncommon to find the press brake as the primary culprit. 


With bottlenecks a routine challenge for busy job shops and OEMs, it’s not uncommon to find the press brake as the primary culprit. For many shops, gaining efficiencies on the press brake can help mitigate these holdups and improve part flow throughout the shop.

California-based Pinnacle Precision Sheet Metal Corp. found itself with such a bottleneck. The manufacturer of electrical components for audio, medical and aerospace equipment views throughput as one of its major production challenges.

“As a job shop, we build to print, so we manufacture just about anything for the electronics industry, and our part orders are always changing,” says Brian McLaughlin, Pinnacle Precision senior vice president. “From chassis to brackets to clips to panels, and just about any other type of component, our varying product mix means that we have a lot of changeovers and different lead times, both of which result in constant battles for maximizing throughput.”

For the past few decades, McLaughlin and his team have used Amada-style punch holders for the press brake as well as a quick-release manual clamping system from Wilson Tool International, White Bear Lake, MN. In its efforts to reduce bottlenecks and increase throughput, Pinnacle Precision recently implemented a new punch-clamping system that uses shop air as the power source.

Designed by Wilson Tool, the new Express Air™ clamping system clamps and seats front and back tools simultaneously using a single pushbutton remote. This quick-change technology has helped Pinnacle Precision reduce setup time by eliminating the need to hand-tighten set screws and manually seat the punches. 

“We probably perform about five to 15 setups per day, depending on the batch size,” McLaughlin says. “Using the air-powered clamps is a huge timesaver. The system clamps, seats and releases the punches all at once, which dramatically cuts our setup time.”

Powered by standard shop air at 90-120 psi, the clamping system also allows operators to set up gaps between punch holders to create an ideal setup for box bending.

“With other clamping systems, the clamping bed takes up inches of travel that you just can’t get back,” says McLaughlin. “With the air-powered system, since we can create spaces between the punch holders, we can bend deeper boxes and still have the power that’s not found on manual systems.”

Since implementing the air-powered clamping system, Pinnacle Precision has noticed cost savings throughout the shop as well as time savings. 

“Any place where we can improve processes and lead times while keeping costs down are all benefits we can pass along to our customers,” McLaughlin says. “In our efforts to maximize the press-brake bottleneck, the air-powered clamping system is a crucial part of those improvements as we go forward.”

Read the article on Metalforming Magazine.

December 10, 2017