Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

December 2014    |    Volume: 46    |    Number: 12

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial Engineers

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Emerging Technologies

Innovative tools of the trade

Cool cuts and bending fabrication

Production processes have been and are at the core of what IEs do every day to drive productivity and efficiency in the workplace. New technology has revolutionized this world that demands higher throughput, better quality, minimal waste and “greener” operations. Examples include Jet Edge’s Mid Rail Gantry Model MR513 water jet cutting machine and Unison’s newest rotating-head tube bender.

Water jets, which have been out in the market since the 1970s, have changed the way many products are manufactured. Unlike other machines, water jets can cut material without creating a heat-affected zone. Minimizing heat effects allows metal cutting without interfering with the material’s inherent structure or intrinsic properties. The MR513 cuts complex 3-D shapes, attains high levels of accuracy and repeatability and produces no hazardous waste, allowing it to be considered a “green” technology.

Capable of processing material up to 5 feet by 13 feet, the MR513 is sized especially for fabricators, machine shops and stone/tile shops. A second cutting head to increase productivity can be added to the standard single abrasive jet cutting head. Its customized front end guides the user through the process from job setup to production, generating part programs offline and easily transferring them to the system’s hard drive for production.

Reuel Inc., which makes insulating components for electrical power equipment, added water jets because they were the most effective way to cut fiberglass. The machine eliminated the fine dust created by other cutting methods, dust that accelerates machine wear. This reduced maintenance costs. Bringing the process in-house allowed better control over lead-times, and the machine’s ability to run relatively unattended provided the flexibility to cross-utilize labor to run multiple machines in parallel.

Another new product that can increase production and throughput is the Unison Breeze-Revolution, which fabricates extremely complex tubular shapes. This new rotating-head tube bender has multiple tool-heads mounted on opposite sides of a rotating frame so left- and right-hand bending can be performed in one rapid, continuous cycle. This provides great production speed for the furniture and automotive industries, where batch sizes range from medium to large. Aerospace industries also benefit.

Innovations include the ability to make bends with a radius of less than one diameter of the tube – even on thin-wall tubing – with wiper dies for quality shape forming and control of material flow.

Aside from the increase in throughput, the all-electric nature of the machine provides major advantages when compared with traditional hydraulic bending machines. Benefits include low energy consumption, reduced setup times and scrap rates as a result of consistent tool pressure, no hydraulic leaks, reduced heat transfer, no oil disposal and much quieter operations.

Fernando Lamelas has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from Tecnológico de Monterrey. He is an industrial engineer based in Florida and the Southeast Region representative for IIE’s Young Professionals division.