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Computer Numerical Controlled Machines Automate the Sheet Metal Fabrication Industry

Apr 18, 2008
Manufacturers, which produce various steel products, require punching of sheet metal to meet design requirements. Technology has entered the scene of this once manually operated process. This not only increases the speed of production but it gives a new meaning to the term "accuracy" in the positioning of the specific operations. This has been accomplished with the introduction of CNC or computer numerically controlled machining centers.

Punching of sheet metals is a steel fabrication process utilizing 'tools and dies'. A punch press is the machine which performs the work of shaping and cutting. A turret houses a set of various tools on the machine, depending on the type of punching required.

The punch press, a type of fabricating machine, presses sheet metal against a die with extreme pressure and at very rapid speed of positioning. Sheet metal, now pushed into the die, assumes the shape and design of the specific dye. Cut away, is any excess metal from the newly shaped piece of sheet metal.

Punch presses use hydraulic, pneumatic, or electrical power in their operation. This power exerts immense pressure to press the shape into and perform the cutting of the metal. A piece of sheet metal receives its new form from the taking away of material. Less sheet metal makes a new form. The excess taken away becomes scrap metal for other uses.

A CNC operated punch press typically performs this manipulation process. CNC stands for computer numerical controlled. In the case of a punch press, it utilizes a computer in its operations. The computer directs the action of this press, which contains the tools and their respective dies.

This machine receives different punching instructions from a program written and installed in the computer for a particular application. This enables the machine to go through a complete machining cycle, using various tools and automatically positioning the sheet metal over the appropriate die, at very rapid speeds and with little operator intervention. The accuracy of this process is measured in thousandths of an inch.

A manually operated punch press, for simple punching, with one tool and die set, are still in use today. Large operations with multiple dies and unique specifications rely on the CNC application.

The die portion of a punch press is of very fine tolerances. These are tolerances of thousands of an inch. Pressing sheet metal into a die with a punch means the die does the actual cutting of the metal. The punch, attached to a ram, is a removable piece, as is the die portion.

The die set for sheet metal punching consists of a male punch and a female die. When brought together, with the application of intense pressure, the result is a sheet metal piece as per the specified design.

Punch presses using CNC technology have meant greater volumes of sheet metal production. This process spells efficiency for a company, which means greater profits. This edge is necessary in the competitive steel fabrication companies worldwide find themselves.

Today, there are turret punch presses, CNC types, which perform faster because of technological advances. They can operate unattended and have sheet metal sorting capabilities. New technology constantly raises the mark for performance. Wise steel fabrication companies invest in these applications if it means streamlining of their operations for maximum profit.

Today's CNC controlled machines can even alert workers who are off-site if something goes wrong in a sheet metal punching process. This allows for unattended "lights out" production capabilities for manufacturers. Telecommunications technology embedded in these computer systems links to users' phone devices. In essence, CNC technology provides a constant watch over machining of steel.

The use of robotic applications in steel fabrication, including punching, receives continued research and application. Advanced, state-of-the-art CNC technology is the solid future of most fabrication industries.
About the Author
Billy Kite is a researcher writing on behalf of premium steel sales. A company that sells more than just hrpo - hot rolled pickled and oiled steel products.
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