Power of the laser/punch

Oct. 1, 2003
Long-term commitments pay dividends for midwest job shop

From the first day KSO Metalfab Inc. opened its doors in 1973, the company committed to utilizing the latest technology to provide its customers with the highest-quality products at competitive costs. For three decades, which included moving locations and progressing through several generations of machines, the management of KSO has kept its pledge to its customers. As a result, the company has been rewarded with steady growth. Today this family-operated contract manufacturer has 45 employees and occupies a 40,000-square-foot facility in Streamwood, IL. KSO provides comprehensive services, turnkey project management, and full engineering support. The company serves OEMs in such industries as computer, fast food, automotive, transportation, telecommunications, medical, coin operation, gaming, and electronic equipment.

KSO has sought the same type of commitment from its fabrication equipment suppliers. One such relationship was created in 1986 with Finn-Power International Inc. (Schaumburg, IL). "We purchased our first Finn-Power hydraulic turret punch press shortly after it was introduced to the North American market," explains Kenneth Kuzelka, KSO's chief executive officer. "It was the first of eight Finn-Power machines that we've purchased."

A laser/punch system offers maximum fabricating flexibility.
Click here to enlarge image

True to its word, KSO management kept its eyes open for advancing technology and frequently "traded up" for newer and more advanced machines. "Through the years, Finn-Power has been an industry leader in introducing new technology," says Kuzelka. "We purchase its machines because it provides manufacturing solutions to our production needs."

The eight Finn-Power machines have included six hydraulic turret punch presses, a press brake, and in 2000, the Laser Punch FMC. Today, the TP 2525 turret punch press, the hydraulic press brake, and the Laser Punch are in operation at KSO. "We were getting more customer requests for more complex parts and heavier gauge materials," says Kuzelka. To satisfy its need for increased punching and laser cutting, KSO purchased the laser in 2000.

The laser/punch combination represents a proven technology and intelligent integration of punching, forming, tapping, and laser cutting in a single unit for the most varied sheet metal working operations. Optimum use of the laser/punch means a fabricator can use the turret punch press where it is easier or faster and the laser where it is most effective. The laser/punch allows the user to consider the parts, materials, time, and overall cost of the parts to determine the optimum process for every production.

Other advantages include reduction of piece part costs through faster punching time, reduction in direct labor assigned to set up and punching, and a reduction in the number of manual operations. It also allows utilization of full sheets while eliminating the need to shear to size blanks being processed. If a loading system is purchased, unmanned operation can be achieved from load, punch, upform, laser cut, and sorting of parts in one machine leading to increased machine utilization.

The laser/punch consists of an F-6 hydraulic turret punch press with a laser that has a 60-in. Y axis and a 100-in. X axis and a 2.5kW laser. "The Finn-Power allows us to automatically load and unload material. We can now process full-sized sheets and no longer need to shear the material in blanks. We have dramatically cut costs on material handling, shearing, and such secondary operations as deburring," explains Kuzelka.

Other features include:

  • High-pressure cutting with a Triagon 2.5kW CO2 laser from Rofin-Sinar with 375 psi (25 Bar) assist gas pressure maximum. Higher pressures allow for cutting materials such as stainless steel and aluminum with optimum speed and edge quality.
  • The oil-free design of the pumps and turbines eliminates expensive and time-consuming repairs.
  • Excellent energy consumption is realized by the laser in comparison with other RF-excited lasers. The cost savings can be up to 40 percent.
  • The laser capacity is 0.314-in. cold rolled steel, 0.236-in. aluminum, and 0.314-in. stainless steel.
  • Integration of the laser and the punch is accomplished with the part piece flowing from the turret punch press to the laser without the release of the clamps. The flow of material is from the load side to the unload side, eliminating the time-consuming method of loading and unloading from the same side.

The Finn-Power auto-index system precisely rotates the punch and die in their tool holders using a single AC servomotor system. The system does not need to match different servomotors as in other machines. Rotation in 0.001-degree programmable increments gives the machine the ability to rotate infinitely beyond 360 degrees; thus allowing the system to automatically select the shortest path to rotate to a programmed angle input into the NC programs with simplicity, speed, and reliability. KSO has seven auto-index stations.

Laser/punch system enables full-size metal sheets to be processed.
Click here to enlarge image

The auto-index system is built rigidly into the upper and lower frame of the press and engages the auto-index tool holders for tool rotation allowing the additions or changes to the index stations or Multi-Tool stations at any time. In addition, the turret can run any new wheel technology and marking tools available from Mate Precision Tooling or Wilson Tool International. There are no additional options (for example, holders or software) to run these technologies.

Other features include programmable clamp settings (PCS) that control the central locking system of the sheet clamp system. PCS provides automatic positioning of the work clamp according to the NC program. By setting PCS at the beginning of an NC program, the CNC control positions the clamps, automatically keeping them from traversing to an unwanted position. A third sheet clamp together with PCS enables a clamp to be moved during the program. This feature eliminates dead zones and allows 100 percent of the material to be utilized. Standard brush tables provide for better material support during punching, reduce noise, and reduce surface scratches.

Another unique feature is the upforming system, which allows full tonnage throughout the punch stroke in an upward movement in the turret that provides maximum flexibility in achieving various forming options. This provides the capability of the die to never rest higher than the table level when the sheet is being moved, thus eliminating machine downtime due to sheet crashing.

The even positioning of the die also provides greater limits in forming height (up to 0.63 in. in total height) and prevents free sheet movement and scratches on the lower sheet surface, which is of particular importance with coated materials or materials where cosmetics is critical.

"The Finn-Power laser/punch has opened new markets to KSO," says Kuzelka. "We also do a great deal of prototype work. The personal commitment that I have received from this company over the years keeps me from even looking at competitors' products."

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