Pros and Cons in Sheet Metal Manipulation with CNC
The advancement of technology allowed sheet metal designs to be more complicated. However, this level of complication has surpassed human capabilities (as far as mass production is concerned). The required accuracy for the intricacy of the designs can only be provided by Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machines.
The Punch press
An example of a CNC machine that is used in sheet metal manipulation is the punch press. This device uses hydraulic, pneumatic, or electrical power to exert immense pressure to shape the metal and cut it according to the designs. Being computer aided, this machine is capable of rapid positioning and therefore, fast production. Manual punch presses compromise speed for accuracy therefore lessening efficiency.
The punch press works by receiving instructions from a program in a computer. This allows the operator to sit back and relax once the cycle (rapid positioning, punching, and switching of tools) has been initiated. These machines perform operations with accuracy that is measured by the thousandth of an inch.
Introduction of these machines into the sheet metal industry sped up production significantly. And to stay competitive in the global market, such an edge would be needed. However, technology finds ways to improve on this.
Today, presses have newer versions. The turret punch press is capable of sorting sheet metal into their respective design classes. This means that the new punch presses can operate virtually unattended. Steel manufacturing companies invest in these machines should it mean streamlining of their jobs and increasing production capabilities.
Newer CNC machines can even alert operators who are not in the area if a problem crops up during the sheet metal punching process. This happens by enabling the CNC machine to keep track of the operators’ phones. Therefore, the workload of the operator is relaxed to the point that he/she does not even need to be in the area of operation.
However, these machines do not come cheap. A lot of time, money, and effort have to be spent in order to operate the machine to its fullest capacity. Furthermore, there is a shortage of people who are skilled enough to operate such machines. An operator has to be knowledgeable with BASIC programming language, fundamental machining processes, design awareness, and accessory functions.
Furthermore, knowledge of Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) is a big factor in being able to control such machinery. So the capital that you have to spend on understanding these machines have to be justified with the caliber of the operator that you have.
Another drawback that is present is the compatibility of the machines with the current technology that the company has. If they are incompatible, it takes even more time and money to replace current facilities or to restructure the factory in order t accommodate such devices.
so, if you’re a big company and you want to stay in the race, you have to consider and reconsider investing into these things. The investment may be worth itself a hundred times over but it is a rather risky choice to step into something new. You have to restructure your work schedules, change the requirements for operators, and provide proper training to operators that you want to keep.
These things will cost a lot and will take a while before they reflect what they really are worth.