Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Unison Launches All-Electric Tube Benders At Mach

Unison launched a range of all-electric tube bending machines, ideal for most small- to medium-diameter applications involving high-precision small batch sizes and expensive materials, at Mach 2010. Incorporating a real-time Ethernet control system architecture and a new release of programming and control software, the machines are said to enhance the shape-forming capability and flexibility of servomotor-controlled bending. The new UK-built Breeze machines bend faster, exploit advanced multi-axis synchronisation capabilities to support sophisticated roll forming, improve the tool adjustments that can be employed during the bending cycle to generate ultra-precise part shapes and offer a visual collision-checking programming feature as standard.

They also feature an open architecture that can be adapted to integrate an application-specific capability or to build work cells. An all-electric architecture provides tube benders with performance benefits in terms of setup speed, repeatability, lower energy consumption and noise reduction when compared with traditional hydraulically powered machinery, according to the company. At the heart of Unison's new Breeze machine range is a real-time machine and motion system based on the deterministic Ethernet-compatible Powerlink protocol. A 100Mbit/sec network links all of the servomotor drives required to control bending operations.

The speed of the network makes it possible to co-ordinate the movement of the various servomotor axes used during bending - such as the carriage, the plane of bend and the clamp roller - more rapidly, allowing the company to improve the speed of bending for many common tasks by around 10 per cent. The quality of bend shapes and wall thicknesses can also be improved thanks to finer real-time control over the motion profiles used by key bending axes, which move as the rotary draw bending process takes place, such as the carriage and the follower die. The real-time interpolation of multiple axes is also supported by the machine's new motion control architecture.

In particular, this allows Unison to equip machines with flexible roll-forming tools that are able to vary the radius of bending with precision during the bending cycle. Other benefits include improved diagnostics and data collection, which can assist with both programming and maintenance, and connection to factory networks for changing programs and reporting production metrics, for example. The company is also releasing programming and operating software for the tube benders. Among the new and improved features in Version 10 of its Unibend package is a collision-checking capability that helps users to program the machine for new parts. Bending operations are visualised using a 3D model of the machine.

If users see any potential collision problems, bend sequences can be reversed and intervening carriage and rotation movements can be employed to ensure the part can be manufactured easily. Programming itself can be achieved in about a couple of minutes by entering new ISO, XYZ or YBC values (distance tube is pushed out, rotation and degree of bend), linking from computer-aided-design (CAD) or measuring machines, adapting an existing template or interactively teaching the machine. Unison's software-controlled tube bending machinery incorporates a new networked control architecture. Almost all tube bending machines are configured around a base design to suit the user's intended applications, including or excluding facilities as required.

Unison is currently seeing an increase in demand for work cells that integrate tube bending with other processes. The new Ethernet architecture provides flexibility for configuring and building integrated machines and cells; the control network can be very long, allowing physically large processes to be accommodated, and one network controller can handle hundreds of motion axes and other control system resources such as sensors. The networked nature of the control system architecture makes it easier to upgrade systems later in their lifecycle to integrate processes such as loading, end forming and unloading, for example. The company can supply the new architecture on any all-electric tube bending machines capable of handling tubing with diameters up to 180mm (7in). Machines can be fitted with single- or multi-stack tooling and with two or more bending heads.

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