software’s ease-of-use is key factor for multi-machine order
Chicago, IL – Unison has won a significant order for tube bending machinery from the precision aerospace engineering company, Supercraft. The machinery will help Supercraft to expand operations at its new manufacturing facility in Brough, UK, in preparation for contracts recently secured from major aerospace customers. It will also provide the software flexibility needed to enhance productivity of specialist low volume parts through use of ‘closed-loop’ manufacturing techniques.
The order calls for two Unison machines. Supercraft wanted another Evbend 1000 low-cost CNC tube bender – a novel machine which minimizes the costs of producing small-batch high value parts by means of manually powered tube feed, rotation and bending, but with smart CNC-controlled braking on these axes to ensure precision. The second machine is a 30 mm model from Unison's Breeze family of all-electric tube benders. The Evbend machine was installed at Supercraft’s Brough facility in December 2014; the 30 mm Breeze is scheduled for delivery in Q1 2015.
Supercraft is a leading manufacturer of precision components and assemblies for military and civil aerospace companies – its facility in Brough specializes in the production of pipes and ducting for aircraft wings. The company makes extensive use of CNC tube and pipe bending technology and is capable of fabricating parts involving complex precision bends in tubes up to 100 mm in diameter. Automated bending machines in the workshop at Brough are networked to a central CAD/CAM resource which includes an advanced laser-based coordinate measuring machine (CMM).
The CMM uses non-tactile laser measurement techniques to build detailed and highly accurate 3D computer models of bent parts. Measurements are typically taken from pre-production parts for process verification, with any necessary correction data being fed back to the bending machines. This efficient closed-loop manufacturing system helps Supercraft to meet the exceptionally high quality standards demanded of aerospace suppliers, and to minimize the time that it takes to commence volume production of parts. Measurements can also be acquired from customer-supplied parts and used for reverse engineering purposes. Customers are therefore free to specify their requirements in a wide variety of forms, including drawings, CAD models, files containing XYZ tube bending machine data, and master parts.
Supercraft initially sought a replacement for a first-generation Evbend 1000 tube bender that it had used successfully for about 30 years. Originally developed by a tube manipulation specialist to help companies reduce the cost of producing low volume precision parts, the Evbend machine has proved particularly popular in aerospace and motor racing industries. Unison acquired the manufacturing and design rights to Evbend and developed a new-generation version of the tube bender in 2014.
According to Supercraft’s General Manager, Owen Sexon, “The Evbend machine provides a very cost-effective means of fabricating precision parts made in low volumes. We typically use it for bending five to 10 millimeter tubes with a half-millimeter wall thickness – many of the smaller diameter parts that we produce involve complex bend sequences, and very small batch sizes – often in the order of just six to eight. Setting up one of our large existing machines for these types of needs is simply not economic.”
However, until now, Evbend tube benders have essentially been standalone machines – the original controller had very limited I/O facilities – so when Supercraft sought a replacement it looked at a number of competitive machines that could be networked to its CMM. While investigating its options, Supercraft became aware that Unison has developed a new version of the Evbend 1000, incorporating a powerful HMI and controller software designed expressly for ease of integration into factory networks.
As Owen Sexon says, “We are really impressed by the quality, breadth and ease-of-use of Unison’s software. It is leagues ahead of most of the tube bending software on the market. The fact that Unison was prepared to develop custom software and take responsibility for interfacing the new Evbend machine to our CMM made it an obvious purchase choice. For the first time, we are able to close the loop between inspection and bending on small batch size tasks as well as higher volume production. Eliminating what is often a highly iterative process will help us to improve productivity of prototypes and specialist parts significantly.”
In addition to the Evbend 1000, Supercraft has ordered a Unison Breeze 30 all-electric bending machine to help expand production capacity to meet growing demand from aerospace customers. This machine will also feature a custom software interface for ease of integration with the company’s CMM.
Unison’s Head of Sales, Stuart Singleton, points out that that this order is significant. “Supercraft is a renowned tier one supplier to the aerospace industry. Until now, it has purchased all of its bending machines, other than the Evbend, from one of our competitors. However, after evaluating our software and concluding that its ease of use conveys major productivity advantages, the company is keen to realize similar benefits on a larger high volume bending machine.”
Established in 1982, Supercraft has a head office and 48,000 sq ft engineering facility in Byfleet, Surrey, employs over 150 skilled staff and has facilities available to carry out most engineering, fabrication, assembly, heat treatment, surface treatment, testing and inspection procedures on site. Supercraft quality is endorsed by an extensive range of industry approvals and NADCAP accreditation in accordance with SAE Aerospace Standard AS7003 for non-destructive testing, chemical processing and heat treatment, together with AS9100 aerospace quality assurance for operations management. The Brough facility Supercraft opened in the newly formed Humber Enterprise Zone currently employs 20+. The primary focus of operation is the manufacture of pipes and ducts for Airbus, BAE Systems and subject to approval, Agusta Westland. The site has facilities for pipe bending, welding, finishing and testing. The Eaton Leonard Laservision tube data center allows jobs to be set up in a digital environment before being sent to the CNC pipe benders. The Laservision is also employed for inspection and correction of pipe bends to ensure adherence to tight tolerances.
Unison started in business by developing control systems for metalworking machinery – supplying a number of prominent UK machine manufacturers in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991 the company moved into machinery design, focusing on machines for tube bending. At that time, tube bending machines were powered hydraulically. In the early 1990s Unison developed a range of machines employing electrical servo-motors for controlling bending motion. These were the world’s first 'all-electric' machines for tube bending. The performance of Unison's new machine design – with its fast and repeatable software-controlled set-up, right-first-time action, low power consumption, and quiet and clean operation – was an instant success. The company has progressively led the tube bending machinery industry by increasing the tubing diameters that can be formed using all-electric motion and is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tube bending machines and associated software. In 2014, Unison took another quantum leap in tube bending machine power by developing a servomotor-powered machine architecture that is capable of bending thick-walled piping with diameters of 225 mm and more. www.unisonltd.com
In North America, Unison is represented by Innovative Tube Equipment Corporation. For more information please contact Brian Julien at ITEC (tel: 866-574-8823).
Innovative Tube Equipment Corporation, 1807 W. Sunnyside Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640, USA. Tel: 866-574-TUBE (8823); firstname.lastname@example.org; www.tube-equipment.com
Innovative Tube Equipment Corporation, 16201 Dodd Street. Austin, TX 78641, USA. Tel: 866-574-TUBE (8823); email@example.com; www.tube-equipment.com
Innovative Tube Equipment Corporation, Inc., 6750 Avenue de l'Esplanade - Suite 330, Montreal, Quebec H2V 4M1, Canada. Tel: 866-574-TUBE (8823); firstname.lastname@example.org; www.tube-equipment.com
Or, Stuart Singleton at Unison:
Unison Ltd, Faroe House, Thornburgh Road, Scarborough, YO11 3UY, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1723 582868; email@example.com;
For more information about Supercraft Ltd, please contact Owen Sexon, General Manager, at:
Supercraft Ltd, Building 54, Saltgrounds Road, Brough, HU15 1EQ, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1482 665971; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.supercraft.co.uk