Brad Kuvin Brad Kuvin
Editorial Director

Automation Resuscitates Legacy Press Line

November 27, 2020

When a used 1500-ton transfer press arrived, in 1989, at an automotive-stamping and assembly facility in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, the press’ mechanical transfer system proved more than adequate for handling the work being handed down from the company’s OEM and Tier One customers. Fast forward to today, and the plant now is one of seven production facilities owned and operated by Tier One supplier Matcor-Matsu—two in Canada and one each in Ohio, Michigan, Alabama and Saltillo, Mexico. By the time Matcor-Matsu took over the Barrie plant in 2014, the above-mentioned press (an Aida mechanical model with 5500 by 2300-mm bed) had been idle for some time, according to Kevin Moore, the company’s technical support services manager.

Linear-transfer-blank-feeder“After taking over the plant, Matcor-Matsu immediately began to target new business,” Moore says, “and we viewed that idle press as an opportunity for an upgrade so that we could target additional work. We sought to give the press new life and equip it to handle the types of jobs we were looking to quote, including some takeover tools to support our customers. The limitations of the press’ mechanical transfer system prevented us from taking on those projects.”

That said, the press itself remained a solid and reliable piece of equipment, and early in 2018 company management went to work in search of an upgrade solution, to breathe new life into the press. The project came to fruition in May 2020. That spring, the press was rejuvenated when Linear Transfer Automation retrofitted it with a new three-axis servo-transfer system; a high-speed pick-and-place blank feeder with two stack carts and 40-kg max payload (tooling plus blank); complete press-line entry- and exit-side guarding; and a new end-of-line 6000-mm-long conveyor, all managed by a single Allen-Bradley control platform.
(Note: Linear Transfer has since installed a similar system on a 1200-ton press (4600 by 2300-mm bed) at the Matcor-Matsu facility in Brampton, Ontario. And, it plans to install a third transfer-system retrofit early in 2021 on a 1320-ton press at the Matcor-Matsu facility in Edgerton, OH.)

Quoting New Work, and Takeover Tools

Linear-transfer-servo-transferMatcor-Matsu, headquartered in Brampton since 1991, operates presses to 3000 tons—progressive, transfer and tandem lines turning out a variety of stamped and welded/assembled components for the automotive industry.  Most of its work is for SUV, crossover and light-truck platforms, and it supplies “substantial content on several of the best-selling vehicles produced in North America,” says director of purchasing Rob Drummond. 

Platforms it feeds from the Barrie plant include the Honda CRV, light- and heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado, and Ford Bronco. Typical stamped parts include structural reinforcement assemblies, cross members and other complex assemblies. The facility, in addition to the recently upgraded 1500-ton press, also houses 300-, 500- and 800-ton progressive-die presses; a 400-ton blanking line; and a pair of 2500-ton transfer presses.

Speaking to the recent and planned press-automation upgrades, Moore notes that, “even as we continue to invest in new capital equipment at our facilities, these upgrades to existing presses have allowed us to be very aggressive in quoting new work, and to bring in takeover tools when our customers ask us to. The flexibility and adaptability of the servo-based transfer equipment also enable quick and efficient changeovers, while allowing us to run most tools at, or very close, to the maximum run rate of our presses.”

Larger and Programmable Motion Profile

Linear-transfer-end-of-line-conveyorWhile the old mechanical transfer system on the 1500-ton press at the Barrie plant had a fixed motion profile of 1100-mm pitch, 300-mm clamp and 150-mm lift, the new servo-transfer setup offers a vastly larger—and programmable—motion profile: 0 to 1500-mm pitch, clamp motion to 750 mm and a maximum lift of 300 mm. The 5800-mm-long tooling bars carry 18 Norgren receivers, with a max payload of 175 kg.  

“The expanded motion profile, and its flexibility, has been a game changer,” Moore says.

In addition, while the old and obsolete transfer system limited production run rates to 12 strokes/min. for most jobs, the new system typically runs at the rated press speed of 20 strokes/min.  The press processes blanks produced inhouse, and runs 1.5 shifts/day, “soon to be 2.2 shifts/day,” Moore says. “And, we expect to be running at three shifts/day sometime in 2022.”
Much of the work running on the newly upgraded transfer press comprises six new tools awarded from a Tier One customer, “a testament to the flexibility of the transfer system,” Moore says. “Most notable is the increased pitch capacity, which allowed us to take on these new tools. There’s no way they could have run on the old system with just 1100 mm of pitch.

“We’ve maximized the entire window of the press,” Moore continues, “as well as the lift axis.  And, we worked with Linear Transfer to customize all of the start-stop angles. All of this newly found process flexibility has allowed us to run a wider variety of part and tooling sizes.”

Moore also notes how the flexibility of the servo-transfer system allows the press to run what he refers to as “unique” tools.  
“For example,” Moore offers, “to run one of the newer tools, we can pause the transfer system where we don’t have quite enough clearance and where we need to get a tooling finger around a guide post. As the press ram moves past 180 deg., we can hold the pitch axis to delay it from returning, pause the transfer until the press begins to open, and then restart the pitch motion.”

Other Transfer Retrofits

Regarding the other two transfer-system retrofit projects at MatcorMatsu, at its facilities in Brampton and in Ohio, Moore says that the completed Brampton retrofit occurred on a 1996-vintage blank-fed press. That setup employed an older servo-transfer system that was installed below passline and used a carousel-type infeed destacker.  

“It ran at a very low stroke rate,” he says, “and the below-passline setup caused a lot of draw oil and other contaminants to infiltrate the ballscrew and lift-pinion gears, which became a routine maintenance headache. We had to tear apart the entire mechanical system at least once per year. Overall equipment effectiveness was poor, the press was in dire need of help, and the new transfer system, installed early in 2020, came to the rescue.”

That press also has been upgraded with a new high-speed pick-and-place unit, running a combination of transfer dies.  
The Ohio transfer-system upgrade is due for installation early in 2021.

“You can’t improve if you don’t invest,” says Drummond. “If you tour all of our facilities throughout North America, you’ll find a lot of new equipment, including a new 2000-ton press and 3000-ton press installed recently in Mexico. As our customers look for us to take on more and more work—often larger and more complex dies, and projects involving higher-strength steels and aluminum work—we remain committed company-wide to adding equipment, growing capacity and expanding our capabilities.” MF

Industry-Related Terms: Bar Coding, Blank, Blanking, Draw, Gas Metal Arc Welding GMAW, Lines, Model, Ram, Run, Stroke, Transfer
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Linear Transfer Automation Inc.

Technologies: Pressroom Automation, Stamping Presses


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