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Unison has developed an all-electric end-former machine for automating refurbishment of automotive steering rack mechanisms.

The machine uses programmable servomotors to drive the end-forming dies into position, and provides a more flexible and efficient means of handling the process than traditional manual and hydraulic methods, which involve changing dies between different forming operations.

Re-Go Autoparts is a recent convert to the versatility of all-electric tube bending technology.

About a year ago the company sought a new tube-bending system, and after researching the market, decided that Unison’s all-electric approach offered the most flexible solution, which in the long run was likely to prove far more cost-effective than traditional manual or hydraulic systems.

It subsequently invested in a multi-stack version of one of Unison’s 16mm Breeze tube-bending machines, which is used to produce a variety of small complex parts, such as hydraulic brake pipes and power steering tubes.

Gary Martin, a director at Re-Go Autoparts, said: ‘The machine’s programmability enables us to accommodate small production batches without incurring the delays associated with changing tool sets on traditional tube-bending machines, and its accuracy and repeatability help ensure product quality.

‘However, even with the best will in the world, we found it difficult to subsequently form the ends of tubes accurately – especially on some of the more sophisticated parts that we produce – without spending a considerable amount of time on the process.

‘When we caught sight of a prototype of Unison’s new end-former machine during a visit to its facility, we promptly expressed interest in purchasing a custom-built version.’ Unison’s end-former machine is an integrated three-axis system, housed in a compact standalone cabinet.

It provides software-controlled four-stage end forming, by automatically flaring, compressing and reducing the ends of the steel tube, ranging from 6-10mm, used in vehicle steering racks.

The motive power for the machine’s main drive is provided by a Baldor servomotor.

The four stages and clamp are actuated by SMC pneumatic cylinders, all connected to a Baldor Mintdrive intelligent drive with a built-in motion controller.

Overall machine control is handled by a PLC, with all user input commands and operational status feedback provided by a Baldor HMI panel.

The all-electric end-former machine offers numerous advantages over conventional hydraulic end formers, according to Unison – it is quick and easy to set up, and is more energy efficient, quieter and faster.

Furthermore, the machine’s use of closed-loop servomotor control ensures good end-forming accuracy and repeatability.

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