Beckwood, Siemens partner on hydraulic press, QDC workcells

Beckwood, Siemens partner on hydraulic press, QDC workcells

Machine builder develops fully automated die handling system with 15,000 lb capacity to load and unload presses with staging tables for continuous production.

November 6, 2017
Edited by Eric Brothers
Hydraulics/Pneumatics Tooling/Workholding

(Left) Beckwood twin hydraulic presses, each 1,400-ton plus quick die change (QDC) assembly with 15,000 lb load capacity and T-table staging devices for fully automated workflow. (Center) Siemens motion control and HMI are used on the entire system, with safety integrated features, allowing operators to remain outside the work envelope. (Right) Press/QDC workcell

Beckwood Corp. in Fenton, Missouri, manufactures custom hydraulic presses, automation systems, and Triform precision forming equipment. A specialty is developing aerospace forming technologies engineered for accuracy and repeatability. One customer, a metalform fabricator and producer of components for the commercial and military aircraft sectors, brought Beckwood a challenge. The company sought a turnkey package consisting of two 1,400-ton hydraulic presses and two automated stamping die handling systems to load and unload the presses more efficiently than the forklift and manual labor it was using. The presses and quick die change (QDC) workcells will form a variety of parts in relatively low volumes, so the system needed automated die handling in addition to a 42" diameter deep-draw sheet hydroforming press with staging table. Such a press would be the largest of its kind in the world. 

A critical challenge was the need for a QDC system with 15,000 lb capacity to feed each 1,400-ton press. Beckwood’s lead electrical engineer John Harte explains, “We decided to design, engineer, and build the system ourselves.”

The presses each had a footprint approximately 30ft square, and the QDC would need to service the presses with T-table staging devices, allowing the next die to be prepped and ready to insert upon completion of the previous run cycle.

With the high degree of automation, Beckwood engineers worked with the customer’s engineering staff to devise a workcell comprised of two 4-post presses, each with a QDC system including a cart, rack, and T-table with 15,000 lb load capacity. Each press would be more than 33ft tall and positioned in a 10ft deep pit.

The customer, a longtime user of Siemens motion control and HMI, specified this supplier for the project. Harte contacted Derek Eastep, his account manager for Siemens, to specify the drives, PLCs, displays, and motion controllers. The motion controller was critical for operating press movements, motor starters, QDC integration, light curtains that protect the workcell and operators, plus area scanners that maintain the entire cell’s integrated safety-condition monitoring.

The customer, experienced with Siemens controls, set up the system logic and data logging, with the Beckwood team integrating the QDC and overall cell management.

The QDC operates in tandem with the two presses, using four 15hp motors to drive the lead screws on the massive die handling system, electrically geared through the onboard Siemens PLC to move the ram and shuttle. The two presses feature replaceable, graphite-impregnated bronze bushings and solid chrome-plated posts to ensure precision ram guidance. Additional motors and drives on the feed tables allow the next die to be positioned during press operation. When a press cycle is completed, air bags on the feed tables lift the next die for positioning onto the QDC, then a shuttle inserts the die inside the press, with all motion controlled by the PLC. Beckwood staff designed, engineered, built, and tested the T-tables and the QDC at the factory prior to shipment and installation at the customer’s facility. Beckwood and Siemens personnel were active in the commissioning the entire system.

The PLC, a Siemens S7-1515, integrates function control, safety, and condition display in a single module with Profinet protocol for bus communication. Through the TIA Portal and Step 7 software provided by Siemens, the end user can customize the operation of the devices remotely, integrating multiple part files and related safety commands in one controller. This library feature allows the end user to use one software package to program efficiently when running a variety of parts during a shift. Safety switches on the entire system also are programmed through this secure and redundant safety back-up software through the TIA Portal.

All motor movements on the twin four-post presses are controlled with Siemens drive technology. In operation, the Beckwood presses with the QDC systems are expected to reduce die setup and changeover from approximately 2 hours to 10 minutes.

As Siemens’ Eastep notes, “We performed the application engineering with Beckwood and their customer fully confident that the system would be set up and running in a relatively short time, as all parties had good familiarity with our protocols.”

Beckwood’s Harte adds, “We used the Selector, Sizer, and Starter engineering tools from Siemens to spec and commission the drives, which saved a substantial amount of time.” 

The success of this first-of-kind press and QDC workcell, built by Beckwood with the help of its controls supplier Siemens, bears out the words of Josh Dixon, Beckwood’s director of sales and marketing, who says, “We hate the word ‘no.’”

Beckwood’s built-to-order machines are engineered to serve a variety of industries, and staff are often able to recommend process improvements that customers may not have known or considered, to improve their manufacturing operations. Beyond metal forming, the company also manufactures presses to form rubber, plastic, composites, and other materials.