Employing new technology

Employing new technology

December 10, 2013 4:30:32 PM

Midwest Products & Engineering, Milwaukee Wisconsin, makes it a continuous mission to utilize the best technology, implement the latest manufacturing techniques, and hone their operation in order to remain competitive in an often challenging marketplace. From engineering to the shop floor all software and hardware systems are chosen and implemented to integrate for efficient operations. utilizes an up to date mix of CNC punching, laser cutting and bending along with a very capable staff to move product from design in SolidWorks CAD to finished parts. A tour of their shop will impress the visitor with the quality of the manufacturing facilities and the enthusiasm of the work force. 

In 2010 as part of an overall project to improve their manufacturing processes a task force was assembled to investigate and recommend improvements in an area of manufacturing that has been receiving increasing scrutiny as fabricators move into the environment of the post 2008/2009 recession. 

“We really spent some time thinking about what our long term manufacturing approach would be, and how we were going to address the needs of the business and the demands of our customers.”

Midwest Products & Engineering

Starting in the mid to late 1980s fabricators were quick to appreciate and adopt CNC punching and bending. Programming for these systems originally consisted of hand typing NC codes with the aid of various teletype, word processing and back plotting systems. This process was cumbersome and when CAD/CAM systems were introduced in the late 1980s fabricators were again quick to adopt the new technology for their CNC punching operations and later for CNC laser cutters.


CNC bending operations in contrast were addressed primarily with outmoded programming methods performed on the shop floor requiring manual calculations, unproductive use of machine time and skilled operator/set up personnel. This is still the case in many fabrication shops and the group at MPE was asking why, and what is the best way to remedy the situation? 

“The fabrication unit manager has a great analogy for how we see our forming operators; he says that “they are the race car driver. You don’t expect or want your driver to be out of the car for any reason. They shouldn’t be out changing the tires or tweaking the suspension, but should be focused on the job of driving that car.” Metamation allows us to have our operators spend more of their time forming parts instead of programming the machines and creating our processes. At the end of the day it is really about increasing actual machine run time, reducing or eliminating waste from trial and error style setups, and establishing consistent quality results.”

Possible reasons for bend programming to be lagging behind include lack of suitable software, the complexity of bending operations, the related need for complex 3D CAD/CAM software, and prevailing shop culture. MPE had a model for a better solution. For well over a decade they had been successfully programming their CNC punching and bending equipment via an integrated CAD and CAM system. Why not employ the same technology for their existing installation of fourteen CNC press brakes and the upcoming purchase of a new Mitsubishi press brake? A subsequent investigation of potential software suppliers showed that the required technology was available and the decision was made to move ahead with the purchase and implementation of a press brake CAD/CAM system (MetaBEND by Metamation, Reno, NV) along with a communications net to supply their operators with NC codes and set up information.



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