As part of its ongoing programme of replacing machines deemed to have reached a natural end of life, Worcester, Bosch Group, has introduced its first BLM 4-RUNNER tube processing system. The new machine is delivering cycle time savings of between 25 and 30 per cent compared to the machine it replaced, as well as delivering significant environmental benefits to the company.
As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of domestic heating and hot water appliances, one of Worcester’s, key targets is energy efficiency, as demanded by its customers. As a result it has a corporate policy of ensuring that any machine tool purchases reflect that energy/environmental remit. Previously, the tube processing at Worcester had been carried out by hydraulic powered machinery. The switch to the BLM 4-RUNNER, with its all-electric, servo controlled operation provided a major step forward in environmental terms, with the added advantages of improved quality and consistency as well has reduced cycle times.
“It is part of our long term vision to replace all of our old hydraulic BLM Planet machines with modern all-electric, servo driven, tube processing systems. The 4-RUNNER’S servo control is important for a number of reasons, such as improved accuracy of bends, consistency and cycle times, but of equal, if not greater importance was the fact that they are far more energy efficient compared to hydraulic machines, and this was key to our purchasing decision,” says Chris Packer, Group Leader – Manufacturing, Worcester, Bosch Group.
The BLM 4-RUNNER is a modular-based machine that can be configured to include de-coiling, straightening, end-forming, bending, cutting off and unloading, the machine at Worcester is fully configured in this way delivering finished components from coiled copper tube up to 22 mm diameter. The bending capability of the 4-RUNNER allows left and right hand bends to be formed as well as fixed and variable radii bends in single and 3D planes. The machine is also capable of completing compression and draw bending techniques. For end-forming the BLM 4-RUNNER features a multi-station end-forming unit with either four or six ram-type forming stations or four ram stations and one rotary station. A variety of cutting devices can also be specified depending on the material being processed, these include internal or external orbital swarfless cutters, or conventional sawblades.
One of the key benefits of the BLM 4-RUNNER’S all-electric system is its consistency of bend, with hydraulic bending the bend is more variable, but with servo-driven positioning every bend is the same. “The variations that we find on our hydraulic benders have been totally eliminated since the switch to the 4-RUNNER,” says Rob Crane, Production Engineer, Worcester, Bosch Group. “We are finding that bend quality and repeatability are superior across the spread of parts that we are producing, when you then add in a typical cycle time saving of 30 per cent, we are seeing a night and day difference in the technology with the 4-RUNNER massively ahead of its predecessor.”
From a shopfloor perspective the environmental gains of switching from hydraulic to all-electric are also winning approval at Worcester, Bosch Group. Production Leader, Adam Timms adds: “The total lack of hydraulic oil makes it much easier to maintain the quality of the working environment. The cleaner working environment also makes it much easier to maintain our Five S, total productive maintenance (TPM) and planned maintenance initiatives (PMI).” The step up from the previous machine and control technology was significant as there was about a 20 year gap in control technology alone. “It took us a short while to get to grips with the new control system, but we quickly realised that we had to forget all that we knew from the old system and embrace the user-friendliness of the new control. In addition, the machine design makes setting much easier, for example, we have all of the tooling we need to process 13 mm tube in a single set-up and, as we become more familiar with the machine, and setting will be quicker than before.”
Another area in which BLM has improved the tube processing capabilities is the cutting off module of the 4-RUNNER. This setting is now controlled via the CNC on the 4-RUNNER with any of the setter/operators able to quickly set up the cut off cycle. This is proving to be a major time saver. “The success of the BLM 4-RUNNER here at our Worcester manufacturing plant, both in terms of productivity and energy efficiency has resulted in that same machine being installed at other Bosch Plants across Europe. The philosophy of specifying machines that are not just more productive, but also more energy efficient is completely in-line with our group thinking and is what we aim to deliver to our customers,” says Chris Packer.
In addition to the 4-RUNNER Worcester has also taken delivery of a BLM Tube-Form ELE end forming machine. Again, this is a fully electric machine with an extremely low environmental impact. With a ram capable of applying 8 tonne of pressure this machine is allowing Worcester, Bosch Group to produce more complex forms, with up to six punches available and also on larger diameter tube than could previously be achieved. As with the 4-RUNNER, the purchase of the Tube-Form ELE was dictated by its eco-friendly credentials, having no hydraulic systems, and also as part of Worcester's replacement policy where older technology is being phased out.
Worcester has been manufacturing domestic heating and hot water appliances since 1962 and became a member of the Worldwide Bosch Group in 1996. It is currently the UK market leader in domestic boilers producing around 250,000 units per year mainly for the UK domestic market, which is the largest in Europe. In addition to gas and oil fired central heating boilers the company’s range also includes hot water cylinders and renewable technologies such as heat pumps and solar water heating systems, plus an associated range of controls and accessories. For the past six years its boiler range has been the recipient of the Which Best Buy Award. It is also a market leader in respect of service and quality, much of which can be attributed to the quality of manufacture at its Worcester (gas products) and Clay Cross (oil products) manufacturing facilities.