2017 11 21 064335

Joint Venture to strengthen portfolio, build scale and accelerate growth.

Unison Ltd, which manufactures tube bending machines and simulation software, announces that it has entered a joint venture with Pneuform Machines Ltd leading to full integration within the Unison family of companies joining Yorkshire CNC and Ingenium Integration.

The joint venture will strengthen Unison’s portfolio adding a range of small diameter tube and wire bending machines.

“Unison Ltd is excited about our joint Business Venture with wire and tube bending specialists – Pneuform who have firmly established in the tube bending industry for over 50 years. The partnership will see new product lines added to our product portfolio which already houses the world’s largest range of all electric tube bending machinery and sits a alongside our Evbend range of machines. Pneuform are the perfect fit for Unison, adding a wealth of experience and engineering expertise, given their deep-rooted history. The Pneuform product range fits perfectly into the Unison tube bending range due to their commitment to robust and reliable machinery, delivering high-performance at a cost-effective price. Unison Ltd is committed to delivering the same high level of service and industry expertise Pneuform’s clients have grown to expect over the past 50+ years. Together, we can be much stronger and add considerable value to the tube bending sector/all market sectors we operate in.” Alan Pickering, Joint Managing Director at Unison Ltd.

“Pneuform are excited that the joint venture will enhance the marketing and the technical development of the range of machines it produces.  The Pneuform range will be supported jointly by Unison and Pneuform.  The joint venture will secure future ongoing support for existing customers and provide confidence that the bending machines will continue to be developed, supported and marketed into the long-term future”. Trevor Clark, Managing Director of Pneuform Machines Limited.

About Unison

For more than forty years, Unison Ltd has been manufacturing tube bending machines working with our customers to design and build some of the most cutting-edge tube bending technology available on the global marketplace today. We push technical boundaries whether this is in the manufacture of the world’s largest all-electric tube bending machine, or an integrated software solution has rewarded us with a global reputation for solving the most challenging customer problems. More information is available at unisonltd.com.

About Pneuform

In the mid 1960's when Pneuform was founded, concentrating their efforts on the design, development and manufacture of pneumatic and hydraulic tube and wire bending machines. Pneuform produce wire bending machines in both 2 and 3 axis models that cover a range of wires from 2mm (0.08") to 16mm (0.63”).  Pneuform also produces a range of tube machines that have been developed for specific industries.  The 2-axis bending machine will produce serpentines, coils and spirals with either a static flat table for smaller parts or with an integrated 3 axis table to support large parts.  The 3-axis bending machine provides the versatility to produce a variety of shapes.  More information is available at Pneuform.com

Published inProduction

This will be Unison Ltd’s second manufacturing facility, firmly establishing Unison’s committed production capabilities in the USA.

The new factory in Danville, Virginia, is intended to support the activities of the plant in North Yorkshire, which has witnessed a considerable manufacturing growth that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

2017 09 29 072006Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently announced that Unison Ltd will invest $5.2 million to establish its first U.S. manufacturing operation in the Cane Creek Centre Industrial Park, jointly owned by the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County.

Julian Kidger, Joint Managing Director, commented “We are incredibly excited about the benefits this facility will give our existing and future customers.  Our plan includes the creation of 35 new jobs in the next 3 years.  It will be fantastic to genuinely be able to label our machines as “Made in America.” Supporting our customers’ needs is hugely important to us. Many of our initial hires for the US will be dedicated to service and support ensuring a rapid and professional response for all customers.  Unison invented the “all electric tube bending machine” and then enhanced that technology with unique complimentary products and after-market services.  With this US venture, we intend to lead tube bending solutions’ innovation.  None of this would have been possible without the fantastic support from the state of Virginia, the City of Danville, and Pittsylvania County.  The Governor and his team have been instrumental in what is a major step forward for Unison and we are thrilled to be working with them.  We can’t say thank you enough to all the Virginians who have helped bring us to this day.”

Alan Pickering Joint Managing Director commented “We are thrilled to be announcing this expansion with a community that understands our vision of Education and Industry working in Partnership. A huge part of our decision was where are we going to recruit the highly technical people we need for our current automation requirements, prepare for Industry 4.0 as well as have a clear succession plan for the business. We were blown away by the vision of individuals, the wider community and the fact it wasn’t just talk, the investment in the Danville Technical Education community is a true inspiration and will pay huge dividends to the community in the years to come. With such solid foundations, we feel secure in our own future and look forward to the next phase of our evolution.”

Over the last 3 years Unison Ltd have been investing heavily in Research & Development in Robotics, Lasers and Software and during 2018 we will be bringing several New products to the US market which we believe will add tremendous value to our customer base.

Combining Unison’s new strategic location within easy reach of our current customers, our increased focus on Service and Support and our UK technical centre expertise creates the perfect moment to introduce our high-tech solutions to the US market.  Add to that Unison Ltd’s new US based Tube Bending Training School, and the sky is the limit for our customers to advance their capabilities.

For more information, watch this short interview with Julian Kidger, Joint Managing Director, Unison.  For employment opportunities at Unison in the US, please contact Dale Coates at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About Unison
For over 40 years Unison has been providing tube bending solutions working closely with our customers to design and build some of the most pioneering tube bending technology available in the global marketplace today.

Unison were the first to design and manufacture all-electric tube bending machinery back in 1994. Since then we have continued to lead the market through product enhancements and by providing innovative solutions to challenging production problems.

Published inProduction

Unison’s new North American support office in Asheville, NC, has received its first order for an all-electric CNC tube bending machine, just five weeks after opening. The order was placed by Byers Precision Fabricators, Inc., of Hendersonville, NC, for a versatile dual-head machine that is capable of meeting a diverse range of tube and pipe bending needs.

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Unison is supplying Byers Precision Fabricators with a versatile 2-inch capacity dual-head bending machine to help accelerate production of complex tubular parts.

Byers Precision Fabricators produces components and assemblies mainly from sheet and tubular aluminium and stainless steel. Most tubular parts are fabricated from 3/8 to 1-inch ANSI Schedule 40 or 80 stainless steel pipe stock. Until now, Byers has outsourced the bulk of its tube and pipe bending needs to third-party suppliers, except for a small amount of work which it produces using manual bending techniques. However, this approach was becoming increasingly expensive and created production bottlenecks.

As Roger Byers, President of Byers Precision Fabricators, explains, “Bringing our tube bending operations in-house greatly enhances our flexibility to meet complex shape requirements, tight delivery schedules and last-minute design changes – which is important for several of our customers in processing sectors such as nuclear power. It also allows us to broaden our range of fabrication services, which is critical for a subcontracting workshop like ours. We chose a Unison machine primarily on the strength of its performance and the company’s reputation. Unison’s support is also proving exemplary – the company has even handled some specialist pipe part production to help us, until we take delivery of the machine in a couple of months. This level of support is way beyond that of many machine tool manufacturers, and we look forward to a successful partnership.”

Byers operates a modern machine shop, and is renowned for maintaining a pristine work environment. From the outset, the company was keen to avoid the type of hydraulic tube benders that are used by many fabricators, which are notoriously noisy and difficult to keep clean. It was also deterred by the difficulty of obtaining accurate and repeatable results from hydraulic machines. Avoiding material wastage was another factor – hydraulic tube bending often necessitates multiple trial runs before a good part that meets specification can be produced.

Having chosen to adopt all-electric CNC tube bending technology, Byers looked at various manufacturers and singled out Unison’s machines as the best on the market. It also found that Unison was prepared to develop a bending solution to meet specific application needs. The fact that the company has just opened a support office in Asheville, a short drive from Byers’ facility in Hendersonville, was the final clincher.

The machine for Byers is a version of the 2-inch (50 mm) capacity CNC all-electric tube bender from Unison’s Breeze range, customised to maximise versatility of use. The machine features two independent bend heads that provide both left-hand (CCW) and right-hand (CW) bending to accommodate the most complex shape requirements, and is capable of handling many popular tube and pipe sizes – including 1.5 inch Schedule 40 stainless steel stock with an outside diameter of 1.9 inches. The machine bed is designed to accommodate tube lengths up to 20 feet.

Some of the more specialist parts that Byers currently produces feature a variety of complex closely-spaced bends, with radii as small as 60 mm. The Unison tube bender will enable the company to produce these parts very efficiently in a single uninterrupted machine cycle. Single-piece part fabrication will also help Byers to further increase the speed and efficiency of production by eliminating multiple cut-to-length and welding operations. A further advantage of the Unison machine is its fully automated, software-controlled setup. Byers produces parts in a wide range of batch sizes, even in single or very small quantities, so machine setup time has a major bearing on productivity. The machine that is being supplied to Byers can typically be reconfigured by a single operator in less than 15 minutes.

To help maximise throughput and accelerate right-first-time production of parts, both bend heads on the machine will be equipped with Unison’s unique laser-based spring-back measurement and correction system. This helps to ensure bending precision by automatically compensating for the natural tendency of metal tubes to spring back slightly after being bent – eliminating costly scrap.

Unison will also be supplying a comprehensive control and support software package. In addition to Unison’s Windows-based Unibend machine control software, this will include internet-based remote diagnostics and video monitoring facilities, as well as a powerful Op2Sim 3D tube bending simulator.

The simulation software uses a CAD (computer aided design) model of the bending machine to generate detailed video imagery. It offers collision detection facilities, with user-adjustable parameters for real-world environmental factors such as the distances between the tube centreline and the ceiling, floor and walls of the workshop, and has in-built artificial intelligence to reiterate bend cycles until a successful solution is found. The simulator will enable Byers to develop production-ready tube bending programs offline, without needing to test and optimise them on the bending machine, saving valuable production time.

The data for bending programs and simulation can be input manually from customers’ drawings, derived from CAD models of parts, or obtained by reverse-engineering existing components using Byers’ tactile or laser-based CMMs (coordinate measuring machines).

According to Jeff Cox, a member of Byers’ CAD/CAM Department, “The bending machine will be networked to our CAD/CAM facilities – Unison is handling the system integration aspect. About 90 percent of our customers submit drawings, and most of these are backed by CAD models. We use SolidWorks CAD software extensively for design and development work, so we have also ordered the TubeWorks add-in software from Unison. This will enable us to extract manufacturing information such as tube specifications and CNC bending data direct from the CAD models in a matter of minutes, accelerating our RFQ (request for quotation) procedures.”

Dale Coates, responsible for market development at Unison’s Asheville office, points out that the Byers order is a significant milestone in Unison’s history. “This is the first order that Unison has received following its decision to open a direct sales channel in the US and comes from a renowned manufacturer. We are also delighted to announce that Byers has agreed to act as a reference site for Unison. Its Hendersonville facility is only 15 miles from our office and we look forward to showing our bending machinery operating in such a modern fabrication environment.”

About Byers Precision Fabricators

Byers Precision Fabricators, founded in 1942, is a high tech company that uses state of the art fabrication equipment and trained personnel to provide a broad spectrum of fabrication services. Byers Precision operates from a modern 60,000 sq. ft. facility housing 5-axis laser, sheet laser and water-jet cutters. Byers’ equipment list also includes CNC lathes and mills, press brakes and welders, allowing the company to perform all types of machining, forming, and welding. The company also has the capability of finishing tubular and sheet metal parts. A flexible manufacturing strategy accommodates in-house production of components and assemblies in quantities from singles to mass production. The quality of Byers’ work is assured through its NQA-1 and ISO 9001:2008 compliant quality management systems. Byers Precision Fabricators provides services to the nuclear, automotive, pharmaceutical and other industries requiring precision parts and assemblies. www.byersprecision.com

About Unison

Unison started in business by developing control systems for metalworking machinery – supplying a number of prominent UK machine manufacturers in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991 the company moved into machinery design, focusing on machines for tube bending. At that time, tube bending machines were powered hydraulically. In the early 1990s Unison invented a range of machines employing electrical servo-motors for controlling bending motion. These were the world’s first 'all-electric' machines for tube bending. The performance of Unison's new machine design – with its fast and repeatable software-controlled set-up, right-first-time action, low power consumption, and quiet and clean operation – was an instant success. The company has progressively led the tube bending machinery industry by increasing the tubing diameters that can be formed using all-electric motion and is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tube bending machines and associated software. In 2014, Unison took another quantum leap in tube bending machine performance by developing a servomotor-powered machine architecture that is capable of bending thick-walled piping with diameters of 10 inches/273 mm and more. The company opened its own direct support centre in North America in 2015. www.unisonltd.com

For more information about Unison, please contact Stuart Singleton at:

Unison Ltd, Faroe House, Thornburgh Road, Scarborough, YO11 3UY, UK.

t: +44 (0)1723 582868; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.unisonltd.com

For more information about Byers Precision Fabricators, please contact Roger Byers at:

Byers Precision Fabricators, Inc., 675 Dana Road, Hendersonville, NC 28792.

Tel: (828) 693-4088; www.byersprecision.com

Published inProduction

The all-electric tube and pipe bending machine manufacturer Unison is expanding its presence in North America by opening a direct service and sales office in Asheville, North Carolina. The company’s investment comes on the back of significantly increased sales in the US, which grew by more than 100% in its last financial year.

  • doubling year-on-year sales bolster US expansion

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The UK-headquartered tube and pipe bending machinery designer and manufacturer Unison has been active in the US market since 1999. Initially operating through a specialist distributor, Unison recently decided to establish its own US operation to ensure that its existing and future customer base have access to, and are supported by, the company’s own personnel located within the same time zone.

According to Unison’s Head of Sales, Stuart Singleton, “Virtually everything that Unison makes is customised, and very close cooperation with clients is key to our business model. Many fabricators and OEMs are currently migrating from older style hydraulic tube benders to more efficient all-electric technology, and our new regional office will help Unison to configure and deliver the most flexible and efficient solutions for users' needs. We already have personnel on the ground in the US for 75 percent of the time, installing new machines and servicing our installed base, so it makes sense that they are located there permanently.”

Unison aims to expand its US presence rapidly, as Stuart Singleton points out, “In terms of driving sales, we are actively seeking specialist agencies to work with from both a geographical and market sector viewpoint and would be pleased to hear from anyone who believes that they can add value to our offer.”

Unison's all-electric machines are widely used by tubular part manufacturers requiring high precision, and producing parts in smaller batches and using expensive materials. Its key markets include aerospace, automotive, marine, energy, oil and gas, custom products and many other processing equipment sectors.

About Unison
Unison started in business by developing control systems for metalworking machinery – supplying a number of prominent UK machine manufacturers in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991 the company moved into machinery design, focusing on machines for tube bending. At that time, tube bending machines were powered hydraulically. In the early 1990s Unison invented a range of machines employing electrical servo-motors for controlling bending motion. These were the world’s first 'all-electric' machines for tube bending. The performance of Unison's new machine design – with its fast and repeatable software-controlled set-up, right-first-time action, low power consumption, and quiet and clean operation – was an instant success. The company has progressively led the tube bending machinery industry by increasing the tubing diameters that can be formed using all-electric motion and is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tube bending machines and associated software. In 2014, Unison took another quantum leap in tube bending machine power by developing a servomotor-powered machine architecture that is capable of bending thick-walled piping with diameters of 225 mm and more. www.unisonltd.com

For more information about Unison, please contact Stuart Singleton at:

Unison Ltd, Faroe House, Thornburgh Road, Scarborough, YO11 3UY, UK.
t: +44 (0)1723 582868; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.unisonltd.com

Published inProcessing

The tube bending machine innovator Unison launches what it believes is a new category of tube bending machine designed to substantially lower the cost and skill level required to produce precision tubular parts in small volumes. Target sectors for the new machine - which can bend tube diameters of up to 2 inches/50 mm - include shipbuilding, and equipment for oil, gas and other processing sectors.

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A new CNC-controlled tube bending machine from Unison with a semi-manual action can substantially lower the cost and skill level required to produce precision tubular parts in small volumes.

The new EvBend 2000 rotary draw tube bending machine has a unique architecture combining manual set-up with semi-manual operation of the bending arm - which has servomotor power assistance. This approach makes the machine intrinsically easy to understand and use - requiring just a few minutes of training - and inherently safe. However, very precise tube bending results are also assured by a unique CNC control system for the tube feed, carriage rotation, and bend axes.

EvBend 2000 is a variant of Unison's successful EvBend 1000 manual machine which can handle tubing diameters up to 22 mm and is widely used in the aerospace sector. The new 2000 series machines can provide a bend torque of up to 5500 Nm to assist operation of the bend arm. This assistance allows machines to handle larger tubing diameters up to 2 inches/50 mm, including tubing made from hard high-performance alloy materials.

The EvBend concept is very well liked because of its lower cost compared with buying an automatic bending machine, and for its intrinsically simple and safe mode of operation. With the launch of the EvBend 2000, Unison has found a way to extend this formula to larger tubing sizes, without sacrificing either safety or simplicity. Operator safety continues to be assured by the requirement for human force on the bend arm to engage the power assistance, plus a form of 'dead man's switch', which provides a fail-safe mechanism that instantly removes the power assistance if the operator lets go or relaxes the grip on the handle.

"The project to design a larger version of EvBend was started in response to user demand," says Alan Pickering, CEO of Unison. "The machine is amazingly easy to use. It's intrinsically safe, there's no need for a safety fence, mat or scanner. It's highly cost effective too. If a company has a demand for precision tubular parts in low volume, EvBend 2000 can provide a solution that has both a lower capital equipment cost and a much reduced need for operator skill."

EvBend machines reduce the entry costs to precision rotary draw tube bending by using manual operations to feed and rotate tubing and move the bending arm, but with smart CNC-controlled braking on the carriage feed, rotation and bend arm axes to ensure part shapes are formed with the highest accuracy. Making prototypes or small quantities, and reverse engineering of part shapes, is very easy using this process as the bending program can be broken down into simple steps and reviewed.

There is almost no limit to the intricacy and multi-bend complexity of tubular shapes that can be formed, thanks to EvBend's ultra-compact bending head, and the versatility that manual/semi-manual operation brings to the manipulation process. However, sheer ease of use of EvBend is usually the machine's strongest selling point.

Operators typically grasp how the machine works within minutes. Users can create bending programs in two ways. First, by entering the standard tube bending information (XYZ/YBC/LRA values, or the distance tube is fed out, rotated, and the angle of bend) into dialog screens on the EvBend's Windows operator interface; this data can also be transferred from a coordinate measuring machine. Alternatively, users can program the machine using a teaching mode. This latter method is particularly powerful: it is so simple to use that a part can be reverse-engineered by bending and comparing a tube against an existing part - with the user capturing the underlying material feed, rotation, and angle of bend information as the desired points are reached.

Once the required bend data is entered the user can start bending parts, under the interactive guidance of the machine. EvBend's touch-screen Windows HMI displays the actions required in sequence - with real-time feedback of positional data as tubing is fed, rotated or bent. The precision and repeatability of these feed, rotation and bending operations is assured by a smart electromagnetic braking system. Encoder feedback on each axis ensures that all movements are made with extreme precision. EvBend machines may also be fitted with a pneumatic mandrel. The Windows HMI makes it easy to integrate EvBend into factory networks, and access Unison's powerful range of CAD tools and interfaces for the automated creation of tube bending programs.

EvBend machines can be configured with a right-hand or left-hand bending head. This orientation can also be changed by the user in around 15 minutes

More information: www.unisonltd.com/products/bending-machines/evbend/

About Unison
Unison started in business by developing control systems for metalworking machinery – supplying a number of prominent UK machine manufacturers in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991 the company moved into machinery design, focusing on machines for tube bending. At that time, tube bending machines were powered hydraulically. In the early 1990s Unison invented a range of machines employing electrical servo-motors for controlling bending motion. These were the world’s first 'all-electric' machines for tube bending. The performance of Unison's new machine design – with its fast and repeatable software-controlled set-up, right-first-time action, low power consumption, and quiet and clean operation – was an instant success. The company has progressively led the tube bending machinery industry by increasing the tubing diameters that can be formed using all-electric motion and is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tube bending machines and associated software. In 2014, Unison took another quantum leap in tube bending machine power by developing a servomotor-powered machine architecture that is capable of bending thick-walled piping with diameters of 225 mm and more. www.unisonltd.com

For more information about Unison, please contact Stuart Singleton at:

Unison Ltd, Faroe House, Thornburgh Road, Scarborough, YO11 3UY, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)1723 582868; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; http://www.unisonltd.com

Published inProduction

Unison has commissioned what is believed to be the largest all-electric tube bending machine ever produced, at Newport News Shipbuilding - supplier of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines to the US Navy.

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Newport News Shipbuilding's Detail Pipe Shop celebrating the first bend made by Unison's ultra-powerful all-electric pipe bending machine. The first part bent was a 6-inch pipe for the John F Kennedy aircraft carrier (CVN 79). Photo by John Whalen, Huntington Ingalls Industries.

The machine is capable of generating over 360,000 Nm of torque and can bend piping up to 8 inches NPS - with an outside diameter of 8.625 inches or 219.1 mm - with Schedule 80 wall thicknesses of 0.5 inch (12.7 mm).

The availability of all-electric, servomotor-controlled bending machines for pipes of this size brings significant productivity benefits to the fabrication of a ship's pipework compared with conventional hydraulically-powered machinery. These include smart software-controlled set-up and right-first-time precision bending - with exceptional accuracy and repeatability. Bend precision is aided by the inclusion of a unique laser-based system that automatically measures and adjusts bend angles for spring-back of the pipe metal.

Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, has more than seven years of experience using Unison all-electric tube benders. The shipbuilder first began using this technology in 2007, when it took delivery of three Unison machines to help fabricate tubing and piping systems for use on aircraft carrier projects.

About Newport News Shipbuilding
For more than 128 years, Newport News Shipbuilding has designed, built, overhauled and repaired a wide variety of ships for the US Navy and commercial customers. In 2011, the shipyard became a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, and is now the sole designer, builder and refueller of nuclear-powered US Navy aircraft carriers, and one of only two providers of nuclear-powered US Navy submarines. With vast facilities located on more than 550 acres along 2.5 miles of waterfront in Newport News, Virginia, Newport News Shipbuilding employs more than 23,000 people, many of whom are third- or fourth-generation shipbuilders. More information: http://nns.huntingtoningalls.com/

About Unison Ltd
Unison started in business by developing control systems for metalworking machinery – supplying a number of prominent UK machine manufacturers in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991 the company moved into machinery design, focusing on machines for tube bending. At that time, tube bending machines were powered hydraulically. In the early 1990s Unison developed a range of machines employing electrical servo-motors for controlling bending motion. These were the world’s first 'all-electric' machines for tube bending. The performance of Unison's new machine design – with its fast and repeatable software-controlled set-up, right-first-time action, low power consumption, and quiet and clean operation – was an instant success. The company has progressively led the tube bending machinery industry by increasing the tubing diameters that can be formed using all-electric motion and is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tube bending machines and associated software. In 2014, Unison took another quantum leap in power by developing a servomotor-powered machine architecture that is capable of bending thick-walled piping with diameters of 225 mm and more. More information: http://www.unisonltd.com

Published inProcessing

One of the UK’s leading manufacturers of grab poles for public transport vehicles, Dealercast, has installed a second Unison all-electric CNC tube bending machine to expand manufacturing capacity at its Manchester plant.

The order for the machine was placed during Unison’s open house event, when tube fabricators were able to tour the company’s design and manufacturing facilities and review the latest tube bending automation and CAD/CAM software tools. Following installation and commissioning, the machine – a 50 mm Breeze model with multi-stack tooling – has now entered service at Dealercast’s premises.

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Operating from a purpose-built factory, Dealercast provides a variety of manufacturing services, including tube manipulation, fabrication, casting and CNC machining. It has particular expertise in the manufacture of tubular grab poles and handrails for architectural applications and public transport vehicles, with a customer base that includes many prestigious bus, coach and railway vehicle manufacturers.

According to Dealercast’s Managing Director, Michael Lythgoe, “We are increasing our production capacity – and our manufacturing flexibility – to stay ahead of our clients' needs. Although we could have bought a low-cost tube bender from the Far East for perhaps half the price of the new Unison machine, this would only have been a stop-gap solution. Instead, we sought a machine that would provide reliable long term performance and a reasonable return on investment, while retaining high residual value. Unison’s tube benders fit these requirements precisely – they are the best on the market and the company’s technical support is excellent.”

Dealercast operates an ISO 9001 compliant tube bending and fabrication shop that can accommodate a broad diversity of needs, from the manufacture of one-off prototypes through to volume production of parts in large batch sizes. It already uses a Unison 40 mm Breeze all-electric machine for a large proportion of its tube manipulation work, together with some older hydraulic tube benders, and hydraulic roll-forming machines for production of tubes or sections with large diameter curves.  The addition of a second 50 mm Unison machine extends the company's all-electric servomotor-controlled bending capability – which is particularly efficient and cost effective on small-batch production runs – and increases the tubular sizes that can be manipulated.

Until now, Dealercast developed bend programs for new tubular parts directly on the control console of its 40 mm Breeze machine. This approach offers a convenient means of programming, but it suffers from the disadvantage that the machine is unavailable for manufacturing operations while programs are created, which can result in a production bottleneck.

To create a more efficient manufacturing environment with an optimised workflow, Dealercast also ordered Unison’s Unibend Office software package. This is configured for use on a standard desktop PC – in isolation from the bending machine – and allows users to create bend programs offline. The company intends using the new software to create bend programs for its existing 40 mm tube bender as well as the new 50 mm machine. Another advantage is that Unibend Office can be used with Unison’s powerful Opt2Sim machine 3D simulation software, which would enable Dealercast to fully test and optimise programs prior to downloading them to the bending machines, thereby achieving further savings on valuable machine time.

Steve Haddrell of Unison points out that the Dealercast order is particularly gratifying for a number of reasons. “Repeat orders are always good news because they carry a clear customer endorsement. Dealercast relies heavily on its 40 mm Breeze machine and is familiar with the benefits of all-electric technology, including fully automated machine setup, ease of use, very high bend accuracy and excellent repeatability. In this case, the company decided that these attributes, combined with the build quality and reliability of Unison machines, significantly outweighed any short term economic advantage of imported low cost tube benders. Increasingly, our customers regard Unison as a solutions partner, with our machines forming part of their long term business strategy.”

Published inMachinery

An extremely powerful Unison all-electric pipe bending machine is helping Frank Mohn Piping to improve the production accuracy and throughput of complex large-bore hydraulic piping systems. The machine is also designed to help the company improve manufacturing efficiency by reducing the number of steps required to fabricate piping parts.

  • high torque machine bends up to 180 mm diameter thick-walled pipes
  • right-first-time precision will allow flanged pipes to be bent – eliminating multi-stage process

Recently installed at Frank Mohn Piping’s manufacturing facilities in Frekhaug, Norway, the custom pipe bender is one of the most powerful all-electric machines that Unison has delivered to date. Based on Unison’s Breeze platform, it can accommodate tubes and pipes up to 180 mm (7 inches) in diameter. The machine’s exceptionally high torque capability, combined with precision CNC control and force sensing clamp and pressure dies, means that thick walled pipes made from hard materials can be bent easily, and very accurately without deformation. Parts manufactured from duplex stainless steel are a typical example – the machine is capable of bending 130 mm diameter pipes that have a wall thickness of up to 11 mm.

 2014-07-30 105323 unison pipe bending electric coIMT

Frank Mohn Piping (FMP) manufactures hydraulic pipes that are used in the well-known ‘Framo’ brand of submerged pumping systems for shipping, offshore and underground applications. It also produces a diverse range of hydraulic pipes for the floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels that are used in the offshore oil and gas industry.

In this particular case, FMP sought a bending solution that could accommodate a range of fabrication materials and wall thicknesses for the production of large diameter pipes, as well as addressing a particular manufacturing issue involving 131 mm and 156 mm diameter thin-walled stainless steel pipes. The company has been using two hydraulic CNC bending machines to produce these pipes, but with one of them it was proving extremely difficult to fabricate tight bends without wrinkles, despite the use of a mandrel, because there was insufficient control resolution over the rotary-draw bending process. Although the other machine was capable of handling the bending tasks, it was relatively old and FMP was concerned that sourcing obsolescent components was becoming time-consuming and threatening to cause production bottlenecks.

According to Helge Kolas, Production Manager of Frank Mohn Piping, “This is our first all-electric bending machine. The technology has a number of important advantages over hydraulics, including faster setup, better process accuracy and repeatability, and much higher energy efficiency. After thoroughly researching the market we chose a Unison machine because the company has a long history of producing all-electric benders that are consistently ahead of the competition, and was prepared to work with us to create a custom machine that met our needs exactly.”

The machine supplied to FMP is a single-stack, right-hand bend model, equipped with Unison’s innovative laser springback system – which facilitates right-first-time manufacturing by automatically compensating for the tendency of tubular parts to spring back slightly after being bent. The bending head is designed for exceptional rigidity to accommodate large, heavy pipe assemblies and to allow fully automated movement of the pipe in all working planes. Despite their very large physical size, the tools are designed for quick changeover, using a special set of mounting plates that are moved by an overhead gantry crane. Many of the pipes that FMP manufactures are unique to each application and are produced in very small batch sizes that range from 1 to 50; tool changeover time, as well as machine setup time, is therefore a key issue and the company now handles this in about 20 minutes.

Every pipe that has been bent on the Unison machine in its first six weeks of operation has been to specification. As Helge Kolas points out, “Process repeatability is excellent – the machine has performed flawlessly since the day it was installed and there are no signs of any wrinkles! The bend accuracy and ovality of parts are also much better than those we produced on our hydraulic benders.”

Although FMP has not yet had occasion to bend thick-walled pipes or to use the Unison machine’s laser springback feature, the company is about to embark on a project where these capabilities will be essential. An ideal manufacturing sequence is to cut a pipe to length, weld connection flanges to either end and then bend it to the required shape. However the limited bending accuracy of its hydraulic machines has meant that until now FMP could not guarantee the precise end-to-end length of a bent part when it came off a bending machine. Each pipe therefore had to be cut slightly oversize, with only one flange welded prior to bending, after which it would again be measured and have its non-flange end cut to length, before the second flange was welded on.

By capitalising on the improved bending accuracy and repeatability of the Unison all-electric machine to secure an end-to-end bent part accuracy of just a few millimetres, FMP plans to improve the process flow of its manufacturing facility by eliminating unnecessary steps. Both connection flanges will be welded to a cut-to-length pipe – requiring only a single pass through a robotic welding station – before the complete pre-assembled part is presented to the tube bender. The bent part will then immediately be ready for final inspection and despatch. This highly efficient ‘straight-through’ manufacturing path is set to realise significant productivity gains and eliminate expensive scrap.

Commenting on the delivery, Unison’s Key Account Manager, Steve Haddrell said: “Framo submerged pumping systems are renowned for their quality and we are delighted that FMP has chosen to partner with Unison as it embraces all-electric tube bending technology. There is a growing industry awareness that our all-electric platform is fully scalable and that we can produce machines for bending extremely large tubes and pipes. Regardless of their size, our all-electric machines offer faster, fully automated set-up and more accurate and repeatable results than their hydraulic counterparts, making them ideal for precision ‘right first time’ manufacturing.”

Unison has more than 20 years of experience in designing tube and pipe bending solutions for customers’ specific fabrication problems and is widely regarded as an industry innovator. Its standard range of all-electric machines currently spans tube and pipe sizes from 16 to 175 mm (5/8 to 7 inches) with an increasing number of custom models extending this capability even further. The company is now seeing significant interest from markets that have traditionally been the preserve of hydraulic bending machine manufacturers, such as suppliers to the shipbuilding, offshore and subsea equipment, power generation and industrial process industries.

Published inProduction

Unison has won a major tube bending machinery order from British Airways, for use in its Heathrow-based aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility. The order calls for Unison to supply a unique turnkey solution for fabricating precision tubular parts, based on two bending machines that are widely used in the aerospace industry. One machine is a semi-manual bender with CNC control, the other is a fully CNC all-electric model. Unison will also be providing all associated tooling, together with a portable coordinate measuring machine and advanced program generation software.

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  • tube bending package can reverse-engineer parts within minutes
  • two-machine capability supports wide ranging MRO strategy

To maximize operational efficiency, British Airways maintains its fleet of aircraft in-house. The loss of revenue resulting from the grounding of a modern aircraft can be astronomical, making fast-turnaround MRO capabilities vital to economic performance.

Unison's tube bending solution will meet the long-term needs of this critical repair and maintenance workshop. British Airways has embarked on a major upgrade to its fleet of long-haul aircraft, which is set to include the addition of Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A380 superjumbos over the next 10 years. The introduction of these latest-generation aircraft poses numerous new challenges for the airline’s repair and maintenance personnel.

One area that is receiving particular attention is the fabrication of replacement rigid hydraulic tubes. The central hydraulic systems of Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 aircraft operate at 5,000 psi – most commercial aircraft have 3,000 psi systems – to allow use of smaller and lighter hydraulic components. Much of the interconnecting hydraulic pipework is manufactured from specialist aerospace materials such as titanium alloy, using thick tube walls to accommodate the high working pressures; a 25 mm hydraulic tube for an aileron actuator, for example, would typically have a wall thickness of 2.5 mm.

Fabricating replacement high pressure hydraulic tubes from these materials economically – without generating expensive scrap – and to the very high quality and safety standards demanded by the aerospace industry requires precision bending and measurement equipment, backed by application-specific knowledge. Following the decision to upgrade the tube fabrication capabilities of its repair and maintenance workshop, British Airways therefore sought a tube bending machine company with proven expertise in the aerospace sector. Unison was an obvious contender; the company’s all-electric tube bending technology is used by a number of leading aerospace manufacturers, including Boeing and Airbus, to produce parts for engines and airframes. In fact, Unison machines are already used to produce hydraulic fluid lines for both the 787 Dreamliner and A380.

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For the British Airways application, Unison configured a complete turnkey MRO package for tubular components, to provide quick and cost-effective repair of fluid lines on aircraft by reverse-engineering OEM parts and then re-creating them in the workshop. The package covers tube sizes from a few millimetres up to 40 mm in diameter and accommodates the variety of materials used in this application, including stainless steel and titanium alloy.

For demanding bending tasks, such as rotary draw bending of thick-walled titanium alloy or large diameter tubes, the package includes a single-stack 40 mm machine from Unison’s Breeze range of all-electric tube benders. This machine will also be equipped with Unison’s unique laser-controlled springback measurement and correction. The system ensures bending precision by automatically compensating for the natural tendency of metal tubes to spring back slightly after being bent, eliminating expensive scrap by facilitating right-first-time results.

For cost effective bending of intricate stainless steel tube parts with smaller diameters up to 30 mm, Unison is supplying British Airways with an EvBend 1000 machine. Capable of extremely accurate left and right hand bending, this CNC controlled manually powered machine is a popular choice with metal fabricators for precision low-volume work, such as aerospace parts manufacture. Originally developed by a specialist tube manipulation company, Silkmead Tubular, EvBend 1000 machines are now manufactured by Unison in Scarborough.

If a suitable CAD file for the tubular part is available, tube fabrication data can be extracted and downloaded direct to the appropriate bending machine. However, a more likely scenario is that, at least in the first instance, there will be no supporting design data for a tube that needs replacing. In this instance, after removing the worn or damaged part from the aircraft, maintenance personnel will obtain the tube’s physical measurements and then process the information to create a suitable bending program.

The package being supplied to British Airways also includes a FARO coordinate measuring machine (CMM) that uses laser and tactile measurement techniques to acquire detailed and highly accurate 3D representations of tubes, together with VTube-LASER software from Advanced Tubular Technologies. This software automatically converts CMM data into a form suitable for use on bending machines, enabling tubular parts to be cloned in a matter of minutes.

Under the terms of the order from British Airways, in addition to supplying the complete turnkey tube fabrication solution, Unison is responsible for all aspects of bending machine integration and associated equipment connectivity. As Unison’s Managing Director, Alan Pickering, points out, “This turnkey solution demands tight integration of hardware and software resources to create a seamless production environment for efficient on-demand manufacture of specialist precision parts. By assigning responsibility for the performance of the entire installation to Unison, British Airways can be confident that its tube fabrication requirements are fully met from the outset.”

Published inProcessing

Brings CNC advantages to high value, low volume manufacturing, for sectors such as aerospace, defence, oil and gas, motor racing

At MACH 2014 Unison announces an advanced new machine design offering a very low cost entry point to precision CNC tube bending. The addition to its range comes from the acquisition of the unique manually-operated EvBend CNC tube bending machines developed by Silkmead Tubular Ltd (STL), the Dunstable-based tube manipulation specialist. The two companies have collaborated for some time, with Unison writing STL’s database management software and selling a number of their machines as part of workshop packages in recent years.

unisonUnder the terms of the acquisition, Unison secures manufacturing, sales and future design rights to the STL range of CNC tube bending and end forming machines. These include the EvBend 1000 and 2000 tube benders, and the DB50 rotary end forming machine. The unique EvBend bending machine concept was developed specifically to provide a cost-effective solution for low volume, high precision manufacturing of high value tubular parts, for markets such as aerospace. It does this by combining the precision advantages of CNC controlled rotary draw bending with manually operated bending – which greatly reduces machine costs.

EvBend 1000 is capable of creating right-hand or left-hand bends in tubes up to 1 inch diameter. It is a popular choice for repair workshops, and with companies producing low volume high value parts, or prototypes in market sectors such as defence, aerospace manufacturing, oil and gas equipment, and motor racing – including several Formula 1 teams. The EvBend 2000 extends the capability of the machine design to tube diameters up to 2 inches.

Commenting on the acquisition Unison’s Managing Director Alan Pickering said: “Extending our portfolio of all-electric tube benders with manually-operated CNC machines is a core part of our strategy to lower the entry cost to precision tube bending. It brings starting prices down to around £40,000, which will provide many markets with more cost-effective solutions. We are also taking on STL’s support staff and training our own people, to support existing users, and are currently visiting key customers to assure them of our long-term intentions.”

In the past, Unison’s collaboration with STL included development of a database for the EvBend CNC machines, so there is already an underlying commonality of user interface. Following its decision to acquire the intellectual property rights to the machines, Unison is regenerating the machine designs on its CAD system, and is modernising elements of the design as well as making modifications to suit its own component procurement and manufacturing processes. The current EvBend machines use a relatively low technology standalone CNC controller based on a proprietary STL design. Unison is now investing in the design of a fully integrated controller for the EvBend 1000 machine, based on a standard PC/Windows 7 platform with a motion control system featuring embedded CNC functionality.

Alan Pickering points out that existing users of EvBend machines will be able to benefit from Unison’s development program, “In addition to manufacturing the machines, we intend making our new controller available as a retrofit. The original DOS-based controller had very limited I/O facilities and was essentially a standalone device, whereas all Unison controllers are designed for integration with other manufacturing machines, as well as CAD systems. By ordering a controller retrofit, EvBend users will simplify the transfer of data from design to manufacturing, as well as enhance the performance and extend the life cycle of their bending machine.”

Published inProduction
Monday, 07 April 2014 14:12

Innovative tube bending CADCAM solution

extracts and generates bending data from CAD models in seconds

slashes program development time & facilitates fast response to RFQs

An innovative PC-based CADCAM solution for tubular metal fabricators who use SolidWorks CAD software, that enables them to reduce order processing and pre-production development time from hours to minutes, has been launched by the tube bending machine builder Unison.

The software automatically extracts key manufacturing information, including tube specifications and CNC bending data, from both native SolidWorks models and common CAD file formats such as STEP, IGES, and ParaSolid. It can handle tube models with round (tube and bar), square, rectangular, oval or flat-sided oval cross-sections.

Unison has secured exclusive worldwide sales for the new software add-in – called TubeWorks – from its developer, 3DCompound Ltd.

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3DCompound, a UK-based software consultancy, specialises in the development of third-party value-added products for the highly popular ‘SolidWorks’ mechanical design software. The company was founded by an accredited SolidWorks Elite Application Engineer with an extensive background in CAD and tube bending technology. It produces a variety of innovative software tools, ranging from macros to fully integrated add-in modules, which enable SolidWorks users and their organisations to realise major savings in the time and capital cost of application-specific processes.

According to Alan Pickering, MD of Unison, “Automating the extraction of manufacturing data from CAD files helps bending machine users to create production-ready programs much more quickly and efficiently. TubeWorks will provide our customers with an enormous competitive advantage and is an important addition to our growing portfolio of software tools. As well as offering a smart solution for metal fabricators seeking to accelerate their request-for-quotation (RFQ) procedures, the software will help companies with in-house bending machines to reduce design-to-manufacturing times.”

3DCompound’s MD, Ali Jani, adds: “We chose Unison as a partner because its innovative culture matches well with our own. Unison’s all-electric tube bending machines are widely regarded as some of the best in the industry, enabling companies to push performance boundaries in metal tube fabrication. Our new TubeWorks add-in is designed with the same principles and for the same markets – we believe that the software provides users with a unique and powerful means of enhancing the productivity of their tube bending operations.”

The TubeWorks add-in is fully integrated into SolidWorks, allowing users to take full advantage of the CAD software’s powerful design functions, and eliminates the need for any additional standalone solutions for generating manufacturing data during the design, development and production of tubular parts. The add-in software is inherently intuitive and easy to use, requires no special training and can be mastered within 10 minutes.

In addition to its manufacturing data extraction capabilities, TubeWorks offers a host of powerful functions to further help users minimise the pre-production design time of machine-based tube bending. These include automated centreline creation through tubular geometry (for both round and non-round profiles) and automated conversion of imported tube models into native SolidWorks models for CLR (centreline radius) modification. The software also extensively automates the generation of 2D drawings, as well as the creation of reports for the YBC data that will be used to control the bending machine and for the XYZ coordinates of the modelled tube.

To maximise flexibility and ease of use, TubeWorks is fully functional in a multi-body part environment. A searchable tooling log enables users to quickly check the types of tools – such as bend former, mandrels, wiper dies, etc – that will be necessary for a particular bending operation, while a tooling recommendation function verifies whether a part can be produced using existing tools, or suggests suitable substitutes. The software also includes an extremely useful tube length calculator, which evaluates the total length of tube that will be needed for fabricating the specific formed part.

A video demonstrating the key features of TubeWorks and highlighting the software’s ease of use can be viewed on Unison’s website at http://www.unisonltd.com/software/home/tube-works.html

Unison also offers on-demand WebEx demonstrations of TubeWorks to registered customers, via its website.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014 09:59

Innovative tube bending CADCAM solution

An innovative PC-based CADCAM solution for tubular metal fabricators who use SolidWorks CAD software, that enables them to reduce order processing and pre-production development time from hours to minutes, has been launched by the tube bending machine builder Unison.

The software automatically extracts key manufacturing information, including tube specifications and CNC bending data, from both native SolidWorks models and common CAD file formats such as STEP, IGES, and ParaSolid. It can handle tube models with round (tube and bar), square, rectangular, oval or flat-sided oval cross-sections.

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Unison has secured exclusive worldwide sales for the new software add-in – called TubeWorks – from its developer, 3DCompound Ltd.

3DCompound, a UK-based software consultancy, specialises in the development of third-party value-added products for the highly popular ‘SolidWorks’ mechanical design software. The company was founded by an accredited SolidWorks Elite Application Engineer with an extensive background in CAD and tube bending technology. It produces a variety of innovative software tools, ranging from macros to fully integrated add-in modules, which enable SolidWorks users and their organisations to realise major savings in the time and capital cost of application-specific processes.

According to Alan Pickering, MD of Unison, “Automating the extraction of manufacturing data from CAD files helps bending machine users to create production-ready programs much more quickly and efficiently. TubeWorks will provide our customers with an enormous competitive advantage and is an important addition to our growing portfolio of software tools. As well as offering a smart solution for metal fabricators seeking to accelerate their request-for-quotation (RFQ) procedures, the software will help companies with in-house bending machines to reduce design-to-manufacturing times.”

3DCompound’s MD, Ali Jani, adds: “We chose Unison as a partner because its innovative culture matches well with our own. Unison’s all-electric tube bending machines are widely regarded as some of the best in the industry, enabling companies to push performance boundaries in metal tube fabrication. Our new TubeWorks add-in is designed with the same principles and for the same markets – we believe that the software provides users with a unique and powerful means of enhancing the productivity of their tube bending operations.”

The TubeWorks add-in is fully integrated into SolidWorks, allowing users to take full advantage of the CAD software’s powerful design functions, and eliminates the need for any additional standalone solutions for generating manufacturing data during the design, development and production of tubular parts. The add-in software is inherently intuitive and easy to use, requires no special training and can be mastered within 10 minutes.

In addition to its manufacturing data extraction capabilities, TubeWorks offers a host of powerful functions to further help users minimise the pre-production design time of machine-based tube bending. These include automated centreline creation through tubular geometry (for both round and non-round profiles) and automated conversion of imported tube models into native SolidWorks models for CLR (centreline radius) modification. The software also extensively automates the generation of 2D drawings, as well as the creation of reports for the YBC data that will be used to control the bending machine and for the XYZ coordinates of the modelled tube.

To maximise flexibility and ease of use, TubeWorks is fully functional in a multi-body part environment. A searchable tooling log enables users to quickly check the types of tools – such as bend former, mandrels, wiper dies, etc – that will be necessary for a particular bending operation, while a tooling recommendation function verifies whether a part can be produced using existing tools, or suggests suitable substitutes. The software also includes an extremely useful tube length calculator, which evaluates the total length of tube that will be needed for fabricating the specific formed part.

Unison also offers on-demand WebEx demonstrations of TubeWorks to registered customers, via its website.

Published inProcessing

* productivity is boosted by new tube bending process which drastically reduces system building time

All-electric tube bending machines from Unison are helping FMC Technologies - the leading supplier of subsea tree hydraulic control systems for wellheads - to substantially reduce build times and multiply its manufacturing capacity.

Six sites worldwide now use Unison tube bending machines in a new production method pioneered by FMC Technologies employees in Norway and Scotland.

tube bender

The subsea systems supplier used to plan the routes for the hydraulic tubing runs that interconnect the valves and other component parts of the subsea trees, and then fabricate the custom tubular part shapes, as the trees were being built. This process slowed down the build cycle, and limited the total number of trees that could be assembled in the company's sophisticated system building cells.

FMC Technologies decided to investigate the use of 3D modelling of tubing, which would allow the tubing system required for subsea tree orders to be designed and bent in advance of system building and then delivered to the manufacturing cells ready for immediate assembly. As part of this process re-engineering initiative, FMC Technologies also purchased a Unison tube bending machine with servomotor-based actuation, to provide a complete CADCAM solution.

The Unison machine's advanced all-electric architecture was preferred over the more traditional hydraulically-powered bending approach because of the greater precision and inherent repeatability that it supports, which allows tubular part shapes to be bent right-first-time - avoiding scrap. This is ideal for the subsea tree production environment which demands lots of tubing parts with unique shapes - which FMC Technologies fabricates as a single batch for each tree project. The tubular materials being bent are often very expensive alloys as well such as Super-Duplex and Inconel 625, so avoidance of scrap is a major saving.

FMC Technologies selected Unison as its bending machine partner - after talking to numerous machine manufacturers - primarily because of the company's willingness to engineer a bending process to meet the company's precise needs. Unison worked closely with FMC Technologies on developing and streamlining the tubular part manufacturing process including automating the transfer of data from its CAD system and simplifying the subsequent part shape programming process. Unison also supplies benders complete with application-specific tube washing machines, which ensure that tubular parts are provided to FMC Technologies’ assembly bays clean and ready to weld - to minimise any welding failures.

Using the new process, the time required for tubing assembly in FMC Technologies’ cells has fallen by around two thirds, with the additional advantage of introducing a standardized process with a consistent quality that negates possible human error or fatigue.

"The new tube bending process is a win-win solution for our business, as it provides us with a highly consistent and repeatable manufacturing process, and is considerably faster than before - boosting FMC Technologies’ productivity and shortening our delivery times to customers," said Richie Barker, a Manufacturing Specialist (Global Manufacturing) at FMC Technologies.

Unison's Steve Haddrell adds: “We have been very proud to be selected for this project as the aims have been so far-reaching - our machines are now an integral element of a design-to-manufacturing strategy that is helping one of the world's best-known oil and gas companies to maintain its leading position in a highly competitive market."

FMC Technologies has now rolled this production methodology out to other FMC sites around the world - and produces tubing for subsea trees using Unison machines at production locations in Angola, Brazil, Norway, Scotland, Singapore and the USA.

Published inProcessing

A unique robot-based CNC tube bending machine that provides metal fabricators with unprecedented flexibility for manufacturing complex preassembled tubular parts is now available from Unison.

robot pipe bendersKnown as the 'Twister', the machine combines a high performance multi-axis industrial robot with an exceptionally compact and versatile all-electric tube bending station. It is ideal for companies seeking to streamline their manufacturing operations by eliminating process stages, or wishing to accelerate small batch size production of specialist parts by minimizing tool changeovers.

The Twister robotic tube bender has been launched following the new joint sales and marketing initiative announced by Unison and Rosenberger, which aims to provide customers with the widest choice of all-electric tube bending and allied processing automation on the market, backed by extensive applications support expertise. Both companies are renowned innovators of tube bending automation, and their combined range of all-electric, servomotor-controlled machines now covers tube diameters from 16 to 200 mm.

Conventionally, most tube bending operations are performed on straight sections of tube, and other components that make up the final assembled product such as tube fittings or other rigid tubes or hoses are added after bending in subsequent process stages. To a large degree, this manufacturing sequence is dictated by the tube bender, which grips the tube with an in-line collet to progressively push it past the bending head and rotate it for any out-of-plane bends. As a consequence, the tube material needs to be straight and free from obstructions, and bends can only be made in an order that corresponds to the direction of tube advancement.

Developed by Rosenberger specifically to provide a more flexible solution than conventional systems for bending preassembled tubular parts, the Twister uses a fully articulated six-axis industrial robot for all tube transport, material feed and rotate functions. The robot arm is equipped with pneumatically-powered gripper fingers - which are part-specific and exchangeable under program control - and handles all X, Y and Z axis movement of the tube as it is being bent.

All axes are driven by servo motors and capable of extremely precise positioning - tubes can be bent to within 0.05 degrees, with a repeatable feed accuracy of just 0.01 mm. Unlike conventional tube benders, the grippers can relinquish their hold and reposition during the bending cycle while the tube is clamped - for example, to hold the other end of the tube - enabling complex shapes to be formed in any desired sequence.

The pedestal-mounted bending station can be equipped with up to five bending heads to facilitate uninterrupted production of parts with multiple bend radii, and is capable of right and left bending to any angle up to 210 degrees. Changeover of tools and part programs is simple and can be accomplished in less than five minutes. Like the robot, the bending heads are driven by high accuracy, energy-efficient servo motors, and offer fully programmable speed profiles for optimum control of material flow.

All machine setup and operation is controlled via an ergonomic HMI, based on a mobile touch-sensitive panel with an integral PC. Part programs can be generated using the panel PC or any standard office computer, and verified before downloading to the bending machine's PLC-based CNC controller. The
software provides a unified environment, capitalizing on the tight functional integration of the robot and bending station to ensure that its programming is as simple as a conventional all-electric bending machine.

According to Alan Pickering of Unison, "Rosenberger has an installed base of over 1000 bending machines, with a particularly significant presence in the automotive industry. To date, the company has supplied 40 Twister machines to this sector, for manufacturing a wide range of parts including seat brackets, head restraint frames and preassembled components such as hydraulic power transmission lines. We believe that the machine's use of a robot as an intrinsic part of the bending process, rather than just for handling, has considerable merit for a wide range of tube bending applications. The Twister can easily be integrated with other process automation such as cutting or end-forming machines, and is readily scalable to suit large automated manufacturing cells."

Unison currently offers three versions of Twister, capable of bending steel tubes with outside diameters of 20, 30 and 50 mm. The 20 and 30 mm models can handle tube thicknesses up to 2 mm, while the larger model can accommodate a tube thickness of 4 mm.

Published inEquipment

Unison has launched an advanced three-dimensional simulator to help metal fabricators accelerate the development of control programs for all-electric tube bending machines. Using artificial intelligence techniques, the simulator provides powerful program analysis and optimisation facilities, together with realistic real-time visualisation of the tube bending process.

3d pipe imtThe simulation software is valuable in almost all tube bending applications, but can be particularly helpful for fabricators quoting on jobs and planning production, in reducing design-to-manufacturing times to help speed product delivery, and on any application involving tubes manufactured from expensive alloys. Customers with several Unison machines can also use the software to choose the most appropriate machine for bending a particular part.

Unison’s new 3D simulator is based on true CAD (computer-aided design) models of the target machines, resulting in exceptionally detailed computer-generated imagery. The simulator is designed specifically to help users develop high quality production-standard tube bending programs without the need to test and optimise them on the target machine. Used in conjunction with Unison’s Windows-based Unibend control software, it enables fully validated bending programs to be created entirely off-line, and is suitable for any machine in the Breeze range of all-electric tube benders.

One of the most time-consuming tasks normally faced by users is structuring the program to prevent any collisions between the tube and the bending machine, or its surroundings such as the production floor. It is difficult to visualise the combined effect of tube feed and rotation, and the movement of machine tooling such as clamping and pressure dies, and the bending head. The problem becomes more acute as the length of tube, or the complexity of bends, increases. As a result, optimising the program’s bending sequence and incorporating any necessary correction feeds for collision avoidance is usually an iterative task demanding valuable machine time. It also invariably involves producing trial parts, creating unnecessary scrap material.

Unison’s 3D simulator incorporates fully automated collision detection capabilities and offers a choice of real-time or batch operating modes to create error free bend instructions. In real-time mode, simulation can be paused at any time and can be started from any bend; changes made to bend instructions will cause the simulator to re-evaluate the motion profile of the machine – ensuring that the simulator always mirrors the sequences used on the real machine. In batch mode, the simulator will study a directory tree and process all bend instruction files in that tree; parts that can be bent will be stored in a designated folder and parts for which the simulator could find no collision-free solution will be stored in a quarantine folder for further analysis by production or design teams. During beta trials of the simulator, one customer reported that by using batch mode they had fully analysed and verified the bending programs for 300 parts in 4 hours – a task that previously took up to 5 working days due to the need for machine time, and operator involvement, to trial every part.

Without simulation, ascertaining whether it is even possible to bend a part on a particular machine can take several days. After creating the part model on a CAD system, the designer processes the data using Unison software to create a YBC file which defines each bend in three dimensions. The file is then transferred to the machine where it runs under control of Unibend software – the operator is responsible for checking if it creates the desired part. Any need for changes are fed back to the designer, and after modification the program is tested again on the machine. This process often needs to be repeated several times to resolve successive problems.

Unison’s 3D simulator shortens the design-test-optimise process dramatically, eliminating the need for a bending machine and its operator until manufacturing commences. For example, designers can now typically verify whether a part can be bent within about 3 minutes. The simulator accepts the same YBC file that is normally used to control the bending machine and runs it offline, to create a motion profile that defines how each axis on the real machine will move. The designer can then simulate the part to check its design. The simulator’s physics engine has access to a database containing configuration details of every machine in Unison’s Breeze range of tube benders, together with comprehensive performance data for all motorised axes, enabling the computer-generated imagery to be controlled accurately and realistically

Users can save the results of simulations and rerun them at any time for comparison purposes. Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques are employed to help users select the most efficient bending sequences and optimise them to minimise machine cycle time. The simulator’s AI is aware of the capabilities of the machine and can work through all permutations very quickly. Furthermore, if customers have specific ‘rules’ that they want including in the AI, these can be incorporated easily – Unison has already implemented this option for several customers.

Unison believes that it is very important to ensure detection of every collision, and the company’s software development team has written a custom physics engine that is accurate to 0.005 mm. Whilst this is in advance of the mechanical accuracy of real machines, customers surveyed opted to have highly accurate simulation with the option to ‘ignore’ a collision rather than use a tolerance which could lead to missed collisions. All types of collisions are detected in the simulator, including tube on tube, tube on environment, tube on machine, machine on machine and tube spring-back.

To maximise bend accuracy, the simulator factors in the tendency for metal tubes to spring back after being bent. There are two elements to spring-back correction; a proportional element which is determined by the programmed bend angle, and a fixed element which depends on the type of tube material and its size and thickness. The value of the fixed element is based on empirical data held in a materials database, which the user can update when testing new batches of raw material, or as a result of sampling production parts under a quality assurance programme.

According to Unison’s Jim Saynor, “Real-time 3D simulation of tube bending allows metal fabricators to achieve significant cost savings through much faster program development and reduced scrap. We believe that our new simulator provides a much more detailed and realistic portrayal of machine performance than competitive software, providing users of Unison all-electric tube benders with a major business advantage.”

Published inEquipment

A rotating-head tube bender is dramatically accelerating the production of complex parts at one of the USA's leading tube and pipe bending fabricators.

The new Unison machine is installed at Sharpe Products of Milwaukee. Its rotating head action allows it to make left-hand and right-hand bends in one continuous cycle - doing the work of two of Sharpe's previous hydraulic tube benders, while also speeding throughput by up to five times. This performance is enabling Sharpe to reduce the lead times significantly on a wide range of complex multiple-bend jobs, as well as on parts requiring bends of widely different radii.

pipe bend unison

Sharpe Products is using an all-electric rotating-head tube bender from Unison to accelerate the production of complex multiple-bend parts.

The new machine was supplied to Sharpe by Unison's North American partner, Horn Machine Tools. It increases the number of Unison machines that Sharpe operates to three, and follows Sharpe’s long-term strategy to gain control commonality across its tube fabrication operation by progressively replacing old machines with Unison’s all-electric tube bending technology.

This approach has major time and cost-saving advantages. Operators only need to be trained to use a single type of machine, and can then be deployed wherever they are most needed within the company. Sharpe is choosing to standardize on Unison tube benders because they have proved to provide the performance that the company needs to maintain its competitive edge, and because it has found Unison’s support service to be second to none.

pipe bend unison1

Sharpe has replaced two hydraulic tube benders with a single Unison all-electric machine capable of forming left- and right-hand bends, increasing throughput by a factor of five.

Sharpe’s latest machine is a Unison 2-inch (50 mm) Breeze-Revolution tube bender that performs both left-hand and right-hand bending. The machine has two multi-stack tool heads mounted on opposite sides of a rotating frame. After bending using one or more tools on one head, the head retracts and a combination of transverse and rotational movement then positions the other head for subsequent bending operations. Changeovers between left-hand and right-hand bending heads can be repeated as many times as needed, allowing complex shapes to be fabricated completely automatically without removing the tube or involving any other machines.

“The flexibility of this machine has to be seen to be believed,” says Sharpe’s President, Paul Krickeberg. “A lot of the parts we produce, such as exercise machine frames and architectural handrails, are manufactured from standard 1.5 to 2 inch tubing and require a mix of small and large radius right- and left-hand bends. Until now, we have used two hydraulic benders – one for right-hand bends, the other for left-hand bends – which could involve up to three separate machine cycles and easily take five or more minutes. The Unison machine creates all the bends that are needed in a single cycle, and typically in less than a minute.

"What’s more," Krickeberg adds, "by replacing the two hydraulic benders with a single compact machine that can handle right or left bending we have gained valuable production floor space, which is always at a premium. The configuration that we ordered is capable of roll forming as well as rotary draw bending, so we can create large radius bends or tight radius bends down to 1D without changing machines.”

All Unison tube benders use precision software-controlled servomotors for movement control and feature fully automatic set-up, enabling them to be configured for new batches very quickly. They can typically be set up in about a third of the time of a hydraulic bender and provide extremely tight control of the bending process, enabling parts to be manufactured right first time, or immediately after producing a single trial part.

pipe bend unison2

Sharpe’s new Unison tube bending machine features dual multi-stack tool heads and is capable of roll forming and rotary draw bending.

Sharpe has extensive experience of Unison all-electric tube benders – it has used the company's 3-inch and 5-inch (76 and 130 mm) machines for many of its operations for a number of years – and is extremely pleased with their performance and reliability, as well as the level of support provided by Unison. The machines are also popular with the workshop staff, who find them easy to set up and operate.

All three Unison tube benders are connected to an automation network. The first trial tube of every batch undergoes detailed examination by Sharpe’s quality assurance department, using a computer-based tube inspection machine. The machine compares measurements obtained from the trial part with those of the intended design, and sends any necessary correction data to the appropriate bending machine. Sharpe also intends using the network for downloading data from its CAD systems direct to the bending machines, to further speed design-to-manufacture.

The 5-inch Unison tube bender is equipped with Unison’s unique laser-controlled springback measurement and correction system, which was fitted retrospectively in 2012. This ensures bending precision by automatically compensating for the natural tendency of metal pipes and tubes to spring back slightly after being bent.

According to Paul Krickeberg, “Customers are increasingly demanding very accurate parts and very fast delivery. Unison’s springback correction system provides us with a powerful competitive advantage, by enabling us to bend to an accuracy of one tenth of a degree. We are about to ask Unison to retrofit this system to our 3-inch bender.”

Sharpe Products started up in 1990 as an architectural tube and pipe bending metalwork specialist, but its business has evolved and today the company's output is split almost equally between the architectural sector, tube and pipe parts for OEMs, and custom-fabricated assemblies. The company has 13 bending machines in total, with all-electric bending machines spanning a size range from 32 to 130 mm. Sharpe handles even larger tube and pipe sizes using hydraulic machinery resources.

Published inProcessing

unison chiThe tube bending machine innovator  Unison will be demonstrating techniques for increasing the productivity of tubular parts fabrication at Fabtech. Throughout the show, users will be able to see demonstrations on an all-electric Unison machine capable of bending tubes and pipes up to 3.5 inches in diameter.

Unison employs numerous advanced techniques to help manufacturers to increase throughput and quality, and eliminate the potential for errors and scrap. One of the techniques is an innovative quick-change tooling system that dramatically speeds tooling changeovers. Covering all of the tooling components on the machine, it includes barcode identification to verify the changeover process. A fully validated, error-free, changeover from manufacturing one good part to another can be accomplished in less than three minutes for instance. The system is ideal for companies producing high value-added tubular parts, enabling expensive early-stage errors to be eliminated from the manufacturing process, and is of particular benefit for companies that manufacture parts to demand and in small batches.

Another new advantage on offer is a range of mechanical architecture and control software improvements that Unison has implemented to optimize tubular part fabrication times. These reduce the time required for intermediate handling and movement of the tooling that the machine performs before and after a bend by as much as 40%. As there might be four or five auxiliary movements for each bending move, as well as changes of tooling dies, these savings can add up to very large productivity gains - particularly for companies fabricating parts with multiple bends. This speed gain is complemented by Unison technical support, which helps clients to optimize their bending programs, by employing techniques such as moving several machine axes in parallel. Automatic collision checking software is also available to help with this process.

"All-electric bending technology has come to dominate the tube bending industry, and is making significant inroads into pipe bending markets - with machines now available for diameters up to 8 inches," says Unison's Jim Saynor. "Most users now understand that all-electric tube benders offer major advantages over hydraulically-powered machines, in terms of automatic and repeatable set up, and right-first-time/scrap-free production. However, the benefits of such a software-controlled architecture extend much further. They allow users to simulate offline to find the most efficient way to make parts for example. And to reduce the cycle times for parts by optimizing bending programs, plus many other benefits."

Visitors to Unison's stand will be able to sign up for an educational tour demonstrating the productivity gains that can be made using servomotor-controlled tube bending. Unison will take attendees to see how real-world users employ the precision bending technology - with a choice of applications including aerospace, automotive, subcontract manufacturing, shipbuilding, and oil and gas equipment manufacturing.

Unison will be part of Horn Machine Tools' display, on booth # S3961. www.unisonltd.com

Published inMachinery

Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, has opened the new design and manufacturing facility of one of the UK's most successful machinery builders, Unison. Based in Scarborough, Unison makes machines for bending metal tubes and pipes, exporting over half of its output - mainly to America. The new facility will allow Unison to more than double its production capacity, which will help the company to enter new international markets that it is targeting in the high growth 'BRIC' countries.

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Unison's new factory for manufacturing tube bending machines, in Scarborough.

Applauding Unison's export success, Lord Green emphasised the critical need for the UK to increase its manufacturing output, and to increase its export ratio. In his role as Minister of State for Trade and Investment he has visited over 50 countries and he noted how receptive world markets are to British goods and services, and the high regard in which many many countries hold British values, quality and technology. This effect has been greatly reinforced by the success of the London Olympic games and he urged British companies to capitalise on the major opportunities that exist.

"Unison makes specialist equipment that goes around the world. It's a perfect example of the kind of manufacturing that this country excels at and that we need to do more of," said Lord Green.

"We aim to make our new Scarborough facility the world centre for advancing tube bending technology," added Alan Pickering, Managing Director of Unison. "One of the first machines we are manufacturing in the new factory will be the largest 'all-electric' tube bender ever made - with the ability to bend pipes up to eight inches in diameter. This technology is opening up new markets for Unison - in this case it's destined for the shipyards in Virginia that build the US Navy's aircraft carriers and submarines."

Some of Lord Green's remarks during his visit to Unison:

"We've lived with a trade deficit for about the last 40 or 50 years, and we have to turn that around. The evidence is compelling that companies that get into export markets gain significantly: they grow faster and are more profitable, they last longer and create more jobs. So if we care about the future of this country we need to be more engaged with manufacturing excellence, service excellence, and to be more export oriented."

"We have to focus more attention on the fast growing parts of the world. Half of our exports go across the Channel, and that's good except that the highest growth markets are in Asia, Africa and Latin America. I've visited more than 40 emerging markets in the last couple of years and everywhere you go you hear that Great Britain has never stood in higher regard than it does now. We're welcomed because in their minds Great Britain stands for high technology, high quality, integrity of doing business, creativity, imagination and entrepreneurialism."

"Sometimes we don't think of ourselves as natural entrepreneurs, but the rest of the world does, and after the Olympics all the more so. Everywhere I go people say how incredible the Olympics was. All too often the next remark is 'but we don't see enough of you'. On average fewer British companies export compared with our European friends.  So we have a challenge in encouraging and helping more British enterprises to take the world on, but we must achieve this if we are to leave behind the difficult times of the last four or five years."

Published inMachinery
Speed thrills: Unison announces speed-optimized tube bending machine

Unison today launches a new generation of its all-electric bending machine featuring mechanical architecture and control software improvements that substantially reduce tubular part fabrication times. The redesign reduces the time required for all the intermediate handling and movement of the tooling configuration tasks the machine performs before and after a bend by as much as 40%. As there might be four or five such auxiliary movements for each bending move, as well as changes of tooling dies, these savings can add up to very large productivity gains - particularly for companies fabricating tubular parts with several bends.

speed thrills

The new machine architecture will now be fitted as standard on all of Unison's all-electric bending machines, which are available for tube/pipe diameters from 16 to 220 mm (5/8 to 8.5 inches).

The reductions in bending cycle times come from two main aspects. The shape and size of all of the machine's auxiliary mechanical axes have been optimized to reduce their mass and inertia. These axes are also being driven at faster speeds - by applying more torque - to accelerate and decelerate at faster rates and to achieve higher top speeds. This use of higher torque does not increase machine cost, as Unison exploits the peak output characteristics of its servomotors to deliver the torque for the tiny fractions of time required.

On some of these axes, Unison has also improved the mechanical dynamics by changing the type of gearing mechanism employed. The design of the main bending arm axis of the machine remains as it is, as the speed of the tube bending task itself is almost invariably limited by the characteristics of the material being bent.

"Higher productivity is important for virtually every tube bending machine user, but wherever production is in high volume - such as in the automotive or furniture manufacturing sectors for example - the gains can be very significant" says Unison's Managing Director Alan Pickering. "Unison's new machine can reduce fabrication cycle times significantly, and we look forward to opportunities to benchmark its performance in real-world applications."

www.unisonltd.com

Published inMachinery
More production capacity fuels international expansion of tube bending innovator

The UK manufacturer of all-electric tube bending machines, Unison, has opened a new facility in Scarborough. Purpose-fitted for machine design and manufacture, the building more than doubles the production capacity of this fast growing company, and accelerates machine building times by around 15%.

"The new facility has allowed us to expand every major department in Unison - we now have more software and hardware development engineers, and more manufacturing and sales staff," says Alan Pickering, Managing Director of Unison Ltd. "Our investment positions us well to cope with the growth in demand that we have been experiencing, as well as our projected expansion into new markets that we are targeting in BRIC countries."

Located close to Unison's previous building, the new facility gives Unison over 2,200 square metres of manufacturing space, along with two acres of surrounding land. The building interior has been remodeled to increase Unison's manufacturing efficiency and capacity.

One of the most important new features is a dedicated flow line for building machines, fitted with a gantry crane to simplify handling and installation of large components. Tube bending machines now progress through six sequential assembly cells with application-specific tooling for each stage of the build cycle, from the basic preparation of the mechanical chassis and equipment cabinets, through the installation of electrical and mechanical components, to cabling, system commissioning and test, and finally customer acceptance. At the end of the line, machines can be rolled into containers for shipping. In the old facility, assembly time for a typical machine was 12 weeks. The organization and higher efficiency of the new flow line will reduce this to 10 weeks for a majority of the smaller machine sizes that Unison builds.

Another key new feature is an expanded metalworking machine shop, including a brand new £300,000 investment in another five-axis CNC machining centre, to speed the fabrication of the metalwork components and tooling required for the bending machines. This brings in-house some components previously made by sub-contractors, further helping to speed delivery times.

Unison is growing rapidly, thanks to its focus on the most advanced sector of this metalwork machinery market - all-electric machines with their computer-controlled bending - plus the company's willingness to invest in design which has continually extended the scope of the bending technology into larger tube and pipe sizes. All-electric bending machines, rather than the traditional hydraulically powered machines, have now become the de-facto standard in all of the precision metalwork fabrication markets that Unison specialises in, including aerospace, automotive production, shipbuilding, oil and gas, and small-batch manufacturing.

"We already have the reputation as the pioneer of all-electric tube bending, and we aim to make our new Scarborough facility the world centre for advancing this technology," adds Alan Pickering. "We recently manufactured the world's largest-ever all electric tube bender - with the ability to bend pipes up to eight inches in diameter - a size that some said could not be achieved. And we are now starting to design a machine with more than double the power. With the accuracy, repeatability and speed of set-up advantages of all-electric technology, we expect to start taking market share from more hydraulic machine competitors in the near future."

In addition to larger size machines, a key element of Unison's philosophy is to assist clients in re-engineering their manufacturing processes alongside the acquisition of a new machine - to multiply productivity. This is achieved by Unison's vision of their machines as elements of the wider manufacturing process, and the availability of Unison software and hardware engineering development resources to enable new bending machine investments to form part of more integrated design-to-manufacturing solutions, and to optimize bending performance.

"If we just sell a tube bending machine, we can invariably promise the user a payback in terms of a defined percentage improvement in manufacturing efficiency as well as definable cost savings in operator times and reductions in scrap," adds Alan Pickering. "However, if the client works with us to analyze and research the process thoroughly it's often possible to deliver automation that has a much bigger impact - with the potential to make a step-change in the efficiency of the company's operations. That's our goal, and we can point to a number of applications where this is happening. It means extra work for us, but it's an approach that is opening doors."

As examples, one client is now achieving an almost threefold increase in productivity thanks to a re-engineered process based on Unison bending machines and accessories. And, Unison has just helped another client to almost double the manufacturing productivity of a key volume part, by helping the user to optimize the movements of the machine's tooling and handling axes.

Published inEquipment