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.
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.”