Plugged in to better bending

07 May 2019

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

Tube bending and fabrication specialist JML Engineering has invested in all electric bending machines that give more productivity and flexibility while using less power and improving the workplace environment.

Twenty years ago, Alistair Bailey became disillusioned with working long hours for the benefit of someone else’s business, so he made the break and created JML Engineering Ltd to specialise in tube bending and tubular fabrications. The business developed through investment in several used hydraulic tube bending machines, with key customers providing steady orders for security (bollards and crash protection) and safety (hand railings and cages) products.

These old hydraulic machines served the business well, but as with all things, age started to tell and support for them from the manufacturers became non-existent. Recognising it was time to invest further in the business to improve productivity Alistair researched the market and identified that a switch from hydraulically operated benders to all-electric was the way to go, and this saw the arrival of his first BLM all-electric multi-stack tube bender, an Elect 52. “Breakdowns on our hydraulic machines were becoming an increasing issue and the decision to invest was made for us because of this. The arrival of the BLM Elect 52 certainly eased the demands being placed on production due to business growing rapidly and the Elect 52 handled the bending of smaller handrails with ease,” says Alistair Bailey.

A key advantage of the BLM All-electric Elect machines is the speed at which they can be set-up and the guarantee that bends will be consistent, without any need for adjustment from the start of a batch to the last tube being finished. The CNC control on the Elect machines manages all of the clamping and slide pressures to ensure consistency of the bend, once the tools have been changed, the operator simply calls up the program and the control takes care of the bending process. “On our hydraulic machines, on which we were very well versed, it could take 45 minutes to achieve a first off, after which there would be a degree of trial and error before we got the bend just as we wanted it. Now, we can complete the set-up in less than 15 minutes and know that the first tube will be within specification. Scrap is a thing of the past thanks to the uniformity of the process and the software in the control is a major benefit. For example, the B-Tools software helps to eliminate the requirement for manual adjustments, which were always needed on our hydraulic machines.”

The initial success of the BLM Elect 52 was such that Alistair quickly followed it with a second machine, this time the larger Elect 80 with its capability to bend up to 80 mm diameter tube. “At the time we had no requirement to bend tube at that diameter, but the extra capacity has given us the potential to open up new opportunities and expand our customer base. With the state-of-the-art nature of these two machines we are in a good place to meet existing and future demands from customers. We know we are now far more efficient, both in production and the environment as the all-electric machines use less power and the working environment is a nicer place to be without the constant noise from hydraulic pumps and the associated oil leaks that went with them.”

These two All-Electric Elect bending machines have replaced four older hydraulic machines and the switch from the experience, highly-skilled requirement of those machines to the CNC controlled Elect system is also something that resonates with Alistair Bailey. “Finding people with the experience and knowledge to operate hydraulic benders efficiently is extremely difficult. We had minimal training on the BLM machines and with that I am confident that just about anyone could operate them and produce high quality parts, which is what we have built our reputation on. The control and software are identical on both machines so there is no problem switching from one to the other.