The Thompsons Group, the UK’s number one manufacturer of tipper bodies, has taken delivery of a TRUMPF TruBend 8600-80 bending machine at its Blackburn facility. The machine, which is the largest TRUMPF TruBend in the UK, is being used to form tipper side panels from 4mm thick Hardox® abrasion-resistant steel.
Thompsons, which has UK sites in Croydon, Blackburn, Dover and Edinburgh, says that it builds and sells more tipper bodies than all of its competitors combined. Since 2000, the business has expanded five-fold.
Following its inception in East London 45 years ago, Thompsons has manufactured over 30,000 tipper bodies, of which around half are still in operation today. The bodies cover the full range of commercial vehicles, from 3.5 to 44 tonnes GVW (gross vehicle weight). Thompsons’ customers not only come from the construction industry, but sectors such as waste, environment, highways, utilities and rental. Top of the rigid range is the Loadmaster, some 15,000 of which have been delivered in the past 20 years.
“With order volumes rising there is a constant need to keep pace with production and invest in our future,” explains Director Neil Griffin. “We recently installed a robotic welding cell, which shifted the bottleneck to bending. In addition, even though our existing press brake offers a capacity of 400 tonnes, we needed more to help us process 4mm thick Hardox®, which is a tough, wear-resistant steel with a hardness of 450HB.”
Mr Griffin and his team scrutinised three potential bending machine suppliers, but it was TRUMPF that impressed the most. “We went to the TRUMPF factory and saw the machines in action,” he says. “Once they assessed our application, the TRUMPF team recommended the TruBend 8600-80, which we knew immediately was the right machine. At the same time we purchased the TRUMPF TruLaser 3030 laser cutting machine.”
The TRUMPF TruBend 8600-80 impresses not just with its precise versatility, but its large open height, throat depth and press force. Users can process particularly large and heavy parts. Thompsons’ TruBend 8600-60 offers a 600 tonne press force, and to fulfil the customers’ requirements TRUMPF customised the machine with an additional 8m bending length option.
“After profiling, the side panels of the tipper bodies each require up to 12 bends, which is where the tonnage of the TRUMPF TruBend 8600-80 really comes into its own,” says Mr Griffin. “Having capability of this type in-house is a real market advantage as we don’t have to rely on subcontractors, and thus avoid all the associated costs and lead-time issues that strategy brings. Moreover, all Thompsons’ tipper bodies are manufactured specifically for each customer, who can specify the height, length and width of the tipper bodies they require. As we manufacture in-house, meeting these needs could not be simpler.”
Thompsons manufactures circa 25 Hardox® tipper bodies on a weekly basis, which means 50 sides to bend, plus floors and tailgates. The new TRUMPF TruBend 8600-80, located at the Blackburn factory, is currently working a single day shift but a night shift maybe required to keep up with demand.
“Having the higher tonnage machine makes light work of the Hardox® panels,” reports Mr Griffin. “In addition, the machine is more accurate than our existing press brake. As a company, we are always looking to improve and innovate, so machines such as the TRUMPF TruBend 8600-80 serve to future-proof our business.”
Parts arriving at the TruBend 8600-80 for bending will likely have been profiled on the company’s TRUMPF TruLaser 3030 laser cutter. Importantly, the TruLaser 3030 features the optional TRUMPF Highspeed Eco function, which allows faster profiling with up to 70% less gas consumption. “Furthermore, the cut quality on all parts up to 25mm thick is better than anything we’ve achieved previously,” states Mr Griffin.
When acquiring the TruLaser 3030, TRUMPF simplified the process by buying and removing the company’s old laser cutter. “We’ve had nothing but a very positive experience with TRUMPF, both from a machine and people perspective,” concludes Mr Griffin. “As a result, we have high hopes for a successful partnership together moving forward. Any high-quality, market-leading product inevitably has leading-edge technologies behind it, and tipper bodies are no exception. Every year, over £1 million is invested back into our factories as we look to continuously improve on the service we provide to customers. The TRUMPF machines are a good example of this policy in action.”