With today’s technology, manufacturers are able to produce various types of metal products at a faster rate than ever before. CNC (computer numerical control) and CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) machines operate at a level of accuracy and speed that human beings simply cannot match.
In this blog, we’re going to take a look at one of the more common metal fabrication techniques: turret punching. A CNC turret punch is often used in mass production as well as small-volume manufacturing projects. It’s versatility has made it a more attractive option compared to more traditional punch presses.
What is Punching?
The process of punching involves forcing a tool (a punch) through a sheet of metal to create a hole of the desired size and shape. The metal sheet is placed on a supporting die while the hole is being punched. This support allows the punch tool to create a cleaner edge. This metal forming process falls under the category of shearing, where two opposing forces are created (via the punch and the die) to cut the material.
Traditionally, the punch tool is made specifically for one job. This means the shape of the tool will remain unchanged throughout a project. Specialised punches like these are suitable for large-scale productions that require a lot of repetitive punching using the same type of hole.
However, this becomes a problem if the project requires different types of holes. Creating job-specific punch tools can be quite costly. If a business was to make multiple specialised punches, it will significantly add to their manufacturing costs. This makes job-specific punches unsuitable for small-volume, low-budget projects.
What is turret punching?
This is where turret punching comes in. With turret punching, there is no need to create special punches. A normal CNC turret punch is equipped with 60 different punching tools. These tools can be rotated and used interchangeably.
If a special shape is required, a CNC turret punch can create it by using multiple strokes and, if necessary, a specific combination of its 60 tools. For example, if a project requires a flower-shaped hole, the turret punch will simply use a circular tool to punch multiple holes until the desired shape is created. This saves manufacturers a lot of time and money. It also allows for a more efficient prototyping process as there will be no need to wait for specialised tools.
What is it used for?
Although turret punching offers some flexibility, it is still suited for repetitive cutting work. As such, turret punches are often used for the ventilation holes that you see on the back of your computer and air conditioning unit.
If a project requires a more flexible way of creating shapes, a laser cutter might be more suitable. Lasers can also be used for engraving and marking. For specific projects, both punches and laser cutters can be used in one machine.
What is CNC machining?
One of the best things about turret punches is that they can be automated using CNC machines. With CNC machining, manufacturers are able to pre-program a set of movements that the turret punch will take. To do this, a 2D/2D CAD/CAM drawing is first created. This design is then turned into a computer code that the CNC machine can execute. Such coding can also control the type of punch the turret uses and the speed in which it uses it. A typical turret punch can create 600 holes (single strokes) in a single minute.
This automated process cuts down on manufacturing time as well as the need for manual labour. It allows manufacturers to make their products more affordable and accessible.
CNC machining also reduces the possibility of errors and inaccuracies within a project. Of course, this is assuming that the machines, tools and computers involved are not faulty.
More than a punch?
Technology is always moving forward. Due to new innovations in the field of metal fabrication, more recent turret machines are now able to bend and form sheets. These additional features will allow manufacturers to streamline their processes even more. For example, there are metal products that need a turret punch and a press brake to be created. This is considered as two separate processes. With a turret punch’s ability to bend metal, that same product now requires only one process to be created.
Experts in the manufacturing field say that it is unlikely for the turret punch to replace the press brake, a machine that bends metal. However, the innovative uses of the turret punch will allow for more efficiency in certain aspects of the manufacturing process.
That was just a quick overview of what’s involved in turret punching. If you want to use sheet metal products for your upcoming project, make sure to research reliable fabrication companies. Metal fabricators work with businesses across various different industries. Whatever your project entails, they will be able to help in one way or another.