Automotive suppliers are facing the same challenges world-wide: how to supply products fast, economically and flexibly, while considering their customers’ individual demands at the same time.

To increase the quality of its products and reduce costs at the same time, Canadian supplier Deco Automotive replaced three existing older bending machines with three state-of-the-art automatic CNC 100 E TB MR VA pipe bending lines by Schwarze-Robitec. The company will profit from the integrated high-performance control system NxG by increasing its output and optimising cycle times.

“Based on their own constant optimising processes, our customers demand high requirements from their pre-products and with that, as a supplier, our requirements are also increased,” says Ray Metzner, Manufacturing Engineer at Deco. “In order to provide the customer with products in different versions and large quantities at a consistently high quality, we continuously invest in the further development of our production processes.”

The company, headquartered in Toronto, belongs to the global Magna Group and manufactures various automotive components including vehicle frames and structures, and engine cradles. Among the customers of the automotive supplier are international original equipment manufacturers. Deco uses a total of four production lines and manufactures more than 1,750,000 products per year.

Project requirements

Due to the continuously high demand and a high annual output, Deco is dependent on reliable and intelligent pipe bending machines that provide excellent results in terms of degree of automation, precision, speed, and bending processes. Before being accepted by automobile manufacturers, steel pipes run through the fully automatic cold bending process at the production facility in Toronto. Subsequent manufacturing steps include hydroforming, laser cutting and welding.

The number of bending processes performed at Deco reaches 12m per year. Up until now, the automotive supplier reached this volume by using a total of nine bending machines spread over four production lines. Seven of the machines come from Schwarze-Robitec, whereby three pipe bending machines were already in use for more than 20 years. Deco’s reason for replacing the old equipment with three new CNC 100 E TB MR VA made by Schwarze-Robitec was to ensure the bending and handling process could continue reliably and efficiently.

“In 20 years, we have purchased a total of 13 pipe bending machines from Schwarze-Robitec and we have come to appreciate the very high quality and durability of the machines,” says Metzner. “We value the high technical expertise of the employees and the comprehensive services, such as remote maintenance, and decided at the end of 2015 to continue the partnership.”

Automatic pipe bending line

Following an extensive consultation and planning phase in cooperation with Deco Automotive in Canada, Schwarze-Robitec produced three pipe bending lines tailored to the requirements of the automotive supplier.

“We expect the new bending cells to provide significantly improved production and anticipate reaching our production targets even faster,” says Metzner.

Of the three CNC 100 E TB MR VA machines two machines are right- and one is left-bending. In addition, the multi-stack bending machines are equipped with a pipe magazine, a weld seam finding device, and an automatic loading and removal device. The electrically operated systems process round and oval tubes that are 2.8m long and have a diameter of up to 76.2mm including a wall thickness from 1.2mm to 3mm.

The process is fully automated: the pipes to be processed are taken randomly from the tube magazine and fed to the integrated weld seam finding device. This device aligns the pipes in accordance with their weld seam position. Following the alignment, the pipe is passed on to the pipe bending machine. To do this, a mandrel is used that supports the tube on tight radii from the inside.

A fully automatic loading arm then removes the finished bent tube from the machine and places it on a conveyor belt. From there, the tube continues to the hydroforming equipment. Another feature of the solution is the integrated raised, vertical travel routes. This allows pre-loading the pipe bending machine, while parallel to this function a finished bent tube is removed at another location.

Compared to the pipe bending line that had been in operation at Deco, the new machines are equipped with the high-performance control system NxG. An advantage of the new control system are significantly reduced non-productive times, as individual steps of the bending process were arranged synchronously.

“With the NxG control system, it is possible to prepare the next step simultaneously to executing a machining operation,” explains Bert Zorn, Managing Director at Schwarze-Robitec. “For example, while a pipe is supplied to the tool, the clamping functions close almost completely. When the tube then reaches its target position, the tool is immediately ready for the next bending step – this allows users to shorten the cycle times and production objectives are reached more quickly.”

In addition, a diagnostic and maintenance tool integrated into the control system minimises downtimes. The intuitive operability of the high-performance control system also contributes to an ergonomic and efficient way of working.

“The pipe bending machines made by Schwarze-Robitec produce reliable, accurate, and high-quality products,” says Metzner. “And yet the machines are easy to use for our staff.”

Due to its new Schwarze-Robitec bending cells, the automotive supplier was able to optimise the cycle times and increase the production output of higher complex shapes and materials. With this, the accuracy that the company produces and the repeatability of its equipment in the production process is outstanding.

“With the new pipe bending machines and the bending programs of the control system NxG, we have reduced cycle times significantly,” says Metzner. “The predecessors of our existing machines have been operating in multi-shift operation flawlessly for almost 20 years. In addition, we received continuous services from Schwarze-Robitec – for us, this is a win-win situation.”