“We get about two complete parts out of the
cell every minute,” Eaton said.
The parts coming off the panel bender also are
more accurate, according to Eaton. That’s a benefit for the welders downstream as tighter fit-ups
mean welding can be completed more quickly.
“It’s more reliable because you don’t have
the human error,” Eaton said. “You don’t have
anyone pull off the backstops, for example. You
don’t have to worry about that type of thing.”
The Panel Bending Convert
From its humble origins as a contract manufacturer in 1982, NSA Industries LLC has grown into
one of the largest metal fabricators on the East
Coast. This is the result of a very aggressive acquisition campaign, growing with existing customers, and even launching its own product lines.
The owners of the company are committed
to adopting new technology as one way to keep
ahead of competitors. It’s one of the reasons
NSA Industries has invested more than $19 million in capital equipment since the Great Recession. It’s also one of the reasons that the company is now involved in panel bending.
A private-label manufacturing job required
plenty of new fabricating capacity in 2016. The
customer was looking for more manufacturing
help, and NSA Industries was willing to oblige.
To take on this new cabinet work, the fabricator
wanted to invest in the latest automated equipment, such as a new solid-state laser cutting
machine and a robotic welding cell. It looked at
a Salvagnini P2 panel bender to handle a majority of the bending work.
“We were looking at the need for press
brake operators, and finding experienced press
brake operators is difficult,” said Matt Smith,
vice president of sales, NSA Industries. “That’s
when we started investigating the panel bend-
ers. When our guys went out and saw them run,
it quickly made sense this was right for us.”
After the investment was made in the first
P2, NSA Industries realized that it was the right
equipment for the work, which was mostly in
the 20- to 16-gauge range.
“As far as training, it was only a couple of
hours, not months, that were needed to get
an operator in the position to run the machine
once it was programmed,” Smith said.
NSA Industries purchased another P2 panel
bender shortly after installing the first one.
About a year after that, the fabricator added a
P1 panel bender, which fits in an 86-square-foot
Not only have the panel benders taken on
more work because of the automated nature
of the bending, but the units also have helped
out with more complicated work, such as hems.
Smith said it was once common to see a press
brake operator using two press brakes to complete a hem, beginning on one setup to make
the first bend and then completing the flattening of the material on another setup in the second brake. Now the panel benders can do the
job on one machine and using the same tooling.
And the automated tooling setup on these
new units was a big attraction as well for NSA
“For example, when you want to change your
radius on a part, you don’t have to do a completely different tooling setup. The machine will hold
the metal and then move the tooling into position
to deliver the radius you want,” Smith added.
The Plans for More Panel Bending
One company has been panel bending for almost two decades, and one is really just getting
started. Both plan to invest in more panel bending capacity in the future.
By the end of the year, Datum will add a large
P4 panel bending machine and attach it to its
7-year-old Salvagnini S4 punching and shearing machine to create an automated workcell
where a blank will be turned into a punched
and bent part without any human intervention.
Eaton said that the company is even thinking
about adding a welding cell right beside this
punch/panel bending cell to further reduce material handling.
The new equipment will play an important
role in being able to produce much larger
parts for new jobs, such as weapons storage
cabinets. Datum’s P2s can handle a blank up to
74 in. diagonally; the P4 will be able to accommodate blanks up to 108 in. Eaton said those
much larger blanks currently are being bent on
a press brake and require two people to handle
them during the bending process.
“I’m predicting that I can reduce my manpower on my press brakes by four people once
we get this one machine,” Eaton said.
NSA Industries remains in active acquisition
mode. It acquired a Massachusetts machining
company in 2015, a New Hampshire metal fabricating company in 2016, and another fabrication company in Massachusetts in 2018.
» The machine operator at Datum Storage Solutions Inc.
loads up one of the panel bending machines in a workcell,
which includes two panel benders and two punching
machines. She operates all four machines.
“Some of the acquisitions that we have made
certainly have work that would be a better fit
on a panel bender. Eventually we might bring
some of that work to our main plant, and then I
suspect that we may buy another panel bender
for another facility,” Smith said.
Editor-in-Chief Dan Davis can be reached at
Datum Storage Solutions Inc., www.datumstorage.com
NSA Industries LLC, www.nsaindustries.com
Salvagnini America Inc., www.salvagnini.com