Form Patterns Faster in Heavy Gauge Materials with the Powered Rotary Punch

Incorporating a rotary punch into a roll forming system isn’t always a big challenge, but there is one aspect that can get pretty tricky – maintaining a high speed punching system when you’re working with heavy gauge materials. This has now changed, which is good news for manufacturers producing products like struts, channels, and rack posts.

Rotary punching has long been the fastest way to punch continuous patterns in steel for materials under .075”. These forming lines can usually be run at speeds up to 200+ feet per minute without any major risk to compromising the punch or deforming the material. However, once manufacturers start working with thicker materials, like steel up to .125” thick, they really only have two options:

  1. Reduce production speed
  2. Change to another process, like stamping

There are limitations associated with both of these alternatives. Chief among them is the reduction in production time, which results in leaving new orders in queue and possibly requiring additional coordination of staff time. In the case of switching to stamping, this may require changeover to another line altogether, depending on the forming setup – a significant time investment – and the fact that stamping simply cannot match speeds seen on rotary setups.

A Faster System, A Heavier Gauge

To find a solution for meeting production demands with heavy gauge sheet, Formtek took a look at the core process of the machine’s function. Punching lighter or mid-gauge sheet metal is usually performed by the rotary punch at the entry end of a machine line, before the sheet is fed through a roll former or tube mill. This is because rotary punches rely on a “pull-through” method; that is, the material is literally pulled through the rotary punch unit. As the material is fed into the subsequent roll former or mill equipment, that equipment performs the pulling action.

With heavy gauge materials, that pull-through method simply does not allow the machine to punch with enough power, and the patterns cannot be cleanly formed (if at all). So what’s the solution? Give it more power, of course.

High Powered

We’re super charging equipment like Frankenstein himself. (img source: Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein)

The Heavy Gauge Punching Systems produced by Hill Engineering incorporate a new method of powering the rotary for better punching and stripping action to match the high speeds of traditional rotary punch units, but on steel materials .105”-.125” thick. Some common applications for the system include:

  • Struts
  • Channels
  • Angles
  • Tubular posts
  • Rack beams
  • Door tracks
  • and more

If you’re trying to find a reason to choose one machine over another for your operation, take a look at this side by side comparison between the powered rotary system and a stamping system for processing heavy gauge steel:

Powered Rotary Punch vs Stamping

You can find more details on Hill Engineering’s rotary punch systems by clicking here. We’d also like to hear from you – comment below and tell us how you produce patterns on your heavy gauge sheet!

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  1. It’s interesting that a pull-through method just isn’t enough for heavy gauge metals. It makes sense that you’d need to stamp some heavy pieces of metal, then traditional and common methods might not work well. I’ll have to look for a professional that’s able to punch the metal effectively, even if it is quite a bit thicker than typical metals.

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