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New Laser-Controlled Tube Bender
May 29, 2008

Unison has commissioned one of the highest-specification tube bending machines it has ever built, at UBER Precision Manufacturing – a start-up contract manufacturer based in Lynchburg, VA. The machine’s electronically-actuated bending axes are controlled by a laser measurement system to ensure that tubing is bent without scrap – overcoming the common problem caused by variances in the ‘spring back’ characteristics of materials. The new machine is already repeatedly bending tubular parts to accuracies of a tenth of a degree or better, and in very small batches. In contrast, traditional tubular parts manufacturing almost inevitably generates wastage, which is beginning to impact heavily following recent surges in metal costs.

At a time when much of the country’s traditional manufacturing base is migrating to lower-wage economies, UBER sees an opportunity for US-based supply. The new machine is a key element of its competitive strategy, which provides a highly automated design-to-manufacture methodology that minimizes time to market.

The Unison tube bender is a multi-stack machine capable of bending tubing diameters up to four inches (100 mm). UBER’s other machinery investments include two advanced 4 kW laser cutting machines with 3D capability, one dedicated to tubing. The company has also invested extensively in software infrastructure. It can accept design files produced by virtually any CAD software. Verification tools are used help avoid problems before parts actually enter production, including collision detection algorithms for the automated production machinery. And ERP software is employed to streamline processes.

Unison’s US partner, Horn Machine Tools, worked with UBER during the planning phase to help specify the machine.

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