7 November 2018
What we don’t understand, we fear. It is a statement that certainly also applies to rubber pad forming . Nevertheless, this technique, especially in times of contracting series, can bring a real competitive advantage. It is the calling card of Phoenix 3D Metal who specialise in rubber pad forming . In order to finish the products flawlessly afterwards, it now counts on the Prima Power Rapido fibre laser cutting machine. In Eindhoven we were impressed with its speed and quality.
Because of the small series and the small size of most products, a double cab version was the ideal solution for Phoenix 3D Metal.
Phoenix 3D Metaal emerged like many companies after the Second World War. First, with light construction work and later focussed on sheet metal, the Eindhoven company differed in essence from other suppliers in the region. That inability to be very distinctive and the loss of DAF as an employer in 1998 is the signal to drastically re-invent the company. To make it rise from its ashes. “As an entrepreneur you have to have a unique proposition, a way to offer added value to your customers. Phoenix 3D found that with the introduction of a new technique: rubber pad forming . This had existed since 1935 and was mainly used in aviation, for aluminum. Together with TU Delft, TNO and Syntens, we developed the technique for use with steel and stainless steel. That made them available to the broad industry”, says managing director Jan-Willem van Hooft. He took over the company with Bernard van der Poel.
Bernard van der Poel and Jan-Willem van Hooft were impressed by the speed and quality of the Rapido.
Competitive advantage with rubber pad forming
Rubber pad forming is a technology that has many similarities with deep drawing , but only needs a base mould. Rubber, which behaves like a liquid, actually serves as the upper mould. By pressing it onto the material, the sheet is pressed into the lower mold, as it were, and is given the desired shape. “That entails a huge saving on tool costs, only 5 to 10% of deep drawing moulds, for example”, says business manager van der Poel. “That makes the technology extremely suitable for small series, where our customers can save a lot on their market introduction time and are supplied with impeccable quality. Rubber pad formed products really have a high-tech appearance. The only barrier that still stands in the way of a breakthrough is relative unfamiliarity. Few engineers are familiar with the technology. But once people have seen it, they realise the competitive advantage they could have with rubber pad forming .”
Thanks to the impeccable cut quality of the Rapido, Phoenix 3D can save manpower in the laser department.
Introduction of new fiber laser
But Phoenix 3D Metaal has not said goodbye to its sheet metal working machines. “Since 2010 we are fully committed to rubber pad forming . But thanks to our existing machinery, we can offer our customers a completely finished product”, explains Hooft. “A laser cutting machine is crucial to cut out the contour and the hole patterns, for example. We’ve put a lot of time and money in putting rubber pad forming on the map. That is why the sheet metal processing department was lagging behind on investment, which is deadly for the continuity. The capacity of the laser cutting machines declined, while maintenance costs only increased. That was our sign to look for a new 3D laser. We knew very quickly that we wanted a double cabin with a fiber laser source. Because of the small series and the small size of most of our products, this was the ideal solution. The majority of the sheet metal here is less than 3 mm thickness.”
Impressed by speed and quality
After a thorough exploration of the market and various fiber laser cutting machines, Phoenix 3D Metaal opted for Prima Power’s 3kW Rapido. Van der Poel: “We were blown away by the cutting speeds in the simulations at the headquarters in Turin. And in practice, it manages the work without any problems and without compromising on quality. We can now cinfidently leave the work of two laser cutting machines to the Rapido. Due to its impeccable cutting quality, manual finishing is only necessary to a very limited extent, so we can save on manpower in the laser department. Another decisive factor was the support that Prima Power could offer. Almost every piece that comes from the rubber pad forming press has to pass the laser. That requires machines and service on which you can trust and build on. The arrival of the Rapido has made it all a bit easier, although we had underestimated how much time it would take to convert the programs. We did have knowledge of 3D cutting but not of the Rapido and not of the fibre laser. But when that learning curve was completed … We are still amazed every day about its speed and quality.”
Text and image: Valérie Couplez / Mula advertising agency
Featured image: A laser cutting machine is crucial for cutting out the contour and the hole patterns.