Barfeeders Have Come A Long Way
From the perspective of a barfeeding solutions company, this is an exciting time for the screw machine industry. We see our customers turning out a variety of parts, many of which are made to the tightest tolerances ever. We also find that they are rethinking their entire manufacturing process to improve productivity a
From the perspective of a barfeeding solutions company, this is an exciting time for the screw machine industry. We see our customers turning out a variety of parts, many of which are made to the tightest tolerances ever. We also find that they are rethinking their entire manufacturing process to improve productivity and reduce operating costs.
Naturally, we see significant parallels between these changes in screw machine operations and the evolution of barfeeding equipment. It wasn’t that long ago that feeding bar stock into a screw machine or other lathe was a necessary but unwelcome task that simply slowed production, inhibited product quality and endangered operators.
Early bar feed attempts were really just holding or guiding devices prone to severe vibration that limited machine rpm, created ear-splitting noise and often damaged workpieces or spindles. In the 30 years since LNS developed its first barfeeding devices, the industry has moved from crude, manual machines to ergonomic, user-friendly, computer-controlled and automatic solutions.
Of course all of this came about as a response to the screw machine industry’s need to improve manufacturing efficiencies while meeting customer demand for more precise products. One improvement was LNS’ introduction of oil into the barfeed tube to create a hydrodynamic device (Hydrobar) that eliminates vibration and noise. After 25 years this technology remains the industry standard for single bar feeding equipment.
As screw machine shops wrestled with rising labor costs, just-in-time delivery demands and other pressures, manufacturers responded with magazine-loaded, automatic barfeeders that are less labor-intensive and allow for unattended manufacturing.
Suppliers who are specialists in designing and building barfeeding equipment have dedicated their research and development resources to achieving the productivity, safety and quality standards for the screw machine industry. As barfeeding has evolved it has become more reliable, safer and cost-efficient.
Safety has always been a concern for barfeed equipment manufacturers. A walk through screw machine shops used to mean trying to avoid rotating exposed bar stock. Now, barfeeders use telescoping tubes and joint pipes that often are contained inside the spindle. Plus, electronic sensors that interface with the controller for maximum safety monitor the barfeeders’movement.
As the screw machine industry continues to evolve, it is essential that barfeed equipment suppliers stay in touch with the needs of their customers. Ongoing interviews with typical screw machine shop owners tell us what issues are important. Here’s what our latest studies reveal:
Automatic barfeeding that allows reliable, continuous unattended operation is most desired.
Screw machine operations must be flexible, so quick changeovers (3 - 5 minutes) are a must.
Changeover components should be integrated into the barfeeder, not stored elsewhere.
- Operators want the ability to easily move the barfeeding equipment away from the back of the turning machine to simplify changeovers and routine maintenance.
- Controls must be intuitively easy to use and ergonomically designed.
- Screw machine shops make a variety of products and require different barfeeders, but they also demand commonality of design and operation.
- Applications support, reliable service and safety are also major concerns.
All indications are that screw machine manufacturers will continue to seek opportunities to drive down production costs by applying more efficient technologies. In addition, as the pool of skilled screw machine operators becomes smaller, shops must be able to increase production with smaller workforces. Our job is to improve barfeeding technology so it keeps pace with these demands.
If you have anything to share about barfeeders, please contact me. Your views may help us make the next generation of barfeeders better than ever.