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Tube bending experts continue switch to all-electric machinery

Continuing investment in versatile all-electric bending machinery is helping one of the US Midwest's leading tube and pipe fabrication specialists, Sharpe Products of Milwaukee, to meet the evolving business challenges in its sector of the metalworking industry.

The company has bought a 130 mm Unison tube bender. This is the latest in a series of all-electric bender purchases over the last few years. Sharpe made the investment to give the company an edge in meeting the demands of the tube and pipe jobbing business which has changed in recent years. Most customers no longer want to invest in stock, and batch sizes have reduced dramatically. This means that machine set-up times become a major factor in job pricing. It also means that any scrap generated during set-up - which can often run into several pieces when using older hydraulically-actuated bending machines - can have a negative influence on job costs. 

Another major factor in the all-electric decision is the increased demand for tighter radius bending - often down to around 1D (one diameter of the tube size being bent). Sharpe puts this trend down to the way that many OEM companies are now optimising designs in terms of compactness, materials used, accessibility etc. "All-electric bending machines help us to stay extremely competitive - on all types of projects - if we only had hydraulic machines we probably wouldn't win a lot of the jobs we bid on," says Sharpe's President, Paul Krickeberg. "The Unison machine can be configured for a new batch in typically a third of the time of a hydraulic machine, with no scrap or one piece at the most, and we have such fine control over the bending process that we can easily fabricate really complex shapes with tight radius bends, multi-radius bends, minimal straight sections between bends, etc."

The new machine is Sharpe's second Unison-brand bender. The company has had a 76 mm Unison bender that has proven extremely popular with the workshop's staff. That experience, and the support that Unison has given Sharpe made the decision to buy a second machine easy. 
Sharpe specified the latest Unison Breeze 130 machine for flexibility, to help the workshop serve any customer requirement. It's a multi-stack bender with an ability to hold several tools on the machine for computer-controlled changeover, and is also fitted with high torque servomotors to accommodate the most challenging materials. It also features a swing-away wiper die for precision shape forming and control of material flow, and is capable of roll bending. "Unison is delighted to have won this order as meeting the needs of a large jobbing workshop is just about as big a challenge as you can get" says Alan Pickering of Unison. "New machines have to be extremely versatile in order to earn their keep, and the range of jobs can vary from precise one-off engineering parts to volume runs for OEMs operating in consumer markets."

Sharpe Products started up in 1990 as an architectural tube and pipe bending metalwork specialist, but its business has evolved and today the company's output is split almost equally between the architectural sector, tubular and pipe parts for OEMs, and custom-fabricated assemblies. The company has 13 bending machines in total, with all-electric bending machines spanning a size range from 32 to 130 mm. Sharpe handles even larger tube and pipe sizes using hydraulic machinery resources.

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