Coil Processing
Monday | 22 December, 2014 | 10:12 am

Balance under pressure

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Feed Lease used operator input and ideas to further modify its coil handling lines for optimal performance.

Soft material meets its match with custom technology

December 2014 - Feed Lease Corp. is accustomed to going the extra mile. The 45-year-old Auburn Hills, Michigan, company is as uncompromising about solving customers’ problems as it is designing and building high-performance pressroom automation equipment.  

When Thai Summit America Corp. took on a high-volume stamping job specifying aluminum with a Class A surface finish, Feed Lease stepped up to the challenge. Its engineers cracked the production puzzle by designing and building a coil handling system with features able to specifically support the job’s critical flatness and accuracy requirements.

Based in nearby Howell, Michigan, Thai Summit provides tooling, stamping and assembly projects for a wide range of products. A part of Thai Summit Group, the manufacturer serves the sheet metal stamping industry. Like Henry Ford’s moving assembly line, which spawned mass production, lean manufacturing practices continue to help companies like Thai Summit fine tune protocols for efficiency, quality and customer service.

Automating its production lines from feed to finished part for minimal handling and increased output is one example.

A new approach

“Typically we blank feed parts [into presses],” says Rob Walus, executive manager for Thai Summit. “For this job we knew we needed a coil feed to handle 5000 and 6000 grade aluminum. Conventional coil feeds were out of the question because of the material’s softness.”

The company analyzed competitive quotes before selecting Feed Lease for the machine. “They offered an attractive price point and we liked the fact they were only 45 minutes from our facility. We were looking for a supplier that could become a long-term partner.”

The first step for Feed Lease engineers was to analyze how aluminum would respond to coil feeding and straightening. Project engineers also worked with press manufacturers to integrate the coil handling system with Thai Summit’s new servo presses. “The presses are versatile,” says Walus, noting that “they run both progressive and transfer dies.”


Based on the established technology of its conventional press feed and coil handling system, Feed Lease designed and built the new system with a servo-driven tailout feed and vacuum belt. Hard-chromed straightening rolls ground to a 16 micro finish were designed to prevent marking or buildup on the rolls.

“It’s one of a handful of solutions that works successfully for aluminum,” says Joe Fox, sales manager for Feed Lease. “We needed to maintain pressure on the material and feed it quickly and accurately without damaging it. When the coil leaves the servo primary feed, the vacuum takes over and indexes the final strip of material into the press die to minimize scrap and produce more parts per coil. The tailout is fully programmable and extends into the die space so that we can get as close to the die as possible.”

Real value

Installation of the coil handling systems might seem like the end of a successful project, but for Thai Summit, it’s where the real value-adds offered by Feed Lease surfaced.

“We worked with management and the operators to get their feedback on what they felt was the most efficient way to thread and process material up to the die before moving into automatic mode,” says Fox. “We also wanted operators’ input on how job setup and other features like the control console were working for them. As a company we care about our products, how they will function in the field and how they will perform over the long haul. If there is a way to make improvements, we will do so.”

Feed Lease was receptive to everything the operators wanted observes Walus. “They could have just said, ‘This is what we quoted’ and left it at that, but they didn’t. It wasn’t just a dump and run. They took ownership and pride in their equipment. That is a quality we prize in a supplier.”



Feed Lease manipulated pressure and counter balancing on the rolls to prevent material distortion during feeding. Technicians added additional lead to the crop shear on the straightener to reduce its sensitivity to operator intervention. Extra funneling helped eliminate hangups during coil threading. Control position was adjusted and some software programming was modified.

“Software upgrades allow operators to make real-time updates,” says Walus. For example, “the scissors table can be raised to its maximum height to facilitate coil loading and unloading. Repositioning the console gave operators a better line of sight.”

A more operator-friendly system supports Thai Summit’s round-the-clock operation. “Our shifts are not job specific so the ability to save job programs allows the next shift’s operator to run the job exactly the way the previous shift did. That produces consistent parts.”

Walus adds that Feed Lease immediately adapted the first system’s modifications to the second and third systems. “They customized those systems specifically to our needs,” he says. 


Stock widths on the coil handling lines vary from 6 inches up to 60 inches. The equipment can handle material widths of 72 inches. During Thai Summit’s three-shift operation, the servo presses and their new custom coil handling systems are pushing out small to medium-sized body structural components for an OEM’s new model.

“Prior to the installation of these Feed Lease coil handling systems we were not able to run aluminum in this capacity,” Walus says. “This was new work we were awarded and Feed Lease developed the equipment we needed to support it.”

The new feedlines will open doors to other work the company might not have taken on before, says Walus. “We have expanded our capabilities. The equipment has made running these high volumes competitive for us, a benefit that contributes as much to our bottom line as part quality and on-time deliveries.” MM

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