Friday | 23 January, 2009 | 7:41 am

Keeping them safe

By John Loos

January 2009- In any press brake application, the quality and the reliability of the press brake is paramount. But with applications that affect the safety of American troops overseas, such as underarmor for Humvee vehicles, there's perhaps a heightened need for precision and productivity.

BAE Systems Inc., Rockville, Md., an aerospace and defense company, has enlisted a small army of Proform press brakes from Cincinnati Inc., Harrison, Ohio, to help meet a newfound demand for military vehicle armor. Using six 90-ton Proforms and three 350-ton machines, BAE doubled its daily output of truck armor sets in the last two years from 40 to 80.

Consistent standards
With up-armor from BAE Systems, a military vehicle has the potential to absorb the direct blast from a land mine enough to save the lives of its passengers. It does this by creating V-shaped undersides that deflect the brunt of ground blasts away from passenger compartments. In fact, up-armored Humvees are 2,000 pounds heavier than a non-up-armored vehicle.

When you consider the only non-automated aspect of the up-armor's manufacture is the press brake, the need for accurate and consistent bends is absolute. Because of this, BAE Systems standardized its operations onto the Proform model.

"[BAE Systems] needs a machine that brings a lot of quality, not just in the manufacturing tolerance but from machine to machine," says Ed Bosse, marketing manager for Cincinnati, noting that BAE works exclusively with his company's Proform press brakes. "I think that's a key piece. The standards are applicable all across the models of Cincinnati's Proform line. You can always have a quality product within itself, but between each machine that comes off production, how does that match up to overall standards?"

The Proform press brake line is one of three in Cincinnati"s product offering, the others being the Autoform+ and Maxform lines. Proform press brakes come in 14 model sizes, ranging from 60 tons to 2,000 tons, and they feature adjustable stroke length, full tonnage throughout the stroke, +/-0.001-inch ram repeatability and a smart graphical control featuring a touch-screen interface. The PC-based control uses 3-D graphics to enhance setup speeds and optimize bending.

Swift response
It's one thing to offer customization of your machinery, but to do so without any detriment to lead times is an extra advantage for companies like BAE Systems that havc heavy production needs and little time to spare.

"I think the best part of Proform's capability is that the lead time for shipments of the machinery, for the most part, is not adversely affected," says Bosse. "We have built-in versatility in our manufacturing processes to handle a wide variety of machine options, so we can solve or satisfy a customer's application or manufacturing capability. Even down to the last step in the process, we can make it any color you want."

Because of this manufacturing flexibility, Proform has not only served militaristic applications, but food service industry applications such as grills, deep fryers, exhaust fans and countertops.

But for Bosse, as satisfying as it is serving those unique industries, there's something particularly fulfilling about helping keep troops safe, as with BAE Systems' up-armor application.

"The defense effort during the last year or so has been a highly visible topic considering the costs we've had to absorb in Iraq," says Bosse. "[The BAE Systems' application] was one that makes you feel good. Being able to contribute to that effort and be part of that program is a great feeling."

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