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New wire forming machine rolled out

30 March 2017

Following its success in supplying distributors across Europe – and with a new order underway for a customer in Dubai – GRP Tools, specialist supplier of glass fibre applicators and ancillaries to the trade, is well on its way to 1500 units per day output of rollers. A wire forming and assembly machine from Whitelegg Machines has helped the company increase output

Serving wholesale distributors to the Fibreglass composite industry worldwide, GRP has become a major player with more than 20% exports and large UK recognition. 

Situated near Southampton, the company is close to the UK boat building industry, but also has built up a major market in the developing polymer, laminated flat roofing category.

Hand roller applicators form the bulk of the business. These can be produced in many sizes and formats, each for a specific use and comprise aluminium finned and paddle, plastic, steel and rotating washer applicators. GRP now undertakes manufacture of these from start to finish. 

From steel wire feedstock, roller wires are cut and bent into the required shape. A handle, also manufactured on site, is pressed on, completing the manufacture of the wire frame.  A variety of applicators are then assembled to the wire frame. The applicators are machined onsite from either solid bar or extruded material. 

Before automating the wire bending and handle assembly operation, several staff were employed on manual, single operation, wire bending and crimping activities.

MD, Peter Hussey was looking for a way to automate the entire process as demand was growing and the need to offset increasing costs was becoming paramount. Having researched manufacturers in Europe and the UK, Hussey was impressed with the technical competence of Whitelegg Machines. These offered flexibility in wire sizes and lengths, speed of operation and rapid change-over, including intuitive, touch screen control. 

Whitelegg developed a fully automatic, wire bending, nibbling and plastic handle insertion system. The machine, designated the PRL-8, is loaded with previously cut wires of appropriate length. The magazine has an estimated capacity of 100 wires @ 8mm diameter, typically giving a running time of about 8min. A single wire is released into the nibbing station where two hydraulic units form the handle nib and a second nib as required. The pick and place unit then removes the wire, indexes the blank and loads it into the bending head. Here it is clamped and the head forms the bend nearest to the handle, it then indexes, retracting to position to form the second bend. At this point the handle is clamped and the third bend is formed. 

The formed component is then moved to the handle inserter where a plastic handle has been collected from the magazine by the handle pick & place. The handle inserter pushes the plastic handle onto the wire frame which is then removed from and dropped into the unload chute; the cycle time being 5 to 7s.

The arrival of the Whitelegg machine has enabled GRP to increase output to meet current and future demand. It has also allowed the company to offset continuing increases in wages and employment costs.

Whitelegg has noticed an increasing demand for automated wire forming and welding solutions for medium to low volume applications typically produced in Europe. 

Machinery must be flexible enough to:

  • Produce different shapes and sizes or product
  • Allow quick changeover between these parts
  • De-skill the mechanical aspects of the machine to simple part changes
  • Allow easy adjustments
  • Allow quick tooling adjustment when changing wire diameter
  • Provide a simple and intuitive user interface which can quickly be learned by different personnel
  • Facilitate online connection to the machine’s control system to allow quick, remote access for engineers for troubleshooting, software upgrades, and so on.