I have been working as a machine service technician for close to 20 years and am in my seventh year as folding machine technician. Every day in my job as a service advisor for Metal Forming Inc, I see people spend large amounts of money for repairs. Many of these repairs could have been avoided with preventive maintenance. Expensive repairs and costly downtime can be avoided with an investment of time and a few dollars worth of supplies.
There are five areas that need attention: shiny metal parts, greasy metal parts, hydraulic parts, electronics, and wear parts. As you go through the maintenance of each of these areas, make an inspection tour of the machine and keep an eye out for anything that is loose or misaligned.
The shiny metal parts I am referring to primarily concern the tooling that forms the metal - the clamping beam tooling and the folding beam tooling. These parts come in direct contact with the metal you are bending and should be kept clean and rust free to prevent damaging your metal. Another area with shiny metal that needs your attention is the Thomson rods. These are heavy metal rods that guide the back gauge on most folding machines. Located on the back of the machine, they are easy to overlook and can rust quickly in a humid climate. Over the years I have replaced thousands of dollars worth of motors and servo devices all because of too much drag on these devices. Keeping the Thomson rods clean and lubed would have prevented much of this wear and tear. Clean all of these shiny metal parts with Scotch Bright scrubbing pads and WD-40®. Always remove all the residue and WD-40, and then apply a thin coating of silicone spray lubricant. Do this at least a couple of times a year (more often in humid climates).
LubricationYou know the greasy metal parts I am talking about, and most of the time you avoid them, but they also need your attention a couple times a year. All exposed gears should have the old grease wiped off and new grease applied with a paint brush. It is important to remove the old grease, as this is a good place for dirt and the occasional screw to hide. Any chains on the machine should get a regular application of spray chain lube and the tension should be kept at the manufacturer's specification. On your inspection tour of the machine, give any grease fittings you see a couple squirts of grease. Be sure not to do this too often, as you can push out the bearing seals with too much grease.
Some machines have hydraulics to drive the different beams. These systems should be serviced about every 2,000 hours of operation. The fluid and filter should be changed and the valves should be dismantled, cleaned and inspected. A small bit of dirt in just the wrong place can bring a 40-foot folding machine to a halt. Always refer to the manufacturer for the correct fluid and filter.
The main cause of electronic failure beyond simple use is heat. On most electrical cabinets there is a cooling fan. The filter for this should be cleaned or changed regularly. Beyond this, all electronic parts that are not located in the cabinet and are exposed should be kept clean. Proximity switches, limit switches and the encoders should be cleaned with spray electronics cleaner. Note: Please do this with the power to the machine off.
Finally we have the wear parts. These are the bushing, open gears and other parts that wear out through the life of the machine. It is important to change them before they wear out completely and cause a major failure. The best way to see this wear is to watch the machine while it is in operation. Remove covers if you need to and look for slop in the movement. Caution: always keep your hands and other object away moving parts The folding beam linkage can be checked for wear by trying to move it with your hands. Timely replacement of these wear parts can prevent more serious damage to the machine or at least prevent unscheduled downtime.
To conclude, a well thought out preventative maintenance routine performed at timely intervals can prevent costly repairs and downtime. If you did nothing else but keep the machine clean and do the periodic inspections of your machine, you would be alerted to impending problems. Remember, it is far easier to see a maintenance issue if the machine is clean and you are familiar with its proper operation.