After 30 years in the roll-forming industry with 27 of those years in the development and maintenance of gutter and roofing machines, I can tell you the maintenance of these machines is just like taking care of any piece of fine equipment - if you service and maintain it properly, you’re inclined to get many good years of performance from it.
Routine Maintenance Is Required
There are many manufacturers of portable roll-forming equipment and all have very similar maintenance requirements, whether it’s for a gutter machine or a roofing machine.
For example, it is necessary for all roll-forming machines to keep the cutting blade well oiled to ensure a clean cut of the roofing or gutter material.
It is also important to use the proper oil - either a lightweight cutting oil like 3 in 1 or a 10-weight motor oil or Englert’s Green MetalMan Shear Oil, which is an environmentally friendly oil. Do not use WD-40 or any type of penetrating oil because it will create wear on the blade, cause the blade to gum up and become sticky and not give you a good cut on the material.
Most roll-forming machines today employ rollers made of polyurethane to drive the material through the machine. These rollers must be kept clean. Spray the rollers well with a product such as 409 spray cleaner or Fantastic and let the machine run empty for a few minutes. Then unplug or de-energize the machine for safety and wipe off the rollers with a clean cloth. Plug in or energize the machine and jog forward one-quarter rotation of the rollers. Repeat the spraying procedure, unplug the machine and re-wipe. Repeat the process if necessary until all the roller surfaces are clean.
A roller cleaning schedule depends on the usage of the machine, but once a month is a good rule of thumb. The process takes only a few minutes and will save you a lot of time in the long run, eliminating the need to clean hundreds of feet of product later.
Remove other debris by vacuuming out the machine after cleaning the rollers. Blowing out the machine with compressed air is not a good idea because you can blow debris onto the chains and the bearings.
Never leave material in any machine with polyurethane rollers. When you are done using the machine for the day, calculate the length of the machine into the last piece needed, and then empty the machine. Material left in the machine acts like a trough, catching dirt and debris. Consequently, when the machine is turned on, the roller runs through the residual dirt and will soil the product and the rollers.
Other machine parts that should undergo routine maintenance area are the drive chains. They must be lubricated regularly. The best product to use on the chains is a Teflon-based lubricant, similar to what you would use on a motorcycle chain.
Wiping down the entire machine also gives you the opportunity to closely inspect the machine. As with any mechanized piece of equipment, keeping the machine clean at all times will increase its life and make maintenance easier.
These are the most common areas that the owner can address himself to keep the machine running smoothly. There are other areas of maintenance that should be done through regular maintenance by a manufacturer’s certified technician.
One of the most commonly asked questions by machine owners is “How often should my machines be serviced?”
Service on a roll former should be done at least once a year. However, this schedule may change and have to be done more frequently depending on the usage, type of equipment, and number of operators. The best thing to do is to have your manufacturer’s representative start the machine on a maintenance schedule, so machine usage can be tracked and a history created, allowing for variations to the maintenance schedule if they become necessary.
One of the biggest oversights that contractors make in the field is not having the machine ready for service when it is needed that instant. Either the machine has been sitting in the shop since the last job and no one has looked at it, or the contractor pulls it out to the job to find out that something is broken or out of adjustment. Suddenly, it’s an emergency to get a technician to come out as quickly as possible and take care of the problem. Time is money, and good planning can save both. Each machine should be inspected carefully before leaving the shop. Give the equipment a good wipe down and run test pieces through it before it leaves for a job. Doing this allows the operator to correct any problems before the roll former gets to the jobsite.
If you have a big job coming up and you haven’t had the machine looked at by a manufacturer’s technician in a while, the best thing to do is give the supplier a call and schedule a technician to go over the machine and check it out for you.
Here are some other areas where an operator can run into trouble.
- Using the wrong size extension cord or generator can be a problem. The cord should be a 10-gauge cord, no longer than 100 feet, and the generator should be at least 5,000 watts. This combination will run most portable roll-forming machines on the market today.
- Having a good grasp of the types of problems that can be material-related can rule out the possibility that they are machine problems and can save an operator a lot of down time and material waste. If you have a problem you can’t easily solve, do not start adjusting on the machine. Call a technician like myself. A few minutes of conversation explaining the problem to a professional technician can save you hours of downtime.
- Also, make sure that the operator is trained properly on the equipment he is using. It is not uncommon for us to run into operators who don’t know something as basic as which is the right side of the machine or the left side. This will cause you problems, without a doubt.
Seamers require less maintenance than roll formers, but nonetheless they should be inspected every day on the jobsite for the loss of nuts or bolts and caulk buildup on the rollers - a maintenance process that should only take a few minutes.
Inspect and grease the seamer gears before the roll-forming job starts. It is also a good idea to seam some panels together using the clip that is going to be used on the job. This will allow you to adjust the tightness of the seamer before it gets on the roof.
If you are using a curving machine, it is useful to check the drive chain and chain tensioner located at the lower section of the machine. This chain should be lubricated and the tensioner checked for tightness every six months. The rollers should be wiped down. On the older 1½-inch curvers, a light coat of oil on the bottom flat disk roller will help keep the panel from wanting to cock while running through the machine.
When using seamers or curvers, make sure that you use a heavy 10-gauge electrical cord, no more than 100 feet in length. If the run is that long, put a generator on the roof, making sure it is secured properly.
Proper Care and Storage of Roll Formers
Avoid storing roll-forming machines outdoors if possible. If long-term storage is necessary outdoors, cover the machine with a suitable tarp and provide good ventilation to prevent condensation and mold from developing on the machine. A handful of companies provide custom covers for most machines, available with your companies name and logo printed on them.
If a machine is going to be sitting unused for a long period of time, apply a coat of automobile wax to all the forming rollers. Don’t wipe it off; leave it on. Doing this will protect the forming rollers from rust. Even rollers made from stainless steel will get a rust residue if not protected.
Proper storage of coil stock is also very important. Many contractors bring coils to the jobsite and cover them. This is not the best situation for the coils. Doing this can cause moisture to become trapped under the covering, creating a greenhouse effect which produces moisture between the wraps that, in time, will cause paint degradation. On dry days, the coils should be uncovered to allow them to dry out. The optimum situation is to bring coils from your shop on the day they are needed and leave the remainder indoors. Also, never leave a coil on the machine for a long period of time.
Setup and Training Help
At Englert, we offer a unique road service program to our contractors where our technicians are on call and can come out at a moments notice to repair or adjust any type of roll-former in the marketplace. It always seems as if a machine never breaks down until it is on the jobsite and you’re on a tight schedule. Englert technician are highly trained and their maintenance vans are stocked with most major parts.
They also can do a profile change over on a roofing machine, allowing the contractor and crew to do what they do best - break metal and install standing seam roofing. Englert also has a unique customer loyalty program where customers get one hour of free service for every $10,000 dollars spent with Englert. This can be a nice buffer for the cost of repairs, changeovers and adjustments.
Finally, we do training and setup of all our equipment. The contractor gets an experienced technician to show him the “ins and outs” of a new machine. This not only boosts the confidence level of the contractor in working with a new machine, but because he has been trained and knows the terminology for the machine, he can now speak intelligently to a technician when he does have a concern. And most of the time, our technicians in the field and at corporate can help solve the problem over the phone. It’s much better than getting a machine shipped to you with a manual that a lot of people don’t read until a maintenance issue arises.