By Robert J. Kolcz, Prima Power North America Inc.
The E5x servo-electric turret punch press can process full 1,250 mm by 2,500 mm sheets without repositioning and makes part nesting more efficient.
Power ahead
During a difficult period, wise capital investment turns business around

ow many job shops could lose a customer that accounted for 98 percent of their business and recover in just a few years? Elm Machining was faced with that scenario several years ago. The company confronted this threat by making some hard decisions, placing additional emphasis on fabrication, investing in the proper equipment and dedicating itself to the hard work that it took to not only survive but also prosper.

Elm Machining was founded 40 years ago in Elmhurst, Illinois. At the time, Elm was mainly a tool and die and metal stamping operation. The company expanded, and in 2005, Elm Machining followed its largest client to Eufaula, Alabama. “In 2012, the large client announced that it was moving its operation to Mexico, and they would no longer require our services,” recalls Scott Aimone, president. “This client represented roughly 98 percent of our business, and the announcement came as quite a shock since we had just been awarded the company’s vendor of the year award.

“At this time, we had just purchased a laser and a press brake to complement our straight-side and gap punch presses,” he continues. “We were new to the fabrication part of the business. We were also at a low point in the company. During this pivotal period, we needed to make decisions and investments to push the company forward and regain the business we had lost.”

Aimone says that when he quoted jobs, he was consistently competing with one other job shop that had a turret punch press, a larger press brake and a faster laser, giving that competitor more capabilities and better timing. “We decided that we needed a turret punch press to obtain the competitive edge in the market.”

Man going to work
Prima Power applied a servo-electric drive system on the eP-Series press brake, a fast, accurate and non-hydraulic bending solution.
Capital investment
Elm Machining compared features and benefits of several turret punch press builders. In 2014, the company purchased the E5x from Prima Power. The E5x’s servo-electric punching productivity is available in a flexible and affordable package. It has been designed to be user-friendly with versatile capacity. Prima Power’s machine control and user interface software includes a touchscreen panel, which ensures fast setup and convenient operation. The E5x has the ability to process full 1,250 mm by 2,500 mm sheets without repositioning and makes nesting of the parts more efficient and economical.

The E5x also includes extremely high servo-electric accuracy for less scrap, more production, and excellent forming and marking capability; fully-programmable punching speed, upper and lower limit of stroke; a programmable clamp setting option; a robust O-frame design for perfect tool alignment and less wear on the punching tools; touchscreen and Tulus Lite user interface; and an average power consumption of 4 kW for reduced energy use.

“In addition to the Prima Power, we also looked at competitors’ machines,” explains Aimone, “but there weren’t as many customization features in their models that would fit our needs as a job shop. The biggest selling point of the E5x was the multiple Auto-Index stations that reduced the cost of tooling for us tremendously. We purchased the turret to acquire new business and possibly take some work from our other machines and transfer it to the turret.”

Once the E5x was ready to run, clients began asking for quotes. “This was a huge pivotal point for our company when all that business was transferred to us,” Aimone says. “The E5x has definitely doubled our business. It has also made us more competitive in the market when it comes to pricing and lead times.”

Today, we are almost at full capacity running double shifts on both the E5x and eP press brake.
Scott Aimone, Elm Machining
Diversifying machinery
Elm Machining purchased the Prima Power eP-1030 servo-electric press brake in 2017. Prima Power has applied a servo-electric drive system on the eP-Series press brake. It is a fast, accurate, non-hydraulic bending solution. The machine concept combines productivity, accuracy, flexibility and reliability. The patented Green Means offers users both sustainability and manufacturing efficiency as well as productivity. The machine consumes less power, requires less maintenance, and requires no oil or oil disposal costs. Easy programming and accuracy eliminate waste production. The net result is the ability to form higher-quality sheet metal parts at a lower cost.

An operator-friendly 17-in. touchscreen user interface leads to a significant improvement of data input rates and a considerable reduction in programming time. 2D graphical programming with automatic bending sequencing will assist in making even first-time operators productive.

Sophisticated software
AutoPOL is an easy-to-use and effective tool for offline programming of Prima-Power eP-Brakes. Sophisticated bending simulation makes it possible to shorten setup times and ensure that the bending task can be performed. 3D models can be created with AutoPOL’s designer program or they can be imported in 2D and 3D format from practically any CAD program.

“In addition to the eP-1030, we also have an older hydraulic press brake,” says Aimone. “The reason that we purchased the eP-1030 was the result of all the extra business that came in because of the E5x turret punch press. The feature that I like best about the eP-1030 is the servo-electric operation. I also like the AutoPOL program. It is one of the best programs of forming software that I have ever used.”

Portrait of Scott Aimone
Scott Aimone, president of Elm Machining.
A simple user interface allows operators to read and adjust easily. “The eP-1030 has expanded our capabilities to form larger parts and has increased our precision and quality,” Aimone says.

Since investing in the E5x, Aimone says the company has entered a number of new industries, including construction, industrial air compressors, electronics, heat transfer, among others. “Before the E5x, our business was about 98 percent lighting,” he says. “The E5x was the impetus for our increased production business.”

Since purchasing the E5x, Elm Machining is also more competitive in the lighting market. “We grew substantially with the E5x,” Aimone says. “We were in a 20,000-sq.-ft. facility from 2005 to 2017. In 2017, we moved to our current location, a 40,000-sq.-ft. facility. That’s how quickly we had to move to a larger facility—and how quickly we regained the business we had lost.” In 2018, Elm Machining added a second shift to keep up with demand.

Sheets of metal
Today, Elm Machining is almost at full capacity running double shifts on both the E5x and eP press brake.
Working through
Business increased even through the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have been very fortunate that our business has not been affected by COVID-19,” explains Aimone. “We have a very good mix of clients in both industrial and residential. It was a very odd thing to see this year because we typically have a busy season with both.

“We received letters from our clients that we were an essential part of their business and they were considered essential businesses,” he continues. “Eufaula is a small town, and COVID-19 really didn’t affect us as hard as it has other cities and states.”

After purchasing the Prima Power equipment, Elm Machining’s sales increased by 50 percent. “The following year, sales increased another 50 percent,” he says. “Today, we are almost at full capacity running double shifts on both the E5x and the eP press brake. Between 2018 and 2019, our growth was 20 percent, and from 2019 to 2020, we are at a 13 percent growth. We are receiving more requests from clients than we can fill. That is why we are considering the new laser and press brake in the near future.”

The Prima Power machine purchases were a strategic move for Elm Machining during a difficult period. “These were big purchases for our company at a time when we were at our worst, and this a major turning point that helped us gather a competitive edge,” Aimone says. “We would not have been able to increase the business as much as we have without the Prima Power machines. The turret E5x paid for itself within a two-year period. The eP-1030 payback was less than a year.”

Elm Machining
Eufaula, Alabama, 334/688-8691,
Prima Power
Arlington Heights, Illinois, 847/952-6500,