Tools of the trade

Four-Slide Machine gives CFI a quick, powerful tool for shaping material

Beyond CNC machines and their many variants, there in another piece of machinery in the components industry that has a long history, but is equally important. This tool is used for the creation of complex wire forms as well as many other applications in our industry. It is call the four-slide machine. In essence, a four-slide machine is a complex press that uses cams to control tools and uses moving slides to strike the workpiece to form it into the desired shape.

These slides are driven by four shafts that outline the machine, hence the name four-slide machine. In some applications, three of the slides shape the metal piece while the final slide cuts it, although, each of the four slides can be used for any application, making the four-slide machine extremely versatile in the components industry. Although, it is limited to only shearing and bending operations.

This machine’s biggest advantage over CNC machines and other similar pieces of machinery is its speed, relative simplicity, and the ability to complete all of the operations from start to finish. Typically, in a standard progressive die process, only one of the four-slides’ operations can be completed. Meanwhile, this machine can be thought of as four dies in one given its multi-axis stamping process. In addition, tooling is relatively inexpensive.

Four-slide drawbacks

There are some relative drawbacks compared to other types of metal forming techniques. Due to the number of moving parts in a four-slide machine, tooling takes a relatively long time to set up. While the machine can pump out completed parts at an excellent rate (10,000 to 35,000 finished parts per 8-hour shift), changing to other dies can be relatively slow.

There is also a limit to stock sizes that a four-slide machines can handle. The largest stock a four-slide machine can handle is 76 mm wide, 320 mm long, and 2.4 mm thick. These limits are due to the limits of travel on the slides. The max out at 19.05 mm (3/4 inch).

In addition, the use of this machine is good for specific materials – ones that are relatively malleable and can be easily formed with its movements. These materials include low-carbon cold rolled steel (high-carbon steel would be prone to failures due to cracking); spheroidized cold rolled and type 300 and 400 spring steel; copper alloys; beryllium-copper alloys.

Four-slide machines are a great tool in the utility belt of world-class components companies like CFI. But like every one of the those tools, there are pluses and minus. But it’s one of the best tools of the trade for creating inexpensive, complex parts at a remarkable rate.

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