5 Factors for Choosing a Sheet Metal Leveler



5 Factors for Choosing a Sheet Metal Leveler

When processing sheet metal parts and blanks, absolute flatness is essential. If a sheet is uneven, this will negatively affect all of the downstream processes. The amount of rework, rejects and process errors increases and has a negative impact on efficiency. Therefore, metal sheets need to be flattened in order to reduce internal stresses and unevenness. Working with a roller leveler is the ideal solution to carry out this process as quickly, flexibly and effectively as possible. In this article, you will learn the five factors for choosing a sheet metal leveler.

There is a leveler for every requirement.

Sheet metal is used in the most diverse industrial sectors. Whether construction machinery manufacturers, stainless steel and precious metals processors or contract manufacturers with laser punching machines or specialists for flame, oxyfuel and plasma cutting – they all work with sheet metal on a daily basis and depend on having the flattest possible parts. In particular, contract manufacturers work with a range of products that is usually difficult to plan. The sheets that they process typically have highly varying characteristics. As a consequence, the leveler needs to be capable of handling both variable and very specific requirements. In order to remain both time and cost efficient despite all of the other demands, it is important to know the following five criteria when buying a sheet metal leveler:

1. Why level metal sheets?

Unleveled sheets can cause errors during downstream processes such as bending. This can increase the amount of rework and rejects. Preparing unleveled material for welding is also highly work intensive. When using welding robots, materials like these also have a negative impact on the process reliability and increasing welding times. This, in turn, results in higher process costs as well as increased thermal stress on the material. The immense heat creates internal stresses in the material and the entire welding assembly deforms. The consequence: rework, longer production times as well as inefficient workflows.

A leveler can prevent precisely these problems. Utilizing the mechanical process of roller leveling, the machine significantly reduces unevenness in the material. This procedure is especially suitable for quickly and effectively leveling sheets/parts as it doesn’t only reduce the unevenness but also the internal stresses in the parts through a process of bending and counter-bending. Your company can benefit greatly from automated leveling. Through standardized and automated processes, roller leveling guarantees consistently high quality and calculable results.

The most obvious reason for leveling is to fabricate flat metal sheets. Not only when the component itself requires it, but also because the people responsible for the downstream processes will thank you for it. For example, the welder or the person operating the press brake. In addition, most companies aim to utilize standardized and predictable processes to fabricate parts. As a consequence, they rely on the sheet metal working process running without any problems.

That is why the decisive factor when selecting a leveler consists of the processes that customers want to improve and what aim to achieve by leveling the sheet metal. Their planning defines the framework for the design of the leveler and determines which machine options make sense.

Welding is a good example. Practical experience has proven that using leveled sheets drastically reduces the assembly time of the welded assembly. In addition, the dimensions of the assembly are more accurate and there is no need for reworking. This is why leveled parts are indispensable for the efficiency of work processes. In view of this, the requirements of the welders or the welding robot should always be taken into consideration when selecting a leveler. This is the only way for a company to deliver the best possible results.

Free checklist.

Discover which 15 questions you need to answer to find the right leveler for your business.

Checklist: The right leveler for your project


2. What is the most important area of application?

To find the right leveler for sheet metal parts, four questions for the leveler supplier have to be answered:

  • Who are the main customers (including internal customers)?
  • Which spectrum of sheet metal parts is primarily processed?
  • How large does the machine have to be?
  • What criteria apply for the sheet metal?

When choosing the right leveler, it is important to clearly define which aspects the machine needs to cover. Does the machine only need to handle a small range of tasks yet perform these particularly well and efficiently? Or is it more important to flexibly handle a large range of the components and their requirements – even if you have to do without one or the other additional machine feature?

It is also important that the leveler used for sheet metal has certain properties. The standard on modern precision levelers includes the block design of the leveler, the correct roller layout and support along with the number and the diameter of the leveling rollers. The larger the diameter of the rollers, the larger the straightening range. Furthermore, small rollers and small spacing between the rollers is extremely important to meet the demanding flatness requirements. In addition, the leveling rollers themselves require very good support to ensure that the panel is continuously rolled and cannot slip between the individual rollers and buckle. Different machine designs are worth considering, depending on the sheet metal requirements. These include intermediate rollers to prevent possible impressions on the sheet metal. Other options may be important when leveling materials with sensitive surfaces or to avoid deformation of the part edges.

Tip: We recommend following the 80-20 rule and truly focusing on the main area of application or key criteria. Based on this foundation, you can then consider further possible applications.

But which leveler is the right one for your specific plans? You can easily find the solution by answering the following checklist questions.

3. Practice is better than theory?

Sheet metal has a vast spectrum of characteristics. You need to consider precisely these characteristics when selecting a leveler. Trials are a worthwhile and effective means of determining which sheet metal defects are easy to eliminate and which ones cause specific difficulties. This will give you a clearer idea of the leveling results and the benefits of leveling. Using your own parts quickly reveals exactly what is meant by flatness, “free of internal stresses”, sensitive surfaces or “delicate sheet metal edges”. Other questions are resolved just as quickly through leveling trials:

  • How do the leveled parts specifically affect the downstream processing?
  • Do I achieve measurable savings during bending or welding, for example?
  • How do I achieve the desired results?
  • How easy is the machine to operate?
  • Which aspects may I possibly have overlooked when considering the leveling?

Leveling trials may not be the first step but it is often the decisive step in the process of selecting a machine.

4. How will the leveler be integrated into other processes?

Efficient workflows arise out of the smooth interaction between all of the processes within a company. Therefore, when choosing your leveler, you should also consider the upstream and downstream steps. This is because handling the sheet metal (i.e. lifting, turning, conveying, removing, etc.) often takes more time than the actual leveling. As such, the range of parts, capacity utilization or the layout of the production process combined determine the best way to embed the machine into the diverse processes – whether linked or stand-alone, whether the parts are fed by robot, lifting devices or only by hand.

Automation and robotics now enable more efficient work even with smaller quantities. State-of-the-art levelers can accelerate the leveling process through networking and can also reduce part costs and help to create more effective processes from the ground up. For example, robot-supported levelers provide laser or flame, oxyfuel and plasma cutting companies which also require maximum flexibility with decisive advantages: New robot solutions utilizing vision technology can independently identify parts. This reduces the necessary batch sizes for which automation is worthwhile.

5. Easy operation.

When choosing the leveler, always pay close attention to user-friendliness. Also with regard to maintenance, for example. A quick-change system for leveling rollers and support rollers significantly enhances and accelerates cleaning.

If you select your machine based around information in this blog article (1-4), then you have already consciously or subconsciously considered a number of points that will also assist with easy machine operation. A block feed, hydraulic gap control or good machine support are all factors that ensure user-friendly machines. With block feeding, for example, the machine operator only has to configure two settings. This reduces the work and effort involved in learning to operate the machine to a minimum.

One further example of the operator’s confidence in the machine is when the leveler is optimally protected against damage. Hydraulics represents the most reliable approach for levelers. If operators know that they can operate the machine to the limit without any concerns, they can be able to obtain the best results with the machine.

Today, an intuitive human-machine interface is a must-have. Modern control systems feature integrated operating aids, tool storage, barcode scanner and maintenance schedules. In many cases, an integrated auto-suggestion system for the machine settings enables autonomous leveling using robots.

Training is another criterion that should not be neglected when choosing the right leveler. Well-trained operators quickly prove their worth through greater process reliability. That is why a competent manufacturer should also offer training and seminars as part of its on-site support. In general, it is important that the machine supplier offers support and assistance throughout the entire life cycle of a new system, including production support. Fast, reliable service is crucial in manufacturing industries as it ensures maximum availability. That is why you should check whether a 24-hour service is offered and includes on-site support for machine repairs, spare parts or maintenance.


Free Checklist.

Discover which 15 questions you need to answer to find the right leveler for your business.

Checklist: The right leveler for your project


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