V GROOVING ARCHITECTURAL PANELS
By Rob Wissing
As architectural construction expands into new markets, this new technology promises to increase panel precision and quality, reduce costs, speed up delivery and improve the profitability of job shops competing for the work.
Fabricating high performance metal wall and architectural panel systems for the construction of commercial building enclosures involves the processing of insulated and non-insulated metal composite wall panel systems that provide advanced thermal and moisture protection while meeting aesthetic needs.
A complete envelope of architectural panels for a building can include everything from custom glass storefronts and curtain walls to commercial windows and doors, entryways, skylights and security glazing.
Curtain walls are often made of an aluminum composite that has aluminum skins laminated over an insulating plastic core. Ceilings are made using the same curtain wall procedures to create a unique decorative appearance.
In both of these designs, architects use V grooves on the wall or ceiling panels to achieve sharp corners on each panel so that, when assembled on the building, the surface appears to be seamless.
The architects want the installed shapes to appear as if they were solid rolled bars or extrusions. To accomplish this effect, a V groove is machined on the inside of each bend line from the panel edge. Each panel is formed in the shape of a pan having four to eight of these grooves.
When the metal is bent along these lines sharp corners are achieved. The sharp corner is required to achieve that distinctive, high quality look and precision fit. This same V grooved panel technique is also now a common sight in elevator entries.
The machinery used to make V grooves have evolved over time. The original V Groover was created to enable sheet metal to be formed with sharp outside corner on the bend.
The early versions of V Groovers had a limited capacity and most were capable of only three or four mm thickness. Because the designs back then were focused on visual appeal and not related to structural strengths, these early machines were used most frequently to groove thin decorative stainless steel.
But times have changed. As the competitive demands of architectural designers continue to increase, those older machines continue to offer limited capacity and performance.
As an alternative, some companies use V Groovers that are actually modified planers. Others use equipment that is similar to routers, while some V grooving is performed on milling machines.
However, one machine tool builder has embarked on a 5-year product development mission to advance V grooving technology so that it can competitively meet increasing architectural demands. New V Groovers from Hydrapower International (Marco Island, FL) can accommodate sheets up to ½ in thick and 20 ft long.
In fact, the performance of these machines has almost obsoleted the process name because they make a large range of grooves other than Vs. They could be more aptly called Groovers.
The new V Groover can finish a 10 ft x 0.045 in deep groove in 16 ga stainless steel in about five seconds. A complete panel with four grooves at 10 ft long can now be processed in a cycle time of about one minute.
The control software activates a “pause” function that automatically brings the sheet to the front of the work envelope where the clamps will release so the operator can turn it 90 deg to run grooves in the perpendicular direction. This feature is also used when a sheet is grooved on both sides.
This V Groover is essentially an NC machine tool for fabricators, which means an operator must be knowledgeable with machining operations as well as forming processes.
For example, they must know how to grind cutting tools to suit custom grooving operations. Some grooves can be square, such as a keyway. Others may be semicircles and the V angles can be whatever the design calls for.
They must also know the best cutting speed settings for a certain material with a specific tool profile. The tool holder has cavities for several tools that can be used in various combinations or just a single tool, depending on the application. Grooving composite panels of aluminum and plastic requires cutting tools with specific profiles and geometry suited for both materials.
As architectural construction expands into new markets, graphic artists/designers are becoming more creative in their applications: Stores in shopping malls now have displays, racks, entrances and escalators that all use V grooved components.
So does restaurant furniture and kitchen equipment. Cruise ships and mega yachts use stainless steel stair components and bright work that is often V grooved. Even the displays in the NASCAR Hall of Fame are all V grooved.
In all of these applications, a new V Groover can increase panel precision and quality, reduce costs, speed up delivery and improve the profitability of job shops competing for this work.
About the Author: Rob Wissing is the president of Hydrapower International, 950 North Collier Boulevard, Marco Island, FL 34145, 239-642-5379, Fax: 239-642-4032, email@example.com, hydrapower-intl.com.