Project Scope Fin Former Machine

The customer had previously worked with the experts at Steven Douglas Corp. (SDC) to design and build an automated fin former machine to produce a product that was previously purchased from a supplier. The machine made a pleated metal construction with convolutions interlacing with the ones formed in adjacent pleats.

Being able to make their own product has allowed the customer to save capital and invest in process development. As such, the customer returned to SDC to build an additional machine with upgraded capabilities. The upgrades included increasing machine speed, reducing tool change over, universal material guiding, adjustable infeed guide, and other system improvements to reduce operator workload.


SDC designed and built an automated machine that pulls in metal foil from an industrial despoiler, pushes it past the top and bottom oiling pads and into a die where it is formed. The material is then marked for downstream cutting, pulled and shaped by a metal knife pleater, and finally stuffed into an accumulating tunnel to compress the pleats.

For post machine operations, an operator cuts the material at paint marks, which yields a full-length product, as well as smaller sections for inspection. This helps reduce the operator’s workload, as the operator does not need to count the nodes manually.

To increase the machine’s speed, a servo-driven ball screw was used to replace the air-over-oil cylinder. Previously, this cylinder proved to be a bottleneck when pushing the machine to its limits. The ball screw can open and close the die faster and has continuous position feedback, providing a huge advantage over the cylinder.

Limited contact material guiding was also designed to push the foil-like material through the machine for forming. The limited contact guiding only contacts the material along the centerline, allowing for material imperfections the along edges. This helps mitigate the chance of jams and reduces the number of change tools between different materials.

To further reduce change over time and the number of change tools, SDC also created a manually adjustable, lockable material centering guide using left-right ball screw-driven centering rollers. This allows the operator to thread the machine with foils of different widths while holding the material at the centerline of the machine. These rollers are used to contact the material, which increases the life of the contact surfaces on the guide.

Machine Rate: Up to 60 cycles per minute

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