30 million tube bends - and still working day and night!

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A tube-bending cell based on a Unison all-electric machine has just fabricated its five millionth part at Olicana Products Ltd. As each part has six bends, the Unison machine has made over 30 million bends since installation in 2004! The cell makes one tubular frame complete with fixing holes every 11 seconds.

Based near Leeds, Olicana Products specialises in tubular parts for mid to high-volume applications, and works for clients predominantly in the furniture and bathroom sectors, as well as the high-volume automotive sector through its new manufacturing arm Autotubetech LLP.

The Unison tube-bending machine and cell has needed only routine maintenance since its installation. It has operated for 9 years – producing parts typically on a two-shift schedule – during the day, and overnight on an unmanned ‘lights-out’ shift. All that is required for production to continue overnight is for the input hopper to be filled before staff leave. In the morning, up to 2000 finished parts are stacked and ready for shipping.

Rupert Pearson, Managing Director of Olicana Products Ltd says: “We try to develop long-term supply relationships with clients, and are happy to invest in automation to ensure that we deliver a superior service. In this case the cell allows us to make large quantities economically, but also to respond flexibly and quickly to changes in demand, and to re- program easily to put new parts into production rapidly.”

Unison’s MD Alan Pickering adds: “Durability and reliability are central elements of Unison’s design philosophy, and the incredible volumes that this cell has produced really demonstrate these attributes. The application also highlights the solutions-oriented aspect of Unison’s service. This completely custom cell allowed Olicana to make a step-change increase in its productivity, which is something we strive to achieve with every new application.”

The cell consists of an input hopper and loader arm, Unison’s five-axis bender, a custom all-electric punch/press developed by Unison, and a robot arm. The articulated arm manages movements within the cell. The hopper loads a tube into the bender. After bending the robot transfers it to the press/punch, and then takes the completed part away, while the next one is operated on. The finished part is then hung on a rail, ready for shipping.

Olicana’s cell makes several different products for the same application. To ensure that a bad batch cannot be manufactured – due to an inadvertent human error of loading the wrong program or the wrong tube length – Unison’s design team employed the Japanese principle of ‘poka yoke’ to guard against errors. Photocell sensors detect tube length. If the length is incompatible with the bending program, an alarm is raised and production stopped.

Olicana runs several Unison all-electric tube bending machines. It has a second production cell designed by Unison which has been operating since 2009, and which has also fabricated a very large number of multi-bend parts.

Unison has numerous customers that fabricate parts in very high volumes. Another UK client’s machine recently produced its 10 millionth part, fabricating components that typically have two bends – reaching a total of some 20 million bends!

A video of the tube-bending cell in action can be seen at:, and further information can be found at

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