Monday, October 27, 2014

Overcome Solar Component Commoditization

In years past, roll formers enjoyed a boom of business thanks to the solar industry. As a new and emerging industry, solar panel manufacturers looked to metal fabricators for expertise in producing solar mounting and racking components.

But the once-blank slate now is filled up with standard hot-rolled shapes, cold-rolled basic angles and channels, and tube. The racking and ground pilings space has become commoditized. Combine this with a massive consolidation of players, and the solar market is feeling a bit crowded with little room for future growth.

In spite of a seemingly glass ceiling, now is the time for custom roll formers to make their play.
 Photo Credit: USDA via Flickr

What Custom Roll Forming Can Bring to the Table

Historically, custom roll formed shapes were a difficult sell in the solar market, due to their perception as high-cost components.  The word “custom” was seen as a euphemism for costly and unnecessary. As a result, shapes reliant on standard tooling  or hot-rolled processing were heavily favored.

Now, thanks to roll forming’s sturdy footing in solar, these businesses have an opportunity to sell both the flexibility and cost efficiencies of custom shapes.

When done well, a custom shape can be used in a handful of applications in a solar installation and represent real value.  Broader utilization furthers the economies of scale achieved through roll forming. Custom shapes contribute to product differentiation and improve ease of installation, increasing value to the market and allowing project owners to realize lower total cost of installation. 

This information, paired with roll forming’s natural benefits of in-line processing and automation, makes a compelling case for custom roll formed shapes. That said, roll formers must be able to supply in-house design capabilities and roll forming engineering expertise in order to sell this approach effectively.

The Future of Solar is in Value Added

As solar panel prices decrease, solar panel and mounting manufacturers must find new ways to stay competitive. One of the key challenges of the solar industry is reaching parity with nonrenewable energy technologies.  Lowering the true cost per kilowatt-hour for an installation by any and all means is required to achieve the desired cost levels.  Roll formers looking to continue their success in the solar market must adopt value-added services—namely, creative custom shape design expertise—to reclaim dollars lost to commoditization. 

Guest blog post authored by Randy Myers, Sr. Technical Director of Product Development at American Roll Form Products. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Markets Served by Custom Roll Formers

Custom Roll Forming

Roll forming plus design and engineering services. When you consult a Custom Roll Former early in the planning stages he can assist in designing and redesigning parts in a way that will trim costs and simplify production and assembly. For example, during the early planning stages it may be possible to combine several assemblies into a one-unit piece.
The Custom Roll Former can deliver finished shapes, cut to exact length, ready for assembly.
Sample Markets Served by Custom Roll Formers:
  • Aerospace
  • Appliance/ Housewares
  • Agricultural Implements
  • Architecture
  • Automotive
  • Construction:
    • Residential
    • Commercial
    • RV & Mobile Home
    • Displays/Fixtures
    • Electronic Cabinetry
  • Energy Conservation
  • Furniture
  • Hardware
  • Highway Products
  • Material Handling
  • Recreational Equipment
  • Transportation:
    • Auto
    • Truck/Bus
    • Train/Rapid Transit
    • Aircraft
For more information about custom roll forming, click here

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Case Study: Roll Formed Ladders Deliver Big Results

You’ve seen them in stores. And you’ve watched their infomercials. Yes, Customer Y’s adjustable ladder brand has been a household name for more than 30 years. Company Y’s ladders are now one of America’s best-selling ladders thanks to their safety, stability, and versatility.

A great ladder needed to reinvent itself

Although Company Y’s ladders have been a favorite for three decades, they did have a few issues.
  • First, because its designers gave it the most-robust performance characteristics possible, the ladder was simply too heavy for some customers.
  • Second, the last of the patents protecting their standard multi-use ladders expired in the early 2000s. Soon thereafter, the market was flooded with cheap imitations from both the United States and outside the country.
Goal 1: Lighten Up: Company Y’s first goal was to cut the ladder’s weight by a full 20 percent, yet still maintain the strength and quality that their ladders are known for.
Goal: Step it Up:  Company Y also needed another breakthrough – they needed to redeign their ladder so that it was so unique it couldn’t be knocked off easily and would provide as much protection as possible from competitors.

Custom roll former helps create new “Revolution”

Company Y knew that their new ladder would be vastly different – so they named it “Revolution.” With the name in place, the company now needed a partner that knew their industry and could provide the technology needed to develop this new state-of-the-art product.
“We turned to our roll forming partner as one of the companies we felt could work best with our company,” said Company Y’s Director of Engineering. “They committed the time and resources necessary to work through the project from top to bottom — interacting with our engineers to develop solutions that met our objectives. First, they researched different materials and came up with a special aluminum alloy that had mechanical strength properties that were 25 percent higher than the extrusion grade used on our existing ladders. This allowed for a 25 percent reduction in ladder rail weight.”
“Even better, the roll former negotiated with the aluminum producer to get us exclusive rights to this one-of-a-kind special alloy.  That meant no other ladder producer in the world could ever use this material in the ladder industry. With that, Company Y was well on its way to having a lighter-weight product that could not be duplicated.”

Now to redesign the ladder rails

With the new alloy identified, it was time to redesign the rail sections.  The roll former’s engineering team worked with Company Y’s engineering department to configure a roll-formed shape that would add strength in needed areas. “Designing alongside the roll former’s team made it easier to develop a shape that worked well with the roll-forming process” added Company Y’s Director of Engineering. “Anytime we had an issue or question, the roll former was quick to respond, even if it meant flying their engineers out to our facility. They also made at least 10 different sets of samples during product development so we could do actual product testing and ensure the new design worked.”

Mission accomplished

The roll former took the next step and helped Company Y transition other parts of the ladder to the new aluminum alloy. “They helped us brainstorm in several other areas – the hinge sections, for example — to reduce weight and increase strength using the alloy.  This cut considerable weight from the product, giving us weight savings we hadn’t counted on.
“The Revolution is here – and our roll forming partner was instrumental in getting us there. They are honest, straightforward, capable people. I would highly recommend them and the roll forming process to anyone looking for help in developing or redesigning a product.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

What is Custom Roll Forming?

Roll Forming is a continuous process in which a strip of metal, usually in coil form, is passed through a series of roller dies and progressively shaped to the desired contour. It eliminates multiple stage production, finishing or sub-assembly operations. Secondary operations such as: notching, punching, tabbing, perforating, edge rolling, bending, deburring, embossing, and mechanical finishing can be combined continuously with the roll forming operation to speed production and reduce assembly costs. By its very nature, roll forming is a process which permits consistent adherence to close tolerances, working in both heavy and lightweight materials. Roll formed shapes can be economically produced from an almost limitless variety of stock that has been preprocessed: painted, vinyl coated, oiled, anodized, embossed, or mechanically surface treated. Practically all metals can be successfully roll formed.

Competitive processes

Extrusion, hot rolling.

Parts produced

HVAC and construction industries are big consumers of rollformed products. These include ductwork as well as doors and wall panels. Rollformed products also find great use on roadways as sign posts and guardrails. Other products include shelving, airframe parts, window and door frames, raceways and troughs, telescoping bleacher seating, electronic enclosures, drawer slides and various types of rails.


Should your needs fall to parts with uniform cross-sections, rollforming can make them in high volumes, cutting the parts to the length needed. In-line processes to punch, notch and perform other functions help reduce cost and lead time. Generally, rollformed parts offer a strength advantage over competing processes in structural-rigidity applications.


Sizes of parts produced are limited only by shipping and handling concerns. The process typically runs at speeds from about 5 to more than 600 ft./min., depending upon part complexity and use of in-line non-rollforming operations. The type of material worked also affects process speed.


Any material that can be cold-formed from sheet is a candidate for rollforming.

Should I use it?

The process will yield high volumes of parts, to any length desired. Use it for parts with similar cross-sections throughout. Also, the process is not limited to straight parts—it can sweep material into a continuous radius or a circular ring. Rollforming allows the formation of two different materials simultaneously to produce a clad shape in one operation. Note: Product design is limited to material of constant thickness, and the process does not provide the ability to strengthen bends with fillets.
Article also available on the Custom Roll Forming Institute website. 


Developing Apprenticeship Programs

WorkingSolutions designs and develops effective and structured apprenticeship programs based on three approach options:
  • The traditional time-based approach – Requiring minimum of 2000 hours of on-the-job training and related technical (knowledge-based) instruction
  • The newly approved competency- based approach – Requiring the apprentice to demonstrate competency by successfully completing required on-the-job learning and related technical (knowledge-based) instruction without regard to time (Federal Register, Dept. of Labor/ETA, 29 CFR, Part 29.5)
  • Or new “hybrid” approaches – Requiring the apprentice to successfully complete an established minimum of on-the-job learning and related or blended technical instruction hours to demonstrate competency in defined skill, trade or subject areas (Federal Register, Dept. of Labor/ETA, 29 CFR, Part 29.5)
“You can’t make a good part with a bad print” – That also applies when developing training, assessment and apprenticeship programs.  It’s all in the “design!”  Using proven models, techniques and methods, WorkingSolutions can assist you in designing, creating, developing and implementing an effective apprentice program (registered or not registered) to meet your needs and the needs of the apprentice.
Using job/skill analysis techniques, skill-based learning progressions, structured on-the-job training methods, valid competency assessments and/or credentials, skill standards and portfolios, and related knowledge & technical instruction, WorkingSolutions will design your program and weave related technical instruction (coursework), assessments and/or interim credentials into the fabric of your on-job, skill-based learning progression.  Related instruction can include traditional partnerships with an education institution and/or (as recently approved by the Department of Labor) electronic media such as on-line courses, CD/DVD media, distance learning or virtual class work.
Our systematic approach and development strategies provide a valid, defensible and ISO/TS compliant learning and doing program that creates more flexibility for apprentices and employers.  In addition, our program development design provides for increased and innovative choices and options to meet the needs of industries that have traditionally used Registered Apprenticeship programs, as well as connecting with the workforce demands of new and emerging industries.
For more information, contact Bruce Broman at 216-901-8800 or
Article also available on the Custom Roll Forming Institute website. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Roll Forming: Post-Cut or Pre-Cut? Advantages and Disadvantages

When roll forming producers make serious decisions about new roll form products, it is critical to consider the best mill configuration to produce the desired product. Factors to consider include when to make the cut-off and choosing between roll forming pre-cut material or post-cutting the material. With pre-cut material, the strip is cut before entering the roll forming mill, whereas with post-cut material, the strip is cut after the product is shaped through the roll forming mill. Review these advantages and disadvantages to each choice to determine the best option for your roll forming application:

Advantages of a post-cut roll form line:
  • Increased production and less downtime, since material feeds continuously through the roll former
  • Typically, fewer forming stations are required, since there is no need for the material to self-thread
  • After a new coil is threaded, the leading edge of the profile does not get deformed
  • Tooling tends to wear longer between reconditioning, yielding more linear footage
  • End flare, twist, camber and bow defects are easier to control
  • Minor mill adjustments are possible with continuously fed material under load in the roll former
  • Part lengths are not limited by mill specs (i.e. horizontal centers); if floor space is an issue, the parts can be run directly to the outside of the building
Disadvantages of a post-cut roll form line:
  • Edge condition from the cut-off die can leave a slight burr and/or distortion with hemmed parts or non-supported areas of a cross-section
  • More cut-off die inserts are required, when there are many sizes or combinations for a given product
  • Sometimes it is better to form a pre-cut strip, when there is a severely notched feature in the product
  • When pre-notching is needed, the mill system requires additional capital to add the cut-off press to the system
Advantages of a pre-cut roll form line:
  • Generally, it is less expensive to use an existing electronic feed system already used in the pre-shear, as opposed to adding a second post-cut press at the end of the mill
  • Hand feeding strips is more economical for low-volume production
  • Some notch configurations make it easier to run pre-cut strips
  • Combination roll tooling that forms multiple strip widths does not require shear die changeover
  • Parts with severe notches or complex cross-sections may not cut well after roll forming
Disadvantages of a pre-cut roll form line:
  • Strips must self-thread without damage to the lead edges, normally requiring additional forming stations
  • Lead and trail ends of pre-cut strips are not supported against adjacent roll passes, resulting in straightening issues

Article also available on the Custom Roll Forming Institute website

Monday, March 3, 2014

Welcome to the CRFI Blog!

We are passionate about roll forming and we are excited to use this portal to share with you the latest trends, technology and news about our metalforming process!

Roll forming is a continuous process in which a strip of metal, usually in coil form, passes through a series of roller dies and progressively shaped to the desired contour. This process eliminates multiple-stage production, finishing and/or subassembly operations. Secondary operations such as notching, punching, tabbing, perforating, edge rolling, bending, deburring, embossing and mechanical finishing can be combined continuously with the roll forming operation to quicken production and reduce assembly costs. By its very nature, the roll forming process permits consistent adherence to close tolerances, working in heavy and lightweight materials. 

Roll forming is a cost-effective and efficient metalforming process to consider to produce the metal component parts and assemblies your company needs!  For additional information on our initiative to grow awareness for this process and support roll forming companies in the industry, visit