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12kW cutting system exceeds expectations of UK machining firm

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A flat-bed laser profiling centre equipped with a 12kW fibre laser has exceeded the expectations of a UK contract machining firm after being installed earlier this year.

Yorkshire-based ESP Laser Cutting, which specialises in producing components from 3 x 1.5m sheets in wide array of materials at thicknesses up to 30mm, experienced a typical cutting speed increase of one third after taking delivery of a ByStar Fiber 3015 machine from Bystronic in April.

Left: Parts cut on the 12 kW ByStar Fiber at ESP being removed from the sheet. (Image: Bystronic)

This is more than the one-fifth increase in productivity expected from the additional 20 per cent of power offered by the new system over ESP’s next most powerful machine – a 10kW ByStar Fiber system.

According to Bystronic, in addition to the higher power, the increased efficiency can also be attributed to the provision of a newly designed cutting head, as well as a cutting plan algorithm running in Bystronic's latest BySoft 7 nesting and control software, which executes the most efficient route around the nest. The software also minimises the risk of cut parts tilting, protruding from the material surface and interfering with the nozzle, which avoids the need to use micro joints, saving even more time when the sheet exits the machine by making shaking-out of the parts easier.

The working area of the new 12kW ByStar Fiber system. (Image: Bystronic)

For one particular job, the profiling of chain links from a 10mm mild steel sheet, an exceptional three-fold increase in productivity was even achieved using the new machine. When previously profiling the parts on its 10kW ByStar Fiber, ESP was able to output 200 components per hour. For that machine however, as there was not sufficient laser power to employ nitrogen as the assist gas, oxygen had to be used, which required the cutting speed to then be reduced so that acceptable edge quality could be achieved.

Related article: Key aspects to consider when buying a new cutting machine for a job shop

By contrast, the new 12kW machine is able to produce 600 parts per hour, as the higher power allows the use of nitrogen and hence full profiling speed. In addition, as nitrogen does not react with the sheet material – unlike oxygen – the quality of the cutting edge is better, especially on the underside of the sheet.

Powering up through the years

Founded 25 years ago, ESP originally performed cutting using a 1.2kW CO2 laser, with the firm purchasing a second 1.5kW model four years later. Since then it has repeatedly part-exchanged its two machines, buying a total of 10, the last eight of which were from Bystronic, and the last three of which have been fibre lasers.

The 12 kW ByStar Fiber started operation at ESP in April 2019. (Image: Bystronic)

‘We noticed a hike in productivity when the 6kW fibre arrived in 2013 and another when the 10kW version was installed three years later, which at the time was the first in the UK,’ said Steve McMillan, one of the owners of ESP. ‘However, the 12kW laser cutter is the best machine ever. It is unbelievably quick, so you can make money even on jobs where you have to pare back prices to win work - and you can guarantee short delivery lead-times as well.’

Paul Short, the other owner of ESP, added: ‘Every increase in power delivers a cleaner cut edge, especially on mild steel which forms the majority of our throughput. In addition, when cutting heavier gauge materials on the 12kW machine, the BeamShaper functionality in BySoft 7 optimises the shape of the laser beam,  producing a finish that is second to none on materials above 15mm thick.'

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