UK bicycle component manufacturer Hope Technology has replaced the CO2 laser on its shop floor with a Bystronic fibre laser in order to minimise downtime and meet high volume production.
The new fibre laser is used to cut brake discs and sprockets. (Credit: Bystronic UK)
The previously installed BySprint CO2 laser cutting machine from Bystronic UK struggled to keep up with the around the clock production taking place at the company’s factory in Barnoldswick, Lancashire. Hope Technolgy’s works and production manager Lindley Pate therefore made the choice to switch to a 4kW BySprint Fiber 3015 machine.
‘The Bystronic fibre laser has become an essential tool at the start of the production routes for brake discs and sprockets,’ Pate commented. ‘There has been minimal downtime since the machine was installed, which is essential as we only operate one laser, so it has to be reliable as otherwise production would stop.’
Hope technology mainly uses the new laser to cut brake disc blanks from 410-grade stainless steel sheets. The discs are either one-piece varieties or two-piece assemblies requiring an outer band of the same material and a floating centre of 2014-grade aluminium, which is also cut using the fibre laser. Additionally, sprocket blanks from 7075-grade aluminium are produced, as well as bike maintenance tools, merchandise such as bottle openers and keyrings, and parts for display stands and trophies.
‘We use relatively thin materials, such as 2mm stainless steel for brake discs and up to 6mm aluminium for some sprockets,’ Pate said. ‘For thinner gauges, compared with an equivalent CO2 source, the fibre laser produces components three times faster. It has made a fantastic difference in helping us to meet the sheer volume of orders.’
The new 4kW BySprint Fiber 3015 machine has reduced the downtime and increased the throughput of the company's factory. (Credit: Bystronic UK)
The machine is equally capable of handling much thicker material, according to the company, which often processes 12mm thick aluminium tooling plates to produce fixtures for other machines on the shop floor.
A further advantage of fibre laser cutting, Pate continued, is the high quality of cut that can be achieved with it using only nitrogen as a cutting gas. ‘The as-machined edges on stainless steel appear polished, so brake discs for example need no edge finishing, they go straight to on-site heat treatment.’ he said. ‘This is in contrast to production on the previous CO2 machine, which left a residue even when nitrogen was used. Oxygen as the cutting gas is not used at all here to avoid the problems associated with oxidation of the cut metal edges.’
Pate added that other factors in favour of fibre laser cutting over CO2 are more consistent accuracy, less machine maintenance and more economical running costs, both in terms of the amount of electricity used and the lower requirement for cutting gases.