Birmingham factory gains five times productivity increase with fibre laser

A factory in Birmingham, UK has increased productivity and reduced costs by installing a 3kW fibre laser cutting machine to take over from a CO2 laser system.

The Witton, Birmingham factory of Wheeler Fabrications was able to cut 125 units from 1.5mm and 3mm stainless steel for oil rig safety lights in six hours with the new fibre laser, a job that would have taken four days on the previous CO2 system, according to Mark Ashford, the company’s production manager.

Ashford said: ‘Eighty per cent of our work here involves sheet between 1mm and 3mm thick, which is ideal for extracting maximum benefit from fibre laser cutting.’

The laser is a 3kW Bystronic BySprint Fiber 3015, which Ashford said is ‘five times faster at profiling components than the machine that it replaced’.

‘It is also significantly less expensive to run,’ he added, ‘as it pulls less power and does not require costly servicing of optics. Neither do we have to buy bottles of helium or CO2 resonator gas any more.’

The machine can cut reflective materials including copper, brass, aluminium and stainless steel, as there are no optics to become damaged.

Since the fibre laser cutting machine was installed, the subcontractor has won new business, including a 1.5 metre long, 6mm thick brass grille for Birmingham Repertory Theatre, a job that would have been impossible on the CO2 laser.

Another recently completed contract that would previously have been uneconomical due to the slowness of the old laser machine was the production of 1,200 electrical cabinets from 1.2mm thick Zintec in three variants for the construction industry.

Established 35 years ago by owner Bryan Wheeler as a factory maintenance firm serving large companies in the area such as Dunlop and Smith and Nephew, Wheeler Fabrications gradually moved into sheet metal working. Towards the end of the 1990s, the company installed a turret punch press that is still in operation and an Edwards Pearson press brake (now part of Bystronic). A move from a nearby unit into its present premises in 2013 trebled the floor area available for production and provided additional space for installation of the Bysprint Fiber 3015.

Today, the highly skilled team at the company provides a broad range of industries with design consultancy followed by comprehensive metal cutting, folding and fabrication services, from prototyping through low volume runs to production quantities. The petrochemical, defence, automotive, food, hygiene, shopfitting, lighting and furniture sectors are among those served. Four-fifths of sheet metal output is folded.

The machine was supplied with a ByLoader 3015 for loading sheets onto the shuttle table. The subcontractor often produces 15 jobs from 15 different materials in a day, so efficient handling is important.

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