Oxygen shortage hits laser cutting units in Aurangabad, India

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Oxygen is a key component used in laser cutting. (Image: Bystronic)

Laser cutting businesses in Aurangabad, India are being hit with a shortage of oxygen due to it being needed to fight the pandemic, news firm PTI has reported.

Oxygen is a key component used in laser cutting, however the government is currently diverting oxygen production towards medical use.

While some oxygen can therefore be delivered to companies helping produce medical equipment such as compressors, the amount of oxygen they are permitted to use has been lowered, leading to reduced operation times. 

The work that can be done by the laser cutting industry in the city has therefore been limited, which in turn has led to a need to reduce manpower, industry owners told PTI.

Pratik Patil, who owns a laser cutting unit in the Waluj industrial area of Aurangabad, said that his unit is now only able to operate its oxygen-based laser-cutting facility for eight hours, whereas previously it would have been able to run round the clock.

‘I am manufacturing medical equipment,’ he said. ‘Earlier we had 75 workers with us and today we have only 32. No other gas can replace oxygen. We tried to do cutting with other gases but that led to rejection of orders from our vendors who export their parts.

‘For medical equipment manufacturing, earlier I used to get 14 cylinders in a day. But now we can hardly get 2-4 cylinders in ten days with due permission from the FDA. As a step to control the probable damage henceforth, we have started to install our [own] oxygen production unit. This will be of 450 cubic metre capacity and our need is around 150. If the government demands, we will be able to serve people too.’

Dushyant Athawale, another unit owner from Wadgaon Kolhati village, expressed fear of loss of business due to the lack of industrial oxygen available.

‘I have three cutting machines of which two are not in operation,’ he said. ‘I had a manpower of 30 earlier, now I am working with only six. We used oxygen at a pressure of 6-8 bar earlier and could cut thick sheets. Now we are using high pressure air cutting at 18-22 bar pressure but still we can't cut thick metal sheets.’

‘The fear is, if our vendor finds an alternative for us now, it will be a permanent loss of business, which is also a loss of our region.’ he added.

When PTI contacted Abhay Hanchnal, the president of the Marathwada Association for Small Scale Industries and Agriculture, he said that the situation is critical for industry, with the lack of oxygen having hampered production, and the cost of production having also gone up.

‘Wait and watch is our policy now,’ he remarked. ‘I think that the government policies for expanding oxygen facilities will balance the supply of oxygen for medical as well as industrial use.’

Has the pandemic affected your ability to deliver industrial laser cutting services? Let us know your story at editor.lasersystems@europascience.com

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