With more than three decades of experience in cutting, forming, welding and assembly of sheet metal components, supported by a modern enterprise resource planning system, Stoke-on-Trent subcontractor Grenville Engineering installed its first fibre laser cutting centre in November 2016, a 3 kW BySprint Fiber 3015 from Bystronic UK.
The 3 metre x 1.5 metre sheet capacity machine replaced an old CO2 laser facility from another supplier, leaving two 3.2 kW CO2 machines on site capable of cutting up to 20 mm thick mild steel. On thin materials, the fibre laser machine cuts two to three times faster and so is much more productive. It has the added advantage of superior performance when processing reflective materials.
Grenville can cut aluminium sheet to a maximum of 8 mm on its CO2 machines but 50 per cent thicker using fibre technology of similar power. Additionally, the latter can cut copper and its alloys, such as brass and bronze, whereas a CO2 machine is unable to tackle these materials due to back reflections damaging the optics. Grenville was therefore either turning this work away or putting it on less efficient turret punch presses.
Operations Director of the Stoke-on-Trent fabricator, Dali Dong commented, ‘In manufacturing, you have to keep moving with the times and in terms of laser cutting, that means changing over to fibre.
‘We will eventually replace our two remaining CO2 machines with fibre equivalents of higher power to enable us to cut thicker materials efficiently and accurately.
‘The big advantage with fibre laser cutting, apart from the speed when processing thinner materials, is its lower running costs. Electricity consumption is significantly less and no expensive laser assist gases are needed.’
Before making its latest investment, the management team at Grenville, which includes Purchasing Director Grant Barratt and Sales Director Stuart Rawlinson, along with the joint Managing Directors Mark Barratt and Tony Fryer, undertook an exhaustive appraisal of fibre laser machines on the market. Two were shortlisted, from the incumbent supplier and from Bystronic, and the latter as selected as it offered the best all-round package.
Grant Barrett also cited the supplier’s good service record, as Grenville has used Bystronic press brakes for many years and the after-sales back-up has been exemplary. There are currently six press brakes on site, including a Bystronic Xpert 150-tonne / 3-metre model and an Xpert 40-tonne machine installed in December 2016. The latter is the smallest press brake in the Swiss manufacturer’s company’s range and the fastest for processing work up to one metre long.
After the CO2 machine had been taken out and the fibre laser cutting machine installed, it quickly cleared the small backlog of work that had built up. Stainless steel shims for the yellow goods sector were cut from 0.5 mm sheet at many times the speed previously possible, while at the other end of the thickness spectrum, 15 mm mild steel was cut efficiently.
Summing up the fabricator’s business plan and the role fibre laser cutting will play, Stuart Rawlinson said, ‘The aim is to increase our current £4 million turnover by 50 per cent over the next three years.
‘We will continue offering a complete design and fabrication solution to a broad industry base, the rail sector being a particular target.
‘We regard a shift from CO2 to fibre laser cutting as central to achieving this goal, both for producing larger runs up to 5,000 but also our more typical batch sizes of 20 to 50-off.’