Fabricating moves full speed ahead with laser cutting

April 10--PROfab recently added a Bystronic Byspeed 4400-watt high-speed laser to its metal cutting/forming operation. The new Swiss-made laser is the only one of its kind in Michigan and is reportedly the fastest commercial cutting laser available in the world for the sheet metal industry, company officials said.

The high-speed laser cost $750,000, and PROfab officials said it was a worthwhile investment.

"Time is efficiency and efficiency is competitiveness," said Mark Hoofman, president. "This allows us to compete by using the latest and greatest technology available."

PROfab had five lasers before acquiring the new high-speed laser. The new laser is capable of cutting 1-inch-thick cold rolled steel and can pierce 600 holes per minute. PROfab has more lasers than any other job shop in West Michigan, Hoofman said.

"We got into the laser cutting business when lasers were brand new 20 years ago," Hoofman said. "The newer technology has allowed for growth."

No tooling is involved with lasers, according to Hoofman. A print is delivered to the company, and loading and cutting can be done in less than an hour, he added.

"(The Bystronic high-speed laser) is such a leap ahead of other machines," Hoofman said. "All of the operators want to run it."

PROfab supplies a variety of components to furniture, appliance, aerospace, trucking, and automotive industries. About three-fourths of the company's business is in West Michigan, with the remainder out of the area and out of state, Hoofman said.

In addition to quality laser cutting, PROfab provides material processing of metals and other materials, including plastics, plexiglass, rubber, and wood. On-site capabilities include riveting, bending, sawing, milling, assembly, welding, drilling, and tapping.

PROfab has been at its current location on Creston Street for 20 years. The 40,000 square-foot facility employs 30.

PROfab is part of a group of companies owned by Bauer Sheet Metal Inc., Hoofman said. Founded in 1932, Bauer Sheet Metal specializes in a variety of custom metal structures for industrial/commercial applications.

Bauer recently acquired Heights Sheet Metal Inc. Both companies have been key suppliers in local industries for many years in the field of sheet metal fabrication. Bauer also has a location in Scottvile.

One of Bauer Sheet Metal's more visible projects is a one-fourth scale model of a Blue Angels FA-18 Hornet for the lobby of the Muskegon Airport.

"Through these doors walk the finest sheet metal workers in the world. Attitude is everything," states Bauer's slogan on its press materials.

This philosophy is embraced by the company. Employee retention is good because Bauer cares about its work force, Hoofman said. He added that the purchase of the high-speed laser at PROfab is a testament to the faith the company has in the ability of its employees and he hopes to purchase more lasers.

"This demonstrates our willingness to invest and grow and put resources back into the company," Hoofman said. "It's good for us and it's good for the community."

"We are committed to the local community and we are demonstrating our belief in the skill of our work force."

Source: Susan Judd, Muskegon Chronicle, www.mlive.com

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