Life-saving lasers

HUDSON, N.H. – For Scott Breton, VP at Sparton Technology, an automation cell saves a lot of stress, energy, and money. Later down the line, the parts it produces save lives. This company, which machines and fabricates components and assemblies for a variety of industries, has grown rapidly in recent years. Last year, an aggressive bid for business from a major military supplier put the pressure on.

“We initially got the contract because we were the only ones who would commit to the extremely aggressive schedule,” says Breton. “But we knew that we could not rely solely on our punch presses, and we couldn’t outsource the laser cutting for a project of this size and nature for very long.”

The project called for the fabrication of heavy-gauge steel and aluminum bracketing for ambush-resistant vehicles that would protect US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The production schedule was tight and would require a quicker and more efficient system than the one currently in place. Sparton had a relationship with Mitsubishi that began about five years earlier after a press brake purchase, and Breton’s contact there had shown them the Mitsubishi laser systems as well.

Breton (left) and Tom Carelton, laser operator
Breton (left) and Tom Carelton, laser operator

“He really sold us on the idea that a laser system, plus an automation cell, could help our productivity skyrocket, and with this new project, we really needed it,” says Breton. To make a final decision, Breton gave several laser manufacturers a couple of test parts and rigorously inspected them for speed and precision in both 0.06 stainless and 0.625 steel. When the dust settled, Mitsubishi was the clear winner with the most accurate cuts and competitive speeds.

Sparton purchased a 3015LVPLUSII and a MSCIII with an eight-shelf storage tower. The laser in the system uses a unique rectangular wave pulse and improved discharge distribution that produces significantly better cutting ability, substantially decreased maintenance, and up to 90% lower gas consumption when compared to traditional systems.

The automation system offers lightning-fast system cycle times, with a full load/unload cycle of only 65 seconds. The system easily integrates the laser to load and unload sheet metal, making unmanned, lights-out production possible. This system increased productivity so much, in fact, that it saved Sparton from buying another machine.

“Originally, we thought we would need two lasers,” Breton says. “But this system is so efficient, thanks to the automation cell, that one laser is plenty. We truly get more lights-out cutting than we expected. Now we control the schedule, not the other way around.”

While the laser and automation cell was purchased with specific jobs in mind, it has opened the door for other business opportunities – such as very thin-gauged stainless steel fabrication – and helped expand profits.

“Over the last year, sales have increased 100 percent,” says Breton. “The laser cell has a lot to do with that.”

(Adapted from material that appeared in Mitsubishi’s company newsletter; www.mitsubishi-world.com)

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