Automated laser processing boosts fabricator's competitiveness

Fabrication specialist Hydram Engineering has invested £2 million in two automated sheet metalworking cells at its factory.

Content Dam Ils Online Articles 2016 11 Hydram1 Web

Fabrication specialist Hydram Engineering (Chilton, Durham, England) has invested £2 million ($2.4 million) in two automated sheet metalworking cells at its factory. Commissioned in September 2016, one is a system by Bystronic (Coventry, Warwickshire, England) that comprises two Bystronic BySprint Fiber 3015 4kW flat-bed fiber laser cutting machines fed automatically with sheet from a six-tower storage and retrieval system. The other system, which entered service in July 2016, is an automated CNC punching cell with integrated 23-shelf tower store for material.

This year's spend by Hydram follows investments in 2014 and 2015 for a panel bender, a second automated paint plant, a third robotic welding facility, a shot blasting machine, an eighth power press, and a tenth press brake, while adding a further 20% worth of space to its 100,000-sq-ft. factory.

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The Bystronic fiber laser cutting cell at Hydram.

The fiber laser cutting cell's 30% smaller footprint has freed up manufacturing floor area for the company when compared to its former laser cutting facility, which involved a pair of Bystronic CO2 laser machines and manually accessed cantilever racking for sheet material. One Bystronic CO2 laser cutting center remains onsite—a 4.4kW model with a ByTrans Xtended material handling system, which was installed in 2012.

An advantage of the fiber laser cell is that it avoids the previous issue of forklift trucks having to transport pallets of material down a steep ramp or around the outside of the building to the former CO2 laser machines, which were 1.5m below the level of the goods-in area, as are the fiber machines. Potential conflict between material movement around the punch presses and the fiber laser cutting centers is also avoided now that both cells are equipped with automated sheet handling.

Content Dam Ils Online Articles 2016 11 Hydram1 Web
Sheet metal being delivered to the tower storage system that feeds the Bystronic fiber laser cutting centers at Hydram.

Founded in 1977, Hydram has offered subcontract laser cutting for nearly 20 years and is now one of the largest metal fabricators in the UK. In addition to precision sheet metalworking, the privately owned company offers tubular metalworking, welding, powder coating, and assembly.

Most recently, the subcontractor was selected by Hitachi Rail Europe as a key supplier of sheet metal assemblies for the £5.7 billion ($7 billion) Intercity Express Project. The contract is for the supply of metal hand poles, painted interior panels, bracketry and assemblies for the interiors of 866 carriages for the Great Western and East Coast Main Lines.

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