Wigston, Leicestershire, England - Like many sheet metal subcontractors that specialize in profiling thinner materials, Metalfacture has installed fiber laser technology from Bystronic alongside its existing CO2 laser cutting plant. Another first for the company is the integration of automatic sheet load and unload, allowing it to profit from the economies of unmanned running overnight.
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Established in 1997, Metalfacture employs 50 at its 95,000-sq-ft Leicestershire factory and has operated manned shifts around the clock for many years, producing such items as shop displays, housings for electronic and security products, and fabrications for the materials handling industry. Over 80 percent of work involves processing thin mild steel, Zintec, stainless steel, and other materials less than 3mm. Maximum thickness of 10mm is handled occasionally.
|The Bystronic BySprint Fiber 3015 laser profiler installed at the Wigston factory of sheet metal subcontractor Metalfacture.|
"We needed extra laser profiling capacity to keep pace with increasing levels of business and were aware that a fiber laser would be faster than CO2 for the gauges we machine mostly," says Ben Jones-Fenleigh, Metalfacture's commercial director. "The trouble is that fiber machines are so fast—up to 50 percent quicker cutting in a straight line and 30 percent overall—that an operator would be forever loading and unloading the machine. The likelihood is that presentation of material would have been a bottleneck and in any case, such intensive loading duties would be arduous to carry out manually."
So the decision was taken to automate the 4kW BySprint Fiber 3015 with a ByTrans 3015 Extended loading system, which benefits from a second storage cassette. It means that combinations of raw material up to 3000 × 1500mm, plastic separator sheets (if used), large cut components, and skeletons can be accommodated on the cassettes and on the floor underneath, if necessary, to suit the production process.
Up to six tons of material can be put onto the cassettes and processed overnight, so cut parts and skeletons are ready to be taken away by forklift in the morning. If similarly long runs are carried out during a day shift, the operator is freed to perform other tasks.
To accommodate the addition of another laser profiler at the Wigston factory, Metalfacture upgraded its existing nitrogen generation plant, which delivers a continuous supply to all machines to ensure high-quality cut edges.