Fabricator installs laser profiler to speed expansion

The UK’s Grail Engineering is trying to differentiate itself by investing in a machine capable of processing heavy gauge plate up to 25 mm.

Content Dam Ils En Articles 2014 02 Fabricator Installs Laser Profiler To Speed Expansion Leftcolumn Article Thumbnailimage File

Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, UK - For nearly half a century, Grail Engineering has offered a fast turnaround fabrication service supported by machining, finishing, and on-site installation. Historically, the company subcontracted laser cutting of a wide range of materials, from stainless and mild steels to aluminum. However, this function was brought in-house in 2012 following the purchase of a CO2 laser profiling machine from Bystronic UK and a CNC press brake from the same supplier.

The 750,000 pounds investment, which included modifying the factory, led to the formation of a new division, Grail Laser, which supplies machined metal sheet and plate to Grail Engineering and also provides a subcontract laser cutting service.

"Laser machining services are available in Tewkesbury and Bristol, but we located between the two to fill a gap in the market geographically. We felt it was the right time to invest in 2012, as the UK seemed to be coming out of recession,” said managing director Chick Grail. “Grail Engineering had its best ever trading year in 2013. This year will be even better if business carries on as it started in January. Most laser cutting subcontractors stop at 12 or 15 mm thick material, so we decided to differentiate ourselves by investing in a machine capable of processing heavier gauge plate up to 25 mm. Subcontractors never know what type of material they will need to cut next, so having bigger capacity on the shop floor gives us a distinct competitive advantage."

The Bystronic ByStar 3015 CO2 laser profiler, rated at 4.4 kW and with 3 x 1.5 m capacity, was installed in March 2012. It essentially selected itself, as it was the only machine that was able to cut 25 mm structural mild steel (S355) without any problems, according to Grail Enginnering. In 2013, the company purchased a Bystronic Xpert 250 press brake, selected due to its superior accuracy when bending up to 25 mm thick mild steel.

"Another reason for choosing the ByStar 3015 was the absence of laser cutting knowledge in our company at the time,” added Mr. Grail. “We relied on Bystronic's UK subsidiary in Coventry a lot for advice on programming and the best parameters to cut certain materials. However, we got to grips with the machine and control system quickly and are now fully conversant with the technology. Our latest apprentice learned to program and operate the machine without any trouble.”

Grail anticipates that, by the end of this year, the 16% of Grail Laser's output currently consumed by Grail Engineering will have fallen to 5%, as a result of expected growth in subcontract laser profiling for external customers. Within the next two years, provided business growth continues at its current pace, the company will relocate to larger premises nearby, double the size of its current 18,000 sq. ft. factory.

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