UK laser shops expanding with new tools, facilities

Recent announcements from UK laser job shops confirm what was heard at last week's AKL conference in Germany: business is brisk despite the region's economic turbulence.

Engineering companies in the UK (called "job shops" in the US) are booming despite persistent macroeconomic woes in Europe and even the UK. Laser business is historically brisk in the Midlands region, one company told ILS during last week's International Laser Technology Conference (AKL, May 9-11), with rivals placing large orders for new machines. A scan of recent local headlines confirms that observation.

Midtherm Laser, a laser cutting shop in Dudley, UK, reportedly has purchased three Bystronic laser cutting and bending machines, a £1.6 million investment to become one of the nation's largest laser cutting subcontractors, says TheBusinessDesk.com, a regional online publication.

Midtherm Laser started in December 2000 with a single Bystronic laser cutting machine, the online report notes; it has since added three more laser cutters, and is now completing a £1.9 million project involving a new facility and fifth laser cutting machine (among other tools). The firm says it can work on maximum sheet sizes of 4 x 2 m in size and steel thicknesses up to 20 mm, on a variety of flat bed laser cutting processes.

Meanwhile, KMF, a precision sheet metal processor in Newcastle-under-Lyme, is undertaking a £2.5 million expansion of its 100,000 sq. ft factory, with two new Trumpf laser cutting machines (a 3 kW TruLaser 5030 fiber laser and 3.2 kW TruLaser 3030 L20 laser) plus an automated material handling system. The two laser systems are linked by a Trumpf Trustore 3030 storage tower system, which can store up to 168 tons of sheet material in sizes up to 3000 x 1500 mm. Total cost of the machines was £1.3 million; another £1.2 million is going toward a 17,000 sq. ft extension to house a dedicated programming department, and a covered goods-in and material loading area.

With this expansion, KMF will offer "lights-out" processing of a wide range of materials, including copper, brass, and aluminum, as well as ferrous and stainless-steel sheet, in material thicknesses up to 6 mm (for copper and brass) through 20 mm (for ferrous material). The company has added 30,000 sq. ft to its factory in the past two years, and increased its workforce by 20% to 300 employees.

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