Automated lasers quadruple productivity

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A subcontract fabrication specialist in the north east of England is using laser technology to help it supply products to numerous industries, including rail, automotive and power generation.

Washington Metalworks has installed two Trumpf TruLaser 5030 high specification CNC laser profiling centres with TruFlow 5000 (5kW) resonators and integrated automation. The company has replaced less powerful, 10-year-old technology to quadruple productivity and position the company amongst the elite of the laser cutting subcontractors.

The most recent area of the company's 90,000 sq ft plant to receive funding is its laser cutting facility, where three 10-year-old manually-loaded laser cutters (1.5kW, 2.5kW, 3.5kW) have been replaced with two TruLaser 5030 automated models. The machines are linked to a LiftMaster Linear automated load/unload system and TruStore sheet storage unit.

'We realised that in order to move the business forward and compete, we had to invest,' says joint managing director Steve Tate.

The Washington Metalworks team scrutinised all of the leading vendors of laser profiling machinery before opting for the 5kW Trumpf models, which feature a single head cutting strategy and optional nozzle changer to minimise non-productive time on the 3m x 1.5m bed. Maximum axis speeds (simultaneous) are approximately 300m/min.

'Although we selected powerful machines, it was the speed of the technology in cut that provided the differentiating factor,' said Tate. 'For instance, one particular job that previously took 1 hour 28 minutes to complete, can now be done in just 23 minutes – a productivity increase of around 400 per cent.'

Today, laser cutting work at Washington Metalworks can vary from 0.9 up to 25mm thick in a variety of materials. Jobs range from thin gauge hoods for fork lift trucks through to heavy duty road plates to cover bridge expansion joints. Batch sizes vary from one-offs up to 1,000.