Laser cutting and bending software optimizes production at sheet metal subcontractor

March 13, 2019
Allsops has progressed from CO2 to fiber laser cutting, resulting in significant financial savings in production output. 

Sheet metal design and engineering subcontractor Allsops (Holmfirth, England) has progressed from CO2 to fiber laser cutting, resulting in significant financial savings in production output. This occurred due to the two Bystronic fiber laser machines with at least 3X the output than Allsops' previous CO2 models, with additional lower running costs. During 2018, the subcontractor upgraded its bending capability with the addition of two Xpert 40 Bystronic press brakes that have a 1 m bending length and a stroke of 200 mm, raising the number of onsite press brakes to 11.

Benefits come from Allsops' use of Bystronic BySoft 7 software to program both the fiber laser cuttingmachines and the new press brakes, resulting in seamless, rapid progression from cutting the blank to bending, and guaranteeing accuracy of the first-off part.

"We previously used generic programming software for laser cutting and bending, but since 2010 we have standardized on BySoft 7," says Stephane Lericolais, Allsops' technical director. "We know that the first part will be within tolerance whereas previously we would have to cut a blank, calculate the bend allowance, fold the part, check it for accuracy and have to do the same again perhaps once or twice before the job was right. All of this created expensive scrap and took much longer."

"With these inherently fast bending cells, all of the upper and lower tooling is in drawers on the left and right hand sides of the machine and the operator can remain seated when loading them," says Lyndon Tyas, Allsops' production director. "Tool positions are automatically calculated as a part of the program and flashing LEDs on the front of the upper beam instruct the operator where to mount the tool segments. The ergonomic configuration means that setting up the machine is rapid, typically 15 minutes for a straightforward part."

The subcontractor was an early adopter of CO2 laser cutting, installing its first model back in 1995. Later, there were two such machines on the shop floor with a 4.4 kW and 5.2 kW laser source, respectively. They were replaced in 2015 and 2016 by a BySprint Fiber and a ByStar Fiber, both of 6 kW and 3 × 1.5 m sheet capacity. The machines are supplied with material from ByTrans handling units formerly fitted to the CO2 machines, enabling automated delivery of fresh sheets to the machines and return of laser-profiled components for removal from their skeleton.

Allsops is yet another good example of where fiber laser cutting has massively increased productivity compared with CO2, in this case typically threefold. The BySprint model was a revelation in terms of increased throughput, and then the ByStar raised performance significantly further. Due to faster axis movements and higher dynamics compared with the earlier fiber laser machine, some sheets are processed 30% faster if components are complex, while for the simplest jobs there is still an improvement of nearly 10%.

Together, the machines are so productive that to achieve the required throughput, it is no longer necessary to run the factory 24/7, leading to significant labor cost savings. Currently, only a night shift is needed four days per week and there is no longer a necessity for weekend working. At the end of Friday afternoon, the two ByTrans are loaded with material, which provides both machines with a couple of hours' lights-out running for processing the following Monday morning. Further savings result from no longer needing any laser gas or beam purging gas, while assist gas usage per cut component is 37% less. Additionally, electricity bills have reduced by a similar amount, which is unsurprising since CO2 technology requires 98 kW of input power to generate 6 kW of laser power at the cutting nozzle.

Founded in 1959 by Bob Allsop to support a growing manufacturing community in West Yorkshire, the sheet metal design and engineering subcontractor, which operates from 84,000 sq ft premises, is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019.

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