Subcontractor Grenville Engineering (Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England) installed its first fiber laser cutting center in November 2016—a 3kW BySprint Fiber 3015 laser system from Bystronic (Elgin, IL).
The 3 × 1.5m sheet-capacity machine replaced an old CO2 laser system from another supplier, leaving two 3.2kW CO2 machines onsite capable of cutting up to 20mm-thick mild steel. On thin materials, the fiber laser machine cuts 2–3X faster, with the added advantage of superior performance when processing reflective materials.
Grenville can cut aluminum sheet up to 8mm on its CO2 machines, but 50% thicker using fiber technology of similar power. Additionally, the latter can cut copper and its alloys, such as brass and bronze, whereas a CO2 machine is unable to tackle these materials because of back-reflections damaging the optics. The company was therefore either turning this work away or putting it on less-efficient turret punch presses.
According to Dali Dong, operations director of Grenville Engineering, the company will eventually replace its two remaining CO2 machines with fiber equivalents of higher power to enable cutting thicker materials efficiently and accurately. The big advantage with fiber laser cutting, apart from the speed when processing thinner materials, is its lower running costs, he says, adding that electricity consumption is significantly less and no expensive laser assist gases are needed.
After the CO2 machine had been taken out and the fiber laser cutting machine was installed, it quickly cleared the small backlog of work that had built up. Stainless steel shims for the yellow goods sector were cut from 0.5mm sheet at many times the speed previously possible, while at the other end of the thickness spectrum, 15mm mild steel was cut efficiently.
Summing up the fabricator's business plan and the role fiber laser cutting will play, sales director Stuart Rawlinson says, "The aim is to increase our current £4 million turnover by 50% over the next three years. We will continue offering a complete design and fabrication solution to a broad industry base, the rail sector being a particular target. We regard a shift from CO2 to fiber laser cutting as central to achieving this goal, both for producing larger runs up to 5000 but also our more typical batch sizes of 20- to 50-off.”
For more information, please visit www.grenville-engineering.co.uk and www.bystronic.com.