Sheet metalworking subcontractor invests in 2kW fiber laser cutter

May 16, 2017
Contracts Engineering's new laser cutting machine can process sheet up to 3 × 1.5 m using a 2kW fiber laser source.

Former investment banker Troy Barratt gave up his career on Wall Street and then the City of London to buy a laser subcontract sheet metal fabricating business because he believed rising labor costs in China and other low-wage countries, together with higher shipping costs and perceived quality issues, were opening up opportunities for manufacturers in the West.

In 2012, he and his wife Catherine purchased sheet metalworking and fabrication company Contracts Engineering (CEL; Sittingbourne, Kent, England) from the previous owners, who wanted to retire. By 2016, turnover had doubled to £2 million (over $2.5 million) per year, while the number of employees increased by 50% to 30 people.

Part of the £600,000 (over $775,000) they've invested is a Bystronic BySprint Fiber laser cutting machine that can process sheet up to 3 × 1.5 m using a 2kW fiber laser source. Bought in January 2017, it replaced a 3kW CO2 laser cutter, achieving 3X higher output when processing material 1–2mm thick.

Troy Barratt, managing director of CEL, with laser cutting machine operator Lukasz Bartocha.

Fiber laser running costs are lower when compared to CO2. The company saves £700 (over $900) per month on gases, as the new laser eliminates the need to use nitrogen, helium, and CO2 as laser-assist gases. Electricity consumption is 60–70% lower with fiber, and optics replacement is unnecessary.

Notable projects completed by CEL involve commercial developments and installations across multiple sites in London, Bristol, Cambridge, Manchester, and many other European cities. The company is currently working on a project for commercial development in Philadelphia, PA. Other customers are in office furniture, HVAC, oil and gas, machine manufacture, food processing, and interior and exterior fit-outs.

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