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Laser & Waterjet Profiling
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It’s not just the metalcutting fraternity riding on the crest of a wave at the moment – things are also pretty rosy for the sheetmetal sector as leading manufacturer of sheetmetal fabrication equipment and industrial lasers Trumpf will testify.
At a recent press conference, Trumpf UK’s managing director Scott Simpson began by reflecting on 2011. As most would agree, it was a year of extreme highs and lows. “Oil prices at a record high, the Japanese tsunami, the Eurozone debt crisis, fear of UK double dip recession and continued turbulence in the banking sector – all these factors had a major influence on global business in 2011,” he observes. “It was also a year when the Trumpf Group confirmed a turnover of just over €2 billion which was almost on a par with our record financial year in 2007-8.”
In the UK, performance has been equally buoyant. In the last financial year that ended in June 2011, turnover was £34 million and the company declared a profit. This was a significant improvement on the previous year when Trumpf UK turned over £25 million and made a loss. “Achieving a 36% improvement was a great achievement considering ongoing economic problems throughout the industrialised world,” Mr Simpson states.
Trumpf UK confidently forecasts that it will achieve a 26.5% growth compared to last year, with a turnover of £43 million. This represents a 72% increase on two financial years ago and also an increase of 16% on the company’s record year.
So what has sparked the upturn? “Well certainly the In-Tech exhibitions in the UK and Germany that showcase new technology have played an important part,” Mr Simpson reveals, “but so too has a change in the company’s marketing methods and substantial investment in service and sales departments. Trumpf UK has also continued to upgrade its Technology Centre in Luton to improve customer experience and we’re also recruiting new members of staff.”
Trumpf UK’s optimism in the marketplace received a significant boost recently with the announcement of its largest ever single order. The order for a large, automated system placed by Stoke on Trent-based Industrial Agricultural Engineering (IAE) is valued at £2 million and comprises: a Stopa Compact storage system with 233 storage shelves, each with a three ton capacity; a TruPunch 5000 large format with SheetMaster; a TruLaser 3030 5kW system with Liftmaster compact; and a TruBend 5000 cell which includes a TruBend 5170 and a BendMaster 150kg.
IAE is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of livestock handling equipment, equestrian stabling, steel fencing and shelters.
“This is a large scale project and implementation is being carried out in stages,” explains Trumpf UK’s national sales manager, Nick Damjanovic, “but each part of the system as it is completed needs to be up and running independently. The Stopa system installation is complete and the TruPunch 5000 is currently at the commissioning stage. The TruBend cell will be next on the agenda and this will need to be linked to the store. Finally the 3030 will complete the installation which is due for completion by the end of June 2012. The whole system will run via our TruTops programming software.
“We naturally delighted with the order,” he continues, “and we believe it’ll be the largest automated system of its kind in the UK. Encouragingly this is only the first stage of the development. IAE is looking to potentially double its capacity as business grows.”
Walking the thin line
2012 will also see the launch of two new laser machines by Trumpf specifically for the cutting of thin sheetmetal material. The first – scheduled for a UK launch in November 2012 following EuroBLECH – is the TruLaser 1030 fiber which aims to provide all design and performance benefits of its CO2 forerunner – low purchase price, easy installation, simple operation and minimal maintenance.
However, as this machine has a solid state laser it is optimally suited to cutting thin sheet. It also allows for a greater diversity in material processing and this includes the process reliable cutting of ferrous material with Trumpf standard cutting data for copper and brass. High absorption of the solid state laser wavelength is assured – an important factor when processing highly reflective materials.
The TruDisk 2001 2kW fibre guided laser also provides several other benefits. Energy consumption at comparable laser power is around 40% less than the TruCoax 2500, its CO2 counterpart and as the TruLaser 1030 requires neither beam delivery gas nor laser gas, even greater cost efficiencies are achievable. The TruDisk laser also makes it simpler and quicker to replace all components in the field.
The unit is a 3m by 1.5m machine but occupies a footprint less than 25m². The laser itself is connected to the machine via a fibre optic cable which allows the laser source to be located where it is most convenient – next to the machine or at several metres away.
“Although clearly ideal for companies that are new to laser, the 1030 fiber is also a valuable addition to any laser shop that handles thin sheet and a greater range of materials,” explains Mr Damjanovic. “Indeed it is the most economical Trumpf machine for low utilisation on single shift operation so it’s perfect for prototype and small scale production and also a practical training machine for employees or apprentices.”
In the thick of it
A choice of three different material handling options is provided so that the machine can be inexpensively upgraded in line with the customer’ changing production needs. In terms of cutting capacity the TruLaser 1030 can handle mild steel up to 12.7mm thick; stainless steel up to 6.4mm; aluminium up to 5mm; copper up to 2mm; and brass up to 3.2mm.
Also new is the TruLaser 5040 – a high level machine with a 4m by 2m working area. Power is provided via TruDisk 3001 3kW or the new TruDisk 5001 5kW variant. The sheer size of the machine with its 10.8m x 3.6m x 2.3m footprint and 12,780kg weight makes it impractical for Trumpf to showcase the machine in its showroom although a smaller TruLaser 5030 fitted with the new 5kW laser will be available for demonstration purposes.
The choice of laser options means a diverse range of material thicknesses that can be cut. With the 3kW laser, the maximum thicknesses are: mild steel: 20mm; stainless: 15mm; aluminium: 15mm; copper: 6mm; and brass: 6mm. On the higher powered 5kW laser, the thicknesses are 25mm, 20mm, 20mm, 10mm and 10mm respectively.
A further success story involves a project with legendary hand and power tool manufacturer Stanley Tools. Founded in 1843 the company is headquartered in New Britain, Connecticut, USA. It has 40,000 employees worldwide with a turnover of $8.4 billion. In 2010, Stanley merged with Black & Decker to form a Stanley Black & Decker.
Stanley is perhaps best known for its handheld knives and cutting blades and from its UK manufacturing site based in Rotherham, the company is using Trumpf laser technology for the Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) process used on its knife blades and also part marking.
The process involves the deposition of tungsten carbide powder through a high powered laser on the blade edge resulting in a 0.3mm metal deposit on the top surface of the blade. Then, diamond wheels are used to grind cutting angles onto the finished carbide blade resulting in a hard, sharp edge. Having a carbide edge allows the rest of the blade to remain flexible. Stanley claims that its new blades last five times longer than the competition.
“It’s important to remember that whilst Stanley is an American company, all the development work on this particular process was carried out in the UK,” explains Trumpf’s laser sales manager Gerry Jones. “The blades using the new process were launched initially in Australia in 2011 and then in Germany, the UK and Canada. In the UK, the blades are available from Screwfix.”
The application at Stanley’s Rotherham site involves two lasers – a TruDisk 1000 with two outputs and a TruDisk 2001 with four outputs resulting in six deposition line units in total. The process uses a coil feed system which was supplied by Thetford-based Atkin Automation.
An interesting aspect is that the process at Rotherham is almost completely automated, incorporating six production lines operating 24/7 in a lights out environment. “It’s pretty amazing to see,” Mr Jones enthuses. “There’s literally no operator in the room at all and each coil runs for three days without stopping. New coils are loaded by the blade grind machine operator via an external timer and this takes less than an hour to complete.”
Trumpf equipment is also being used effectively by Stanley for part marking purposes. Six TruMark 5040 part marking units are being used to mark the blade itself following the LMD process.