Laser Technology

New in town

By Meghan Boyer

JB Friction & Fab takes a chance on an Ermak CO2 laser and achieves positive results

September 2011- Bryan McGourthy, president of JB Friction & Fab Corp., admits to feeling concerned slightly when he purchased his first Ermak USA Inc. CO2 laser late last year. Known largely for its press brakes, Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Ermak USA recently entered the laser market in North America. McGourthy’s concern, however, was short-lived. The Lasermak CO2 flying optic laser cutting machine so exceeded McGourthy’s expectations, he purchased a second one recently for his Grafton, Wis.-based facility.

Business has been good for JB Friction since it opened in 2009. The company, which supplies brake and clutch components and laser cutting and metal fabrication services, began with a single 4 ft. by 8 ft., 1,300 W machine, which posed some restrictions. “People asked if I could cut larger sheets,” says McGourthy. “Then people were asking if I could cut aluminum, stainless steel, and all those answers were no with my 4 by 8, 1,300 W,” he says.

McGourthy researched used lasers before learning about the Lasermak from Mike Ryan, president of Mac-Tech, a Milwaukee-based agent of Ermak equipment. “I was very impressed with it. It was very well-made, and the service from Mac-Tech was very good. They had knowledgeable people to help with problems,” he says. “My shop will be all Ermak lasers if I continue to grow. That is where I will be buying my lasers from,” he says.

JB Friction bought a 4,000 W laser with a 6 ft. by 12 ft. table from Ermak. The company can cut stainless steel to 1⁄2 in., aluminum to 5⁄16 in. and mild steel to 3⁄4 in., says McGourthy. Once the facility receives its second Ermak laser, this one with a 5 ft. by 10 ft. table, JB Friction will have three lasers, one Ermak press brake and some welding capabilities at its facility.

“We had a press brake at JB Friction for a couple of years,” says Emre Varisli, vice president of Ermak USA. “They were satisfied with our press brake, and when the need arrived for a laser, we asked them to give us a shot. We were confident we could fulfill their requirements with our machine.”

Benefits of quality
His experience owning and using an Ermak press brake for multiple years aided in McGourthy’s decision to purchase a laser from the company. “I saw how the press brake was made, and it’s very solid in the base,” he says. “I saw that also in the laser,” which has a frame that is welded together and then machined. “The key as far as from a laser standpoint for this is the quality of the components they use. They are not scrimping out on it, and it’s a very cost-effective unit,” he says.

Ermak lasers include Fanuc controllers, resonators and linear motors, says Ryan. “It’s an Ermak machine with one of the most-trusted component manufacturers in the world, Fanuc,” he says.

Linear drives are standard in the lasers, says Varisli, noting this was an important decision Ermak made when developing the equipment. “Linear drives are more expensive, but the overall satisfaction that it provides to the customer is more because it is a lot faster than servo drives and it doesn’t require any maintenance other than minor lubrication,” he says. “From day one, we have always promoted the highest technology for axis motion.”

Despite the high-quality components, the Ermak laser remains a cost leader among competing lasers with linear-drive systems, says McGourthy. “I think they are even a cost leader with people who are using ball screws. These guys are using high-end components, and they are using linear drives, which are much faster, much more accurate and less wearing.”

The machine continues to exceed expectations. “The numbers they gave me as far as cut rates, they have been very accurate. If anything, they have been conservative numbers,” says McGourthy. “They have been better than what they advertise on their cut sheets. I know on the speeds for sure, but the utilities seem to be a bit lower also.”

Ermak does not want to advertise inflated numbers, says Varisli. “We really try to be on the safe side and say if this is achievable by our machine, then it is,” he says. “I was happy to hear he could get even more than the technical specs.”

North American market
JB Friction is the first North American customer with a Lasermak machine. Ermak USA’s Turkish sister company Ermaksan Turkey, Bursa, Turkey, developed its CO2 laser roughly six years ago, and the company recently debuted its fiber laser, Fibermak. More than 100 Lasermak machines have been placed worldwide, but Ermak USA only recently began to penetrate the North American market.

“Our main products were press brakes and shears, and we have been building those for the last 47 years. But times are changing,” says Varisli. “If you don’t add value, if you don’t add technology, you will be lost in the competition because press brakes, shears—everybody is offering those. But when you switch to a high-tech machine like a laser, then it’s a whole different story.”

Ermak USA is aware it is entering a competitive market and must fight for a place among existing laser manufacturers that serve North America. To boost its presence in the United States, Ermak opened its U.S. headquarters in Illinois recently. “We are here with our press brakes and shears for so many years. But when it comes to lasers, especially CO2 lasers, it’s an even bigger challenge. Unlike Europe, American customers are a lot more traditional. They want to go with the brand that they are comfortable with, that they know, that they have worked with before. So penetrating the market is a challenge, a challenge that we are confident we will overcome.” The U.S. facility, in which Ermak invested nearly $2 million to develop, will provide technical support and spare parts to North American customers. Ermak produces its machines in Turkey.

One of the challenges Ermak faces in expanding in the United States is many customers don’t know much about Turkey’s manufacturing sector, says Ryan, noting it’s largely a perception problem. “Like any other machine tool builder out there, if you are making your machines with the right machinery and computer systems and 3-D solid model systems, it’s amazing what you can build,” he says. “The factory at Ermaksan is only three years old. Every machine is built on a machine that is no more than three years old. It’s one of the most modern factories out there.” After visiting the factory and learning about Ermaksan firsthand, a company purchased an automated fiber laser, notes Ryan.

The attention to quality and service is paying off so far for Ermak USA at its first North American installation. “I want to be all Ermak,” says McGourthy. “It’s very good overall. It’s been a very good experience with Mac-Tech and Ermak, and I wouldn’t be buying the second one if it wasn’t.” FFJ

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  • Ermak USA Inc.
    Elk Grove Village, Ill.
    phone: 847/640-7765
    fax: 847/640-7808
  • JB Friction & Fab Corp.
    Grafton, Wis.
    phone: 262/349-9986
    fax: 262/349-9985
  • Mac-Tech
    phone: 888/622-9555
    fax: 414/769-1522

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