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Laser Technology

Continuous operation

By Lynn Stanley

Fabricator anchors production process with CO2 laser

November 2012 - Fast lead times and value-added operations in a low-volume, high-mix work environment have helped Pickwick Manufacturing Services net an annual growth rate of 15 percent for more than a decade. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa manufacturer supplies OEMs with large, complex metal fabricated parts, weldments and assemblies. The recent addition of a Durma 4,000-W STS Fast Axial Flow CO2 laser has helped Pickwick increase its capabilities by one-third and extend its tab-and-slot processes to heavier materials. “We have a very fast turnaround time with our customers,” says Gaylen Vance, operations manager for Pickwick. “For us, productivity is about doing what it takes to get faster lead times.”

The manufacturer produces sheet, plate and structural steel components for parts including brackets, enclosures, electrical wireways, mobile rock-crushing plants, straw spreaders, heavy haul trailer decks, air filtration bag houses, mounting platforms for wind turbines and precision measuring equipment. 

Reliability

In 2011, Pickwick decided to replace its  older, unreliable equipment. The fabricator considered different models but found the value for the price point offered by Durma distributor Productivity Inc., Minneapolis, hard to beat. Productivity Inc. is a single source distributor of machine tools, fabrication equipment, tooling, accessories and service and support for the Midwest. 

“The laser is the first step in our production process,” Vance says. “We needed a machine that would be a steady rock for us—an anchor we could count on being in operation at all times. We’re continually looking at ways to trim the amount of time it takes to understand a customer’s requirements, engineer the product and get it to the production floor and ready to weld. You have to have a reliable production system. Durma’s got a good machine. It’s that simple. They also offered an attractive price point that no one else could match.”

Headquartered in Bursa, Turkey, Durmazlar is among the world’s largest volume producers of metal fabrication machinery. Durma USA, Charlotte, N.C., has supported the U.S. metal fabrication industry since 1983.

Pickwick installed the CO2 laser in January. The machine cuts 6 ft. by 12 ft. and 5 ft. by 10 ft. low-carbon and cold-rolled steel sheets in thicknesses of 16 gauge to 1⁄2 in. and 3⁄4 in. The fabricator also uses the laser to cut some aluminum and stainless steel for certain applications. Once blanks are laser cut, parts are formed by press brakes or rolls, machined, welded and given a baked wet or powder paint finish before hydro, mechanical or electrical assembly and packaging for shipment.

ffj-1112-laser-image
Pickwick designs and fabricates sheet, plate and structural parts like this welded industrial wet air filtration system.

“We build small quantities,” says Vance. “We’re not running hundreds of parts. Here in Iowa, about 80 percent of manufacturing supports agriculture, trucking and construction. When we build truck frames for a tractor trailer bed, we’re providing the frame and the chassis, the backbone of the vehicle. Our customers can’t build their product until they get the frame from us. We use mixed-model, small-batch production because our customers don’t want to stock large parts, but they need us to be able to respond on short notice and be flexible enough to handle small tweaks in their part designs week to week. The Durma CO2 laser gives us the reliable, continuous operation we need to support that model.”

Low maintenance

The CO2 laser runs two to three shifts six days a week. Because of the low volume of production runs, steel sheets are primarily loaded by hand. “A lot of companies aren’t interested in low-volume, high-mix work,” says Brandon Mitchell, machine tool sales engineer for Productivity Inc. “But Pickwick really excels in this area with a value-added philosophy that allows them to effectively take multiple small operations and put them into full assemblies to provide the customer with a complete product,” Mitchell continues. “The Durma CO2 laser, outfitted with high-end Siemens controls and electrical systems, has been engineered to support the demands of that type of continuous flow production. The machine’s PRC laser also is known for its low operating costs and reliability.” 

ffj-1112-laser-image1
The Durma CO2 laser offers continuous production for 6 ft. by 12 ft. and 5 ft. by 10 ft. low-carbon and cold-rolled steel sheets.

In June 2012, Vance traveled to Turkey to visit Durmazlar’s manufacturing facility. Considering a future project with Durma, Vance wanted to take a closer look at the company’s engineering expertise and technology development. “Durmazlar has a large, very modern factory,” he says, “and they are selling product all over the world.”

In addition to dependable operation, Durma makes its machine easy to maintain with premium, non-proprietary components that can be readily sourced from industrial supply centers in most cities. 

“Gaylen’s visit to Turkey gave him an understanding of the huge investment Durmazlar has made in its manufacturing technology, its brand and the companies it partners with for its high-quality components,” says Steve Claude, president of Durma USA. “The CO2 laser is a newer product offering from Durma for the U.S. market but well accepted globally. Sales for the laser have grown exponentially over the last two years.”

For Pickwick, machine performance is critical for satisfying customer requirements.

“We continue to get a lot of new customers,” Vance says. “It takes a lot of engineering effort to translate the customer’s needs from concept to the production floor. We don’t have to think about the Durma CO2 laser. The machine is available for continuous use and always runs,” he says. “It’s doing what we need it to do.” FFJ

Originally published in the November 2012 issue of FFJournal.

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Sources

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