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Laser Technology

Passing the torch

By Lynn Stanley

Above: The first to marry 2-D laser technology with 8kW of solid-state laser power, Trumpf’s TruLaser 5030 fiber helps Staub Manufacturing save money, boost part quality and eliminate secondary operations.

Manufacturer breaks open new markets with industry’s first 2-D 8kW fiber technology

September 2016 - Steve Staub’s business mantras are simple and direct: Do the right thing and keep your promises. Staub, president of Dayton, Ohio-based Staub Manufacturing Solutions, his sister, Vice President Sandy Keplinger and their father, Ben Staub Sr., founded the company in 1997.

“It’s not a secret sauce,” notes Staub. “Our customers know we are a reliable source that will give them parts that meet their tolerances and their delivery deadlines. If we know we can’t meet a customer’s timeframe we let them know when they place the order so that they can make other arrangements if necessary.”

“As the third-generation of our family to work in this industry, Sandy and I come from a long manufacturing heritage,” says Steve Staub. “Dad started a successful manufacturing company in 1969 that specialized in plastic and glass molds. He sold the business in 1991. He knew what it took to build a thriving company so he came out of retirement to help us put the foundational pieces in place for Staub Manufacturing.”

The job shop serves customers in the automotive, locomotive, heavy truck, food processing, restaurant equipment and defense industries with comprehensive capabilities that include sheet metal and light structural fabrication, high-speed laser cutting and 3-D laser cutting. The job shop’s diversity is evidence of another mantra Steve Staub lives and works by—don’t put all your eggs in one basket—a piece of advice he also inherited from his dad.

FFJ 0916 laser image1

Staub Manufacturing produces sheet metal automotive parts with Trumpf’s TruLaser 5030 fiber 2-D laser with 8kW TruDisk resonator.

Stepping stones

In addition to implementing a quality control system, hiring the right people was crucial to company growth. “Company culture is so important,” he explains. “You have to have the right people. We have very low turnover. Our employees take pride in what they do and are very involved in the work process.” In-house training and good health care are two practical approaches Staub uses to help retain quality people. “Most manufacturing companies are reducing their health care coverage for employees to 60/40 or even 50/50,” Staub says. “We still pay 80 percent of our team members’ health care costs.”

Investing in advanced technology proved another critical stepping stone. “We have always been an early adopter of the latest technologies,” says Staub. “From the 3-D CO2 laser that we purchased early on to the Trumpf L3050 CO2 we purchased in 2005–the sixth machine installed in the U.S.”

When Trumpf introduced the 6kW CO2 in 2006, Staub Manufacturing installed that, too. “The 6kW allowed us to cut thinner materials faster as well as process thicker materials,” says Staub. “We saw it as an opportunity to produce better quality parts faster.” 

Then in 2014, Staub saw [a demonstration of] Trumpf’s first 2-D fiber-laser cutting machine available with an 8kW TruDisk laser. “We were running close to capacity and knew we needed to do something,” he says. “We were somewhat familiar with fiber but weren’t really sure how the technology would fit our applications. We started shopping different brands and machine sizes. We went to Fabtech in 2014 to try and figure out what we needed. When we saw the Trumpf  8kW, we knew it could be a game changer for us.”

FFJ 0916 laser image2

The TruLaser 5030 cost-efficiently processes complex contours and thin sheets while ensuring quality cutting of thicker materials.

The existing Trumpf CO2 machines “were doing a good job for us but we wanted to maintain our competitive position by keeping pace with the latest technology,” Staub continues. “We felt the [8kW] machine would give us better quality parts with faster throughput per hour. And we saw a way to eliminate a secondary operation.”

Well suited to universal processing, CO2 lasers provide high quality cutting at good speed values. For thinner materials the fiber laser has a track record for comparable quality at higher processing speeds. 

“The holy grail has been that you can cut carbon steel ¼ in. thick with a 4kW, a 5kW or a 6kW fiber laser faster but use of nitrogen is more expensive when you compare it to the cost for oxygen used by CO2,” says Brett Thompson, TruLaser sales engineer for Trumpf. “A CO2 delivers a good cut but the oxide edge layer can require a secondary operation to achieve a high quality finish. For the first time the 8kW removes these issues and gives customers the best of both worlds. At this level of power, the machine’s ability to combine reduced nitrogen use [due to higher speeds] with elimination of a secondary operation makes it a cost effective choice.” 

Staub visited Trumpf’s factory. “We spent a couple days looking at the machine and talking with Trumpf engineers and decided to go for it,” he says. “We got the fourth machine in the U.S. Trumpf wanted to make sure the machine was going to a shop that had the skill and knowledge to operate it. It solidified a partnership between us. They chose us and we chose them.”

Staub Manufacturing purchased the TruLaser 5030 8kW laser with a LiftMaster Compact through Trumpf distributor Fabricating Machine Technology in Ohio, and had the equipment installed in July 2015. With the new 8kW fiber laser, Staub can cut and transfer steel parts directly to painting or plating operations without requiring an extra finishing step. The company is also processing aluminum, a material typically problematic for laser cutting. The 8kW is able to process complex contours and thin sheets while minimizing cost per part but can also cut medium and thick sheet metal. The BrightLine fiber, CoolLine and improved PierceLine functions help stabilize the cutting process and provide greater material tolerance, more intricate material contours and tighter parts layout.

FFJ 0916 laser image3

Trumpf’s Drop&Cut feature lets operators use part skeletons for additional production, resulting in efficient material usage.

New markets

“The technology has opened new doors to industries and customers we couldn’t serve before,” says Staub. “It’s quickly become a very strong tool in our tool box. Other machines don’t give us the reliability and production capabilities we get with the Trumpf equipment. We cut steel, stainless and a lot of aluminum on the new fiber. The high wattage has made cutting aluminum easy. 

The job shop is also able to cut 16-gauge cold-rolled steel parts with complex geometry faster. “The parts come out beautiful,” says Staub. “We’re using this capability to attract new customers. Prior to getting the 8kW laser we weren’t able to cut material fast enough to make these types of parts.”

Staub Manufacturing is also putting the Trumpf LiftMaster Compact through its paces. The material handling solution has eliminated the shop’s need to manually load sheets one at a time. “There were times when the machine was waiting on us to load and unload material,” Staub says. “If your machine is waiting on you, you can go broke. The LiftMaster takes a whole skid of material, feeds sheets automatically and removes and stacks skeletons. We’ve improved uptime significantly and, with certain materials, we’ve been able to pass a cost savings on to our customers.”

The automated system also makes Staub Manufacturing’s search for qualified workers easier. The 8kW laser is simple to operate. The user interface for the laser’s control provides a live image of the machine’s interior. Clicking or tapping the screen allows the operator to drag the programmed contour to the desired location on the sheet and initiate the cut.

Despite its recent capital equipment purchases the company shows no signs of slowing down. “We’re always talking with our customers to find out what they need,” says Staub. “We look at purchasing machines like the Trumpf 8kW as part of doing business to be able to manufacture customers’ products faster, with the highest quality and at a fair price.” FFJ

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