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Laser Technology

Rapid repeatability

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Lakeside Manufacturing’s Ermaksan Fibermak Momentum GEN-3 Series SM 4000W 5-ft-by-10-ft. table fiber laser cutting machine cuts at 2.5G speeds and includes an automated 10-shelf tower.

Equipment upgrade allows for nimble approach with reliable results

April 2019 - Behind many of the meals enjoyed by patrons at dining establishments—restaurants, diners, cafés or hospital/school cafeterias—are cooks preparing ingredients atop sturdy stainless steel countertops. Many such countertops, racks and shelving are all cut to order at West Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Lakeside Manufacturing Inc. The manufacturer provides finished apparatuses serving the food service, hospitality and healthcare industries. After using a CO2 tube laser for more than a decade, the shop decided it was time to upgrade to fiber laser technology.

Lakeside Manufacturing turned to Mac-Tech in Milwaukee to shop for fiber lasers that offered improved cut quality and simplified maintenance. Joseph Ryan, vice president of Mac-Tech, worked with Lakeside Manufacturing to decide what would be the best fit. Partnered with ErmakUSA in Des Plaines, Illinois, Mac-Tech distributes laser equipment and parts. “Mac-Tech stocks its own parts locally and employs its own factory technician,” Ryan says. Ermaksan’s machinery also uses “common OEM components that are readily available in the U.S.”

FFJ 0419 laser image1

Cuts must be clean for finished lunch or food service counters, shelving, utility carts and other hygienic applications.

Lakeside Manufacturing investigated the machines of five different laser manufacturers before choosing the Fibermak 4000. “The Fibermak was in line with other lasers in the marketplace but the added benefit of easy access to technical support at nearby Mac-Tech” made all the difference, says Matt Miller, Lakeside’s director of manufacturing.

Quick to adapt

The GEN-3 Series SM 4000W 5-ft.-by-10-ft. table fiber laser cutting machine cuts at 2.5G speeds. The faster cutting capability requires automated material handling that can keep up. Lakeside Manufacturing’s model includes a 10-shelf tower automation, and its 2.5G acceleration speed, “makes it run about 70 percent faster compared to a standard 1.5G fiber laser,” claims Senol Rodoplu, vice president of sales at ErmakUSA Inc.

The fiber laser arrived in January 2018 and was installed and running by the first week of February. “Right off the bat, the biggest difference was the cutting speed. Instead of 280 to 300 in. per min. cutting on our old CO2, we’re now running 1,250 to 1,500 in. per min.,” Miller says. “Speed has been a huge change. Cut quality on the stainless has also improved. There are fewer sharp edges and burrs created that we would otherwise have to remove during secondary processing.”

Quicker cutting is necessary as Lakeside Manufacturing’s business model continues to change. “Our competitors are adapting to industry changes, and so are we,” Miller says. “Our world involves a lot more custom job requests, including one-off jobs and prototype work.

FFJ 0419 laser image2

The Fibermak's 2.5G acceleration speed runs faster compared to a standard 1.5G fiber laser, allowing Lakeside to complete quick turnaround custom jobs and prototype work.

FFJ 0419 laser image3

“It makes a big difference that we can cut something 4 in. thicker or 4 in. taller than before we installed the GEN-3 Series SM 4000W,” he continues. “We’re able to keep up with changes without slowing things down. The learning curve to use the laser is pretty simple. We were also able to integrate the software we were using before with the new fiber laser.”

A reduction in overhead costs includes a smaller electrical bill and less frequent consumables purchases. “Outside of human-related errors, this laser runs like a race car,” Miller adds. “You can run it hard, and it doesn’t stop.” Lakeside Manufacturing experienced a reduction in maintenance costs, and “we can easily track the cash flow savings.”

Cuts must be consistently clean because Lakeside Manufacturing doesn’t ship parts to customers; it delivers finished lunch or food service counters, shelving, utility carts and other equipment. “We’re not fulfilling one part of an order and shipping parts off to the next step. We complete the job and that finished final product is shipped directly for sale to consumers,” Miller says.

Accessible innovation

The 4000W comes with 5-by-10-ft., 6-by- 12-ft., and 6-by-20-ft. table options with varying power capabilities. “We have also built and delivered 6-by-24-ft., 8-by-26-ft. as well as 10-by-60-ft. and 8-by-60-ft. fiber lasers in North America,” the two latter being two of the biggest fiber laser cutting machines ever built without sacrificing precision and tolerances that are expected from a fiber laser, Rodoplu claims.

More than 100 engineers in Ermaksan’s research and development department devote their days to improving its technologies. Five years ago, the laser manufacturer offered 1G speeds and, today, its 4G speed increases cutting rates while maintaining tight tolerances. Bevel head cutting is available up to 45 degrees in each direction, as well as 3D tube laser cutting features along with 2D flat sheet cutting, all on the same machine.

FFJ 0419 laser image4

More is on the horizon. Rodoplu says R&D efforts have yielded forthcoming data. “We have some exciting news we plan to share with the industry in November [at Fabtech in Chicago]—it may be a game changer.”

Investment in technology and accessible maintenance are priorities for consumers, according to Miller. “Machine maintenance is a growing concern not just for our shop, but industrywide, people want fast and easy maintenance they can either do themselves or get help quickly,” he says.

“When we went shopping for fiber lasers, that was a huge deciding factor for us. You’re buying a frame and the patented technology, but it’s not just about the name on the side of the machine. It’s about the follow-up and running it after you buy it.” FFJ

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