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Laser Technology

A smart buy

Midwest job shop solves challenges by upgrading laser

April 2016 - For the past five years, R & M Manufacturing has been in a strong growth cycle. And projections are even stronger for the future because of growing customer demand from the electrical, power generation, solar, air purification, HVAC, and home and building industries. The challenge, however, was to keep pace with a rapidly growing production requirement with two older CO2 lasers, one of which was completely worn out and needed to be replaced.

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The management of the Buffalo, Minnesota-based company made the decision to purchase a fiber laser and obtained quotes from multiple fiber laser manufacturers. R & M evaluated the time studies, cost-of-ownership studies, efficiency comparisons, ease of operator usage and programming specifications from each laser manufacturer. The company had specific needs to consider prior to purchasing the fiber laser:

•R & M needed a small-footprint machine that had large capacity to process materials.

•Reliable automation that could run lights out was a must. The company runs only two shifts, and the fiber laser needed to run lights out every night and every weekend. The only downtime this machine would have was for scheduled maintenance.

•Material thicknesses vary from ¼ in. down to 20 gauge.

“We started with six possible sources,” says Jeff Nelson, operations manager. “We decided on the Prima Power 6 kW Laser Genius with a Compact TowerServer that allows easy loading/unloading for blanks and processed sheets for lights-out operation. Our decision was based on the fact that the Laser Genius is a top-of-the-line fiber laser. It is also a very high performer, and the footprint for the automation is much smaller than the competition, which suited our needs extremely well. After doing all the studies and evaluating the cost of ownership, the Prima Power laser came out on top.”

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High productivity

Laser Genius is a high-range 2D laser cutting machine that is designed for high productivity, quality and flexibility and can be used to cut a wide range of materials. Fiber lasers are more effective than other laser sources for cutting highly reflective materials, such as aluminum alloys, copper and brass. Varied thicknesses can be cut with efficiency and quality, and productivity increases, particularly when processing thin- and medium-gauge sheet metal. Because of its wide range of automation modules, the Laser Genius is the right solution for both small batches and large-scale production.

High-dynamic linear motors ensure a 15 percent increase in productivity compared with conventional drive systems. The Laser Genius has a comprehensive range of automation modules, and the effective CNC proprietary management guarantees accuracy in cutting and head positioning.

Nelson says that the laser’s speed was a big factor in R & M’s purchasing decision because it was crucial to process more product at a faster rate. “Laser Genius has increased our efficiencies by 30 percent,” he continues. “When you are in my position, you have to justify every piece of equipment. You have to do a return on investment. Some companies base ROI on new work they are trying to get; I did my ROI on work that was already in-house. The efficiencies that we gained from the Laser Genius reduced my ROI from five years to 3-1/2 years. The Laser Genius made us more competitive when quoting in the laser cutting market. These days, a lot of OEMs won’t even look at you unless they know you have a fiber laser with automation.”

The Prima Power Laser Genius is a high-tech product with low operating costs, high-energy efficiency, no laser gases and reduced maintenance. This result is obtained from Prima Power’s proven leadership in laser technology in terms of flexibility, quality and user friendliness. The company has nearly 2,000 flat laser machines installed worldwide.

The Laser Genius has linear motors on the X and Y axes, carbon fiber carriage and a synthetic granite frame—unique characteristics that allow it to maximize the fiber laser technology. Another feature that stands out is the proprietary hardware and software for laser process control and the high brilliance 6kW fiber laser.

The Prima Power fiber cutting head features single-lens strategy, safe impact protection system, high dynamic focal axis with 35-mm stroke, lens drawer with quick alignment system (OPC), and protection glass drawer for easy inspection. These features make it an accurate, versatile and efficient machine capable of 24/7 lights-out production.

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Plow through parts

The Prima Power sales personnel walked R & M through the entire purchasing process. “They were with us from the beginning until the decision was made, and they did an exceptional job of understanding what our needs were and what we were trying to accomplish,” Nelson says. “They explained what the Laser Genius would accomplish for us. And their assurances and time they spent reassuring us of the impeccable service levels and reliability of the machine had a major impact on our purchasing decision.

“I’ve been in this business for 27 years, and I am a realist when it comes to manufacturing equipment,” Nelson continues. “I know that machines break down. I know things happen. There will be service issues. We understand that we are not the only customer of these machine manufacturers, and service can’t always come out here as soon as we call. But that being said, the responsiveness of Prima Power service and their techs have been phenomenal. I would give them a grade of A+.” He comments that most issues have resulted from the need for more training or operator error, and Prima Power has provided ongoing training on processes, in addition to spending two weeks with operators right from the start.

“This machine gives us so much more flexibility and so much more capability, I don’t call it the Laser Genius—I call it the Hog,” says Nelson with a grin. “Because all this machine does is eat metal. The reliability of this machine was been phenomenal—far beyond what we’ve expected.”

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