Laser Technology

Smooth ride

By Gretchen Salois

Above: The Laguna FC and DLP fiber laser models come in power ranges from 0.7 to 4 kW and can process a wide range of materials and thicknesses.

Two very different companies find the best way to combat secondary processing

March 2020 - Each time you step onto an elevator or board a bus, there’s a level of trust the rider imparts to those who designed and built each mode of movement.

In Syracuse, New York, Elevator Interiors Inc.’s owner, Joe Piepho, found his operations were hindered by other people’s schedules. Rather than farm out cutting jobs, Piepho began to hunt for equipment that would give the elevator parts manufacturer the ability to cut components efficiently and cleanly in house.

“When we first started working with steel sheet metal, we used a punch and shear and it was incredibly time consuming. We tried plasma and, while that could cut any shape, it wasn’t laser quality,” Piepho says. Elevator Interiors purchased a Laguna Smartshop IPC 5-ft. by 10-ft. fiber laser with 1,000 watt IPG power supply.

FFJ 0320 laser image1

Elevator Interiors previously cut sheet metal using a punch and shear, which was time consuming.

Across the country in Riverside, California, Grech Motors fabricates an average of 12 luxury shuttle buses per week, with much of the manufacturing completed in a plant based in Mexicali, Mexico. “We needed a better way to cut tubing,” recalls Carter Read, manufacturing engineer of production and engineering at Grech Motors. “At my old job, we used a Laguna machine and I was brought into Grech to help speed processes along, and to automate [operations].”

Grech Motors purchases the bus chassis and then cuts holes and cuts through the steel frames. “I noticed that our workers had to take tubing and cut it at a 7-degree angle, and after each cut of a 2-ft. by 4-ft. tube, 86 in. long, we had to turn it to the opposite side 7 degrees and cut it again—it was a total of four holes and each time we had to set it up and rotate it again to cut it,” Read says.

The entire process took more than 25 minutes to complete. After installing the fiber laser, that process time dwindled to 70 seconds. Workers can now focus on other tasks. “We still need hands-on work and the Laguna fiber laser allows us to move workers to other departments,” Read says.

FFJ 0320 laser image2

Eliminating hardware by cutting with fiber laser results in a lot less parts.

Affordable accuracy

The Laguna FC and DLP fiber laser models come in power ranges from 0.7 to 4 kW and can process a wide range of materials and thicknesses. The FC fiber laser consists of a 5-ft. by 10-ft. cutting table that has optional safety enclosures and shuttle tables for automatic loading and unloading of sheets.

In addition to the sheet cutting capabilities of the FC, the DLP has a tube-cutting system capable of processing square or round tubes up to 19 ft. long with a diameter of 8 in. Both the FC and DLP machines are PC-based and designed to be scalable and user friendly. Common file types, including CAD, STL, DXF, AI and EPS files can be dropped in and the patterns can be cut almost immediately. Nesting software, including lead-in and lead-out adjustability, report generation and edge detection are built into the fiber laser’s controls.

“In the last two years, we have seen an uptick in requests for fiber laser technology,” says Steve Alvarez, director of sales at Laguna Tools. “These types of machines used to be cost prohibitive for most small to medium-sized companies. As prices of fiber laser machines have come down, the doors have opened to many potential customers looking for the precision and cut quality that have been unattainable in the past.”

Grech Motors was able to integrate its DLP system in days. “They were running at full production levels once the installation was signed off,” Alvarez says. “Before purchasing the DLP, Read had no choice but to outsource this work because the cost to manually produce these parts could not be justified.”

FFJ 0320 laser image3

Little if any rework on parts is necessary. “You drop a file in and you end up with a clean cut part,” says Elevator Interiors’ Piepho.

Return on investment

With a full production plant running in Mexico, Read says the payback was quick. “We’re an American manufacturer and, as part of our trade agreements, we often have to buy materials here and send it to our plant in Mexico,” Read says. “Now that we have the fiber laser, we are finding that we go through material much quicker. We’re considering another fiber laser.”

The bus chassis that Grech cuts for the underbelly luggage carriage is cut entirely on the fiber laser. “My goal is that eventually we get everything we need to cut going on that laser,” Read says.

Little if any rework on parts is necessary. “You drop a file in and you end up with a clean cut part,” says Piepho. “We do walk-in work for other elevator companies in the area including brackets and fixture plates. With the fiber laser, we can turn parts around same day as opposed to days or weeks.”

After installing the machine, Piepho says his team understood quickly that they did not have to adhere to simply designed parts. “We realized that we can do flanges and things we used to have to stud weld or glue,” he says. “By eliminating hardware, there are a lot less parts. Now we don’t have to stud weld to attach angles. Instead we bend those flanges in and can make a much cleaner, more professional part.

“We used to just make parts; now we engineer parts,” Piepho says. FFJ


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