In his business almost every job is a one-off, says Neil Dowse of lift manufacturer Bramptons so the ability to quickly and easily produce profiled parts such as brackets and sling components is vital.
Until recently these parts were cut using plasma, but when the time came for Bramptons to replace its ageing machine, laser cutting on a keenly-priced LVD Orion laser proved to be a much better option.
"Quality was becoming a real problem on the old plasma machine," says Neil. "Not only were the hole quality and the dimensional accuracy poor, but the nature of the plasma process meant that we were spending a day cleaning parts after we had cut them.
"We had been looking at another plasma machine which would have cost around Â£100,000, but then we found out about the LVD Orion and realised that we could have all the advantages of laser cutting for just Â£65,000 more – so we bought one."
The LVD laser arrived in March this year, and he says that the quality improvement has been incredible.
"It's unbelievable. There is no need to clean up the parts and they are absolutely accurate. They come straight of the laser and are ready for bending. We draw the parts up in Solid Works and we know that if the drawing is right then the parts will fit. We don't have to rely on making holes three times bigger than they need to be to make sure they line up – we know that they will. Our parts have to be of a high quality so that they fit together and look good; both of these are much easier to achieve with the laser."
Bramptons makes almost everything in a lift that isn't mechanical or electrical – from lift cars and doors to the steelwork that holds the lift in the shaft. It supplies over a hundred lift cars a year, and maybe a thousand lift doors to most of the UK's independent lift companies, not just for new installations but also for refurbishment and replacement projects.
While the laser is normally used on 6mm mild and stainless steel, occasionally going up to 12mm, most of Bramptons' thinner material is normally processed on its CNC punch presses. But even here the laser has been able to make an impact.
Every lift needs faceplates for the buttons and an indicator panel to show which floor you are on. At one time the cut-outs in these were put in on the punch press. In more recent years though there has been a trend for these items to become more bespoke ‘architectural' items which made them almost impossible to punch. The solution had been to engrave the holes out but they can now be cut on the laser much more quickly and easily.
Overall, says Neil, the laser is not only quicker and the quality better, but the ability to nest components means he can plan work more effectively too.
"When you are punching you have to wait until you've got the right number of jobs with the right mix of holes to load the turret up for maximum efficiency. With the laser you can put whichever jobs you want on a sheet regardless of hole diameters or profiles, so you get less waste too."
He says that anyone looking at replacing a plasma machine shouldn't just look at the initial cost of the machine.
"You should look at all the aspects of the process and assess what the laser can do for you overall rather than just looking at initial cost of the machine. The extra Â£65,000 the Orion cost compared to a plasma machine was certainly money well spent."
Contact: Matt Fowles