26 March 2010

Amada F1 laser accelerates growth at Seward

Preston-based Seward Precision Laser Ltd has acquired a brand new high speed, high specification Amada F1 CNC laser profiling centre with linear drives. The machine has doubled capacity at this progressive and successful contract fabrication shop, and complements a recent company move to larger premises.

Seward Precision was formed in 2003 when the owner, Graham Seward, sought a machine tool company prepared to help finance his aspiration of establishing a rapid response, competitive and high quality fabrication company. Despite being armed with a detailed business plan and several potential customers, only Amada stepped forward to discuss the plan and offer a proposal.

Amada’s finance ‘package’ consisted of a 4kW LC2415 Alpha laser, a press brake (with tooling), training and a maintenance package all wrapped up in a fixed monthly payment to suit Mr Seward’s situation.

Since then, the company has gone from strength-to-strength, substantiated by a move last year to premises that have trebled Seward Precision’s floor space.

“Orders from my existing customers were increasing,” explains Graham. “I needed both more capacity and the ability to process thicker material blanks. As my company was now well established, I had a wider choice of supplier for both machines and finance.”

Setting the benchmark
Graham benchmarked three suppliers, eventually ordering the new Amada F1 4kW all-linear axis machine. The principal reasons for machine selection were cutting speed, cutting quality and, most importantly, the ability to cut material from 1 to 20mm thick without any set-up.

“Ultimately, I could make more parts per pound,” he says.

The F1 features twin adaptive optics whereby a series of concave and convex mirrors between the laser resonator and cutting head distort the beam and spot diameter in a controlled manner to provide optimum cutting speed and quality. This makes it possible to cut all material thicknesses using just a single laser lens.

State-of-the-art linear drives in all three axes not only make the machine exceptionally fast – 170m/min in XY – but allow impressive acceleration rates of 1.5G in the X and Y axes, and 3G in Z. The F1 also features in-process cut monitoring, to ensure stable cutting and avoid errors such as plasma and gouging.

According to Graham, another important consideration was software. “I didn’t want to increase staffing levels so it was important that the software was automated,” he says.

Amada’s Dr Abe blanking software now used by Seward Precision can produce reliable programs quickly and easily using just three buttons. Multiple materials types and thicknesses can be loaded into the fully dissimilar nesting software, which will match parts with material sheets.

Once the drawings have been selected and the quantities specified, the software can be left running in the background, allowing Seward Precision to concentrate on other tasks. Dr Abe Blank then applies laser technology to the parts automatically, nests them all and generates NC code accordingly without any further intervention.

“The accuracy of the F1 time study allows me to quote for work knowing that I will be very price competitive,” says Graham. “With the ability of the software to create material remnants automatically, material can be used to its maximum to keep costs down. Consequently, this makes the quoting process so accurate that the task can now be delegated while I am out of the office.”

For finance, Seward Precision still found that Amada offered a competitive rate and a greater degree of flexibility than other credit providers.

Amada has been funding customer purchases since the early 1990s, and today finances more than 60% of all the equipment it supplies. Its flexible finance plan is self funded and tailored to match individual customer requirements. There are no third parties involved, so the decision making process is clear and easy with no hidden costs. Furthermore, no personal guarantees are needed as Amada secures the loan against the equipment.

As an additional benefit to manufacturers, Amada’s funding package is a fixed rate scheme in which as well as the machine, the buyer can include maintenance plans, software, tooling and even consumables to give a fixed monthly cost while ensuring the machine’s reliability and performance are at the optimum for the whole of its life.

Working directive

The Amada F1 at Seward Precision has been put to work producing parts for industries that range from aerospace, automotive and motorsport through to retail display, architecture, catering, material handling and special purpose machinery. Although Seward Precision can produce large batches of parts, the company has specialised in small batch sizes supplied against short lead-time requirements, hence the need for the minimised set-up times offered by the Amada F1 laser cutting machine.

“We have a great relationship with our customers, which is one of the secrets of our success,” says Graham. “We pride ourselves in doing what we say, for the price we quote, and in the time we state.”
A single operator at Seward Precision oversees both laser and press brake simultaneously, bending parts while the laser is cutting. This strategy allows Seward Precision to be flexible with working hours and yet have the same output as larger competitors. The provision of bending capability from day one has provided significant advantage over laser-only job shops.

As for the future, although Seward Precision currently has enough capacity to meet customer requirements, if necessary it can add automation to the Amada F1 – anything from stand-alone options through to tower systems and full stockyards – for 24-hour production without the need to increase staff levels.

“Our aim, through the acquisition of the latest manufacturing technology and the application of a can-do attitude, is to deliver a quality laser cutting service at a competitive price, giving our customers the edge over their competition,” concludes Graham. “We are the first company in Europe to purchase the new Amada F1 laser cutter, which shows our commitment to being at the forefront of technology in the precision laser cutting industry.”

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