3 April 2013

Amada laser cutting technology makes light work of shipbuilding parts at BAE Systems

November 2012: Amada UK has installed a FO3015 MkII 4kW laser with rotary index tube cutter at Her Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) in Portsmouth, a facility controlled and operated by the Royal Navy in co-operation with BAE Systems. The machine is processing ship components so efficiently that other parts of the business are now eyeing the investment with growing interest.

HMNB is the home port to 60% of the Royal Navy's surface ships. In fact, Naval shipbuilding and repair operations have been core business at the site since the first dock was built in 1194. There are now over 3,000 BAE Systems employees working on HMNBP and just like the scale of this operation, the parts produced here are sizeable to say the least.
“We have existing large-bed laser cutters – however, for what we call our light plate work, between 1 and 20mm thick, the big machines don’t handle this in an optimum way. As a result we decided to seek an alternative solution,” states Trevor Parsons, Production Engineer, at BAE Systems.

BAE Systems wanted a machine that not only processed flat sheet and plate, but offered integrated tube/section cutting. This would avoid relying on sawing machines for cutting material of this nature. With this in mind, the major reason for selecting the Amada FO3015 was the option to add a rotary index tube cutter, which in combination with Amada software Dr ABE Blank and Dr ABE Tube makes this a unique offer in the marketplace. There are 45,000 components that are suitable for cutting with the Amada machine’s rotary index.
“Amada were the only supplier that could offer an integrated solution for bar cutting that was well matched to our light plate shop requirements,” he says. “It gives us the flexibility we need to go from flat sheet cutting to box/angle/section and pipe cutting at fast speeds. We can also cut angle section and channel with non-uniform wall thickness, a common challenge on our parts.”

Installed in February 2012, the Amada FO3015 runs all day between 06:30 and 16:00, when the light fabrication hall is manned, following which the machine will typically run two programs “lights-out”, with each job running for 2-3 hours. This is facilitated by automated Amada pallet change technology, providing another new capability at the Portsmouth facility. The machine processes multiple material types, ranging from traditional metals such aluminium, steel and stainless steel, through to more unusual materials, such as armour plate, plywood and even certain types of rubber.

“The Amada FO3015 is perfectly suited to the smaller size of our light plate parts, making it a very efficient solution,” says Mr Parsons. “For instance, using our larger laser cutters, the off-cuts produced were previously consigned to waste streams, whereas now they are ideal for making parts on the new Amada. We’re not purchasing any specially-sized material anymore, which is saving money. As everyone knows, engineering materials are phenomenally expensive these days. This change also facilitates greater control over our inventory. The parts also come off the machine with a really clean finish and so require no further operations.”

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