Plant reliability is vital for any manufacturing enterprise, but particularly for a subcontractor starting out with a single machine tool. This was the position Danny Fantom found himself in at the start of last year when he formed FC Laser Ltd to provide subcontract laser cutting and forming services.
Previous good experience with equipment from Bystronic UK led him to order a 4.4 kW Bysprint Pro flatbed laser cutting machine. Ever since the machine was commissioned in June 2012, it has operated faultlessly in FC Laser's 9,000 sq ft sheet metalworking facility in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.
Mr Fantom commented, "The machine has not missed a beat during more than 3,000 hours of operation and we have not had to call out a service engineer once.
"The Bysprint Pro has been instrumental in expanding our customer base, from a single firm in the power generation field when we started to over 100 clients now.
"New enquiries are coming in each week across many different industries, which in turn have given us an increasing order book, month on month."
Rapid influx of business from the nuclear, shopfitting, architectural and prestige automotive sectors has allowed FC Laser to grow quickly from six staff at the outset to 12 currently, including two apprentices on day-release to Chesterfield College.
Danny Fantom underwent a five-year sheet metalworking apprenticeship at an aerospace company producing precision components and assemblies for the aircraft industry. He therefore knows the importance to manufacturing industry of training new engineers and, more specifically, the benefit of employing skilled staff familiar with the working practices at FC Laser.
Highlights of the company's service are quotation within an hour of receiving an enquiry, rapid turnaround of orders supported by 24/7 working when required, and next-day delivery anywhere in the UK, whether to a small business or a multinational company.
Competitive prices are offered, partly as a result of having the confidence to over-run the Bysprint Pro lights-out after the 6.00 am to 10.00 pm manned shifts. Thicker materials are normally processed during the night to take maximum advantage of the extra capacity. A sheet on each of the two beds can provide five hours' unattended production.
To ensure quick deliveries, one tonne of each standard gauge of mild steel from 0.9 mm to 20 mm is held in stock, as well as stainless steel from 0.9 mm to 15 mm and up to 12 mm aluminium. Sheet size is usually 3 m x 1.5 m, which is the nominal bed capacity of the laser cutting machine. Other material sizes are bought in if it is possible to nest jobs more efficiently and so minimise waste, which is particularly important if larger batch quantities are involved.
Mr Fantom continued, "We regard Bystronic as one of the world's leading manufacturers of laser cutting equipment.
"Our machine is very productive, with extremely fast acceleration and 169 m/min simultaneous positioning speed. It is capable of instantaneous hole piercing up to 10 mm thickness and can produce 600 holes per minute in 1 mm mild steel.
"We produce various batch quantities of components from different materials, so quick machine changeover is important to minimise downtime.
Operators can carry out a nozzle change to swap between processing 0.9 mm and 20 mm materials in under a minute.
"We have been so pleased with the first machine that we have ordered a second 4.4 kW Bysprint Pro, this time opting for a larger cutting surface of 4 metres x 2 metres. It has the added advantage of automatic nozzle centring, which will further reduce machine downtime.
"It is scheduled for delivery in May 2013 and will open up additional markets to us. Already we are discussing the first potential job with an existing customer."
To supplement its sheet metal profiling capability, FC Laser has also installed a 3-axis CNC press brake from Bystronic UK. The 3-metre bed, 150-tonne machine with CNC crowning produces bends that are accurate to less than 0.1 mm and 0.25 degree over the entire bed length up to 6 mm capacity. This in-house bending facility, together with the use of outside services such as water jet cutting, fabrication and powder coating, allows FC Laser to offer a comprehensive service to customers that prefer one-stop manufacturing.