8 April 2013

Mitsubishi ex laser proves unexpectedly versatile for vehicle parts maker

A new eX3015 4.5kW laser cutting machine from Mitsubishi Electric, supplied by laser cutting specialist, World Machinery, has significantly improved manufacturing flexibility and capacity at PSS Ltd, a Norfolk based manufacturer of power steering components and other equipment for the commercial vehicle, construction and agricultural equipment markets.

The catalyst for the purchase of the new machine was the acquisition by PSS of George Moate Ltd, a manufacturer of specialist agricultural equipment, including the Tillerstar, an innovative tilling, de-stoning and bed preparation machine for the potato and root vegetable industry. “We were already considering adding a laser cutting capability to our range of state of the art CNC manufacturing equipment,” explains PSS managing director Richard Pratt, “But it was the Tillerstar, which makes extensive use of sheet materials in its construction, that finally tipped the balance.”

Since its installation, The Mitsubishi laser machine has quickly become an integral part of PSS’ manufacturing operations and the company is currently using the machine to process up to three tonnes of material a day, including steel, stainless and plastic in thicknesses ranging from 1.5mm to 25mm.

“We chose the eX machine based on its speed of cutting and simplicity of programming,” explains Richard Pratt. “For production work, we can download CAD files directly from our design office, but our operators also make use of the on-board CNC controller for prototypes and short runs.”

The speed and flexibility of the new machine has allowed PSS to extend its use to a wide variety of other jobs, as well as the production of sheet parts for the Tillerstar. “Now we are getting used to the machine we are finding new jobs for it all the time,” says Richard Pratt, “We are increasingly using it to rough out parts like washers that might previously have been cut from bar on one of our CNC lathes. We are also finding that we can now produce various sheet components that we would previously have outsourced, which helps us to cut the number of parts we need to keep in stock, and reduces our input costs.”

The addition of laser cutting to the range of CNC machining capabilities already installed at PSS also allows it to extend its offering to customers. “One of the key reasons companies come to us is our ability to be extremely flexible in the volumes of the products we produce,” notes Richard Pratt. “We are able to manufacture anything from ten parts or less to many hundreds, which is very valuable for customers in supporting older products or niche models. The flexibility of the Mitsubishi machine allows us to extend that service into new categories of component, while maintaining the same rigorous quality and delivery performance our customers rely on.” Such is the capacity of the new machine that PSS is also considering taking on subcontract laser cutting work for other manufacturers, the first time it has made use of one of its machines for such work.

Part of the reason the new machine has proved so productive, so quickly is thanks to the “seamless” delivery and commissioning service from its supplier, World Machinery, according to Richard Pratt. “The guys at World Machinery worked with us right from the start of the purchase process,” he says. “They came in and measured the site, installed the machine and provided training for our operators. They are still helping us now with the manufacture of some particularly complex components.”

PSS has plans to further develop the capabilities of its Mitsubishi eX laser cutter, with the future addition of a 4th axis for the machine. “We are 90 percent certain we’ll go ahead with that modification,” says Richard Pratt, “But we wanted to make sure we were comfortable operating the basic machine before adding the extra axis.”

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