11 February 2014

Oil and gas sector specialist invests in Trumpf lasers

The Centek Group, a global manufacturer of engineered products for the oil and gas industry, has specified a third Trumpf TruLaser 3030 laser profiling centre for its headquarters in Newton Abbot, UK, along with a new TruLaser 5030 fiber laser for its US-based manufacturing facility in Oklahoma, which was established in 2012. The new lasers are expected to help facilitate a 20% boost in production output in the 2013/14 financial year.

Founded in 2001, Centek has rapidly become the UK’s leading innovator in the design and manufacture of casing centralisers for the oil and gas sector. Centralisers are mechanical devices that prevent the drill casing from making contact with the well bore wall. The Centek S2 centraliser is revolutionary in its design as it is a one piece unit. It provides the stand-off and flexibility required of a traditional bow spring centraliser, yet due to its unique construction offers substantial robustness and strength. First run in the North Sea in 2002, it is now the first choice for far-reach deviated wells.

Such has been the success of the S2 centraliser and other Centek products that the company has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years. Around 140 people are now employed at Newton Abbot, while in little more than 12 months the new Oklahoma facility has grown to employ 90 people. Turnover in 2012 hit £27 million, taking Oklahoma set-up costs into account. Central to this impressive progress is the group’s investment in the latest Trumpf laser cutting technology.

“Trumpf lasers give us the repeatability, speed and reliability that enables our product to be produced in big numbers from flat plate steel material,” says Managing Director, Tony Cutmore. “Our centralisers have no welds or moving parts and are made from a single piece of steel, which is heat treated after manufacture.”

The success of a TruLaser 3030 CNC laser profiling centre installed at Newton Abbot in 2009, and a predecessor model in 2004, led the company to specify a repeat machine for its UK facility.

“The TruLaser 3030 gives us the repeatability we require to make our products using a SOP [Standard Operating Procedure],” explains Mr Cutmore. “The quality of the cut means no further processes are needed after profiling. This is great as we need to achieve a 0.10mm gap when parts are manufactured with an interlocked join. The only requirement needed to maintain this tolerance is making sure we keep the lens clean.”

Quality is clearly important to this progressive manufacturing organisation, which is both ISO 9001:2008 and API Spec 10D accredited. Centek is also working towards achieving the ISO 14001 environmental standard.

At Newton Abbot, the double Queen’s Award winner now has three TruLaser 3030 machines running 24 hours, five days a week. The machines produce 4mm thick components with approximately 45 parts to a sheet. According to Centek, the latest TruLaser 3030 is approximately 5% quicker on 4mm thick material and around 8% quicker on 3mm. Normal production sees the company run 3, 4 and 5mm thick mild steel, although it also makes tooling parts and R&D profiles that require the processing of 10, 15 and 20mm plate.

Batch sizes are kept deliberately small, typically 50-200 off to allow for better traceability. The size of the order and the size of the product are other influencing factors on batch size as Centek likes to run as lean as possible. Around 98% of its products are exported.

Encouraged by the success of its three TruLaser machines in the UK, and the comprehensive support offered by Trumpf UK, the choice of laser supplier for Centek’s new facility in Oklahoma was straightforward.

“The support from Trumpf UK is very good – we have no complaints,” says Mr Cutmore. “On the rare occasion we require on-site support, Trumpf are here within 24 hours. Plus the telephone support is always very efficient.”

For Oklahoma, the company opted for its first solid-state laser machine, a TruLaser 5030 fiber. This model offers the most economical solution for highly efficient thin sheet metal processing. In this field of application, the machine takes full advantage of the high feed rates of the energy-efficient, fiber-guided TruDisk laser. The TruLaser 5030 fiber in Oklahoma mainly produces 3mm parts and also runs 24 hours, five days a week.

“The cutting speed and precision of this new laser cutting machine are of prime importance to us,” states Mr Cutmore.

Ultimately, Centek is looking towards it new lasers to underpin a 20% growth in production line output during the current financial year.

“If the same type of increase or more is to occur next year we will need to look at the fiber machines to allow for the extra blank stock to be produced,” adds Mr Cutmore. “While we do of course have direct competitors, every process in the manufacture of our one-piece centralisers takes place in-house, which I believe our competitors do not have. This facilitates short lead-times for our customers and acts as a vital market differentiator.”

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