The Premier Group in Coventry has been producing niche production runs of panels and assemblies as well as prototype work for 20 years. It now has 10 different factory units where it succeeds in producing difficult to form components in challenging materials. Its most famous success story is the Olympic Torch for the 2012 London Olympics. The company designed and built the prototype in four days. It then manufactured 12,100 torches for the games, laser welding the seam down the length of each torch on its Prima Power Optimo, and laser cutting 100 million holes in 6 months using its Prima Power Syncrono laser.
The bulk of the company’s business is in the automotive sector, where it has had a close relationship with Jaguar Land Rover for around 10 years. However it also operates in many other sectors including aerospace, rail, renewable energy, special industrial projects and specialist vehicles. The Premier Group works in partnership with its customers right from the design stage, advising on material, formability and tooling, using its skills and knowledge to produce high quality parts and assemblies at an economic cost. Its special relationship with Prima Power, which extends back 13 years, makes a major contribution to this process.
The Premier Group added to its original Prima Power Optimo 5-axis laser with a new model in 2012. The machine has a split cabin, which adds to the flexibility of the machine, enabling it to cut the largest single panels or numerous smaller panels in one operation. John Campton, Key Account Manager at The Premier Group says, “The Optimo delivers completely new levels of accuracy. We used to work to 0.2 mm tolerances from the laser. Now we can work to 0.02mm, which is what our OEM customers are demanding. The machine is five times faster, very strong and reliable and offers us pure versatility.” He continues, “Prima Power gives us great after sales service. When we needed to add to the original Optimo, we considered the whole market, but again chose to select Prima Power.”
As well as the Optimo, The Premier Group has a Prima Power Syncrono 2-axis high speed laser, with a Compact Server for material loading and unloading, and added to the existing Prima Power Rapido with the latest 5-axis Rapido Evoluzione2 in April 2015. There are also a further two new Prima Power Optimo Lasers on order for installation during 2015.
When collaborating with customers, The Premier Group takes designs into its CATIA CAD system and checks formability with its AutoForm software before working with the customer to produce a solution, and then designing and manufacturing the necessary tooling. New material properties can be challenging, so the company uses its considerable experience in this field and also consults with the University of Warwick for more complex projects.
The company is producing the panels for the Morgan 3 Wheeler, a new, re-engineered version of the classic, which had previously not been manufactured for 60 years. With AutoForm simulation, The Premier Group was able to arrive at the 2D shape for each blank, which it laser cut ready for forming. In total, the company has so far produced 1500 sets of bodywork panels with the speed of laser cutting keeping the costs down. Morgan came to The Premier Group as it could provide a solution which was much lower in cost than conventional production tooling.
For Jaguar Land Rover The Premier Group produces 1,000s of different panels. For the new Jaguar XJ the company manufactured every single panel for the underbody and superstructure VP stage, which demonstrates its capabilities in low volume production. Furthermore, it has the ability to produce quantities up to around 10,000. For this the speed of the trimming of formed panels possible on the Optimo and Rapido machines is crucial for on time delivery. Other projects have included exhaust panels for the A400M military transport aircraft, with quality and delivery benefiting from the very small heat affected zone and the speed of laser cutting. The company also collaborates with companies such as Nilsson to produce prototype panels for limousines, ambulances and hearses, which are based on the Volvo S80 and V70, helping them take the vehicles through to production. Furthermore, it works with Modine, developing heat exchanger systems for agricultural vehicles.
All these applications rely heavily on the Prima Power lasers. John Campton says, “We have a proper technical relationship with Prima Power. We worked closely on laser welding, producing a 1.5m weld seam in 7.5 seconds. We first used it on the Olympic torch and now we are examining other applications. Currently we are working on a project to produce angled holes. Prima Power’s continual development programme fits in with our comprehensive growth plans and, the after sales service and machine reliability is excellent. As the majority of our panels are laser cut, the close rapport we have with Prima Power is essential for our business.”