17 June 2015

1.5 million pound investment in machinery for processing architectural materials

Lee Warren Architectural Metal & Glass has standardised on machine tools from Swiss manufacturer, Bystronic, for 2D profiling and bending applications at its 64,000 sq ft factory complex in Hayes, Middlesex. Over £1.5 million was invested in new machinery between 2011 and 2014, two-thirds of which was used to purchase a CO2 laser cutting machine, a water jet profiler and two press brakes from Bystronic UK.

The company already had experience using this make of equipment, as it bought an ex-demonstration, 5 kW BySpeed CO2 laser profiling machine in 2009, capable of processing 3 metre x 1.5 metre sheet. It was much faster than the guillotine and punch press combination that the company had been using and produced extra components from each sheet of material, leading to more economical production.

Alex Pollock, production director at Lee Warren recalled, “At the time, it was our first laser cutting machine and we evaluated all of the major manufacturers.
“As we were in the market for a second-hand machine, we were keen to find a supplier that would provide comprehensive service. We came to the conclusion that Bystronic UK offered the best package.

“How right we were. The service was fantastic, even though it was not a new machine, and has continued ever since. An engineer is always on site within 24 hours if needed and the telephone support is excellent. We never regretted the decision.”

By 2012, Lee Warren needed a new press brake and reviewed three potential types. The Bystronic Xpert 150 with 3,000 mm bending length and 1,500 kN capacity was selected. It was the only one that could produce a test component with a bend sequence that did not cause interference, thanks to the advanced cycle simulation capability of the proprietary BySoft software.

With major contracts in full swing at the time, including at London Kings Cross station, Heathrow Terminal 3 and the Olympic Stadium, it was apparent that the 5 kW laser was not powerful enough to cope with some materials. The machine was therefore exchanged for a new, 6 kW BySprint Pro 3015, which is quicker, more efficient and can cut 20 mm mild steel, one-third thicker than the previous maximum. It is also able to process 15 mm aluminium and stainless steel and operates 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Two years later, another problem arose for Lee Warren. It was tendering for contracts which involved sheet metal components that were approaching four metres in length, rather than the more usual three metres. The company was also bidding for contracts to refit various airports and offices in central London, where 4-metre material in 2 or 3 mm aluminium or stainless steel was involved.

A press brake was needed to accommodate this larger sheet size and a Bystronic Xpert 200 with 4,000 mm bending length and 2,000 kN capacity was duly installed to cope with the new work. The controls on both Xpert press brakes are linked to the latest CO2 laser machine’s CNC system. All use the same BySoft 7 software, so a component that needs profiling and bending can have a single program and pass seamlessly from the BySpeed Pro to one of the Xperts.

2014 also saw the addition of a Bystronic water jet profiling machine at Hayes, one of the latest ByJet Flex models with a 6 metre by 3 metre cutting area and twin cutting heads. Flex signifies flexibility in that the 2D cutting heads can be replaced, if expedient, with a 3D head to allow chamfer cutting. The machine replaced an ageing, smaller capacity machine which had been poorly serviced by the supplier for a decade, underlining again the importance Lee Warren now places on back-up and support.

Mr Pollock concluded, “We chose a bigger bed for the new water jet machine so we could cut larger shapes in one piece, such as an entire steel staircase. Avoiding having to butt weld the stringers saves a lot of time and is more accurate.

“Water jet capacity is vital for our business, as it allows virtually any material to be cut, thin or thick, from stainless steel and aluminium to plastics and rubber.

“It also cuts glass and is assisting the new division we started last year, Lee Warren Architectural Glass, prior to which we were buying in glass cut to size.”

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