Coventry-based HTA Group has demonstrated the size of its ambition by investing more than £2 million in automated TRUMPF laser profiling technology that is unparalleled in the UK. The equipment comprises two 5kW TRUMPF TruLaser 5040 fiber laser cutting machines (4 x 2m format) featuring groundbreaking BrightLine fiber technology and SortMaster part sorting automation. Furthermore, both machines are connected to a TRUMPF TruStore 3030 storage system via LiftMaster Store, loading and unloading automation.
HTA Group has come a long way since it was established in 1973, today boasting some 90,000 sq ft of floor space, 135 employees and £12 million annual turnover, making it one of the UK’s largest subcontract manufacturers. Indeed, the company’s growth was the predominant reason that the London Stock Exchange listed HTA Group on its latest ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’ list.
One of the underlying reasons behind the company’s impressive year-on-year growth is its planned programme of continuous investment in the latest manufacturing technologies, of which the £2m+ investment in TRUMPF equipment is the latest and most impressive example. The installation will help the company enhance its customer offer, namely the supply of laser cut parts and fabrications for industries that include construction, automotive, defence, rail, renewables and oil and gas, to list but a few.
“We wanted to take our profiling capability to a whole new level, using the very latest technology available,” says the company’s managing director, Adam Thomas. “It was clear to us that solid-state lasers were the way forward, particularly with the advent of TRUMPF’s BrightLine fiber technology, which makes it possible to cut the full spectrum of material gauges, even thick parts, using a solid-state laser.”
Using BrightLine fiber, it’s possible to switch from thin to thick sheet processing on a single machine platform without any loss of quality. Up to 25 mm thick steel, stainless steel and aluminium can be cut using a solid state laser with excellent edge quality. In short, BrightLine fiber is a technology that enables vast beam diameter adjustability, a capability that conventional fiber lasers lack.
“Being able to exploit the speed of our fiber laser cutter on all gauges is very exciting, particularly in light of the recent trend for reshoring contracts back to the UK in industries such as automotive,” says Mr Thomas. “BrightLine fiber, in combination with the extensive automation capabilities of our new investment, makes HTA very attractive to automotive OEMs and tier suppliers.”
HTA is no stranger to TRUMPF technology. The company acquired its first TRUMPF laser cutter in 2005, a TC3000R, and today there are no less than six TRUMPF flat bed laser cutters on site at Coventry, along with one punching machine and seven press brakes. TRUMPF’s TruTops programming software is used throughout.
“TRUMPF took us to the Euroblech 2014 exhibition in Hanover, where they introduced us to the TruLaser 5040 fiber laser cutting machines and BrightLine fiber,” says Mr Thomas. “We knew the machines were right for us, and they were subsequently installed, along with the automation, and were commissioned at the start of 2015.”
HTA uses its new fiber machines to process material ranging from 0.4 to 25 mm thick. Moreover, the use of fiber laser cutters means the company can also process reflective materials such as brass and copper (up to 10mm), as well as the more typical materials like mild steel, stainless steel and aluminium. Full automation ensures material loading, finished part removal and part sorting is taken care of without human intervention, while the TruStore 3030 can house up to 200 tonnes of raw material – all accessed via LiftMaster Store automation.
The ISO9001 accredited company processes everything from simple laser cut blanks to complex fabricated packages in runs from 1-off to 20,000-off. Among HTA’s TRUMPF press brakes is a 4m model, ensuring that the company can both profile and form, from 4 x 2m sheet sizes.
“We have experienced tremendous growth at HTA, particularly in the past five years,” says Mr Thomas. “However, due to the speed of the fiber laser cutters and the accompanying automation, for the first time in our history our capacity extends to over 1000 hours per week, a proportion of which is presently spare. It is good to have capacity to work with some new customers which we believe will come from sectors such as automotive, rail and construction equipment.”
HTA considers itself in the top tier of its sector, not just because of its investment in technology, but in robust quality and production processes too, while other market differentiators include its willingness to hold stock. This means the company can flex in line with shifts in customer forecasts.
“As approved tier one suppliers to a number of global OEM customers, we have to offer suitable processes and controls,” says Mr Thomas. “For instance, all new products are processed through a robust Advanced Product Quality Planning [APQP] process. This ensures that our customers’ requirements are clearly understood, and that the manufacturing processes, process controls and people are capable of producing products that consistently meet those requirements.
Ultimately, HTA’s objective is to offer market leading levels of customer service and engineering capability. The company believes that the provision of unsurpassed quality and customer service in all areas of operation will be rewarded with long term success.
“We believe that our role as a subcontractor is to provide our customers with the best possible manufacturing technology” concludes Mr Thomas. “As virtually every part and fabrication we produce begins with a laser cut blank, this investment, as part of our continuous improvement program, helps us stay ahead of the competition in both cost and quality”.
If you would like to see this TRUMPF installation in action, or would like to contact HTA about how their investment might benefit you - visit www.htagroup.co.uk for details.