23 November 2015

Adige LT5 Fiber Tube Laser drives process improvement along the line

The new Adige LT5 Tube Laser machine installed at Olicana Products, a specialist provider of tubular metal products supplying the high-end office furniture, automotive and bath manufacturing sectors is transforming the productivity of the business and overall product quality. At the same time these improvements are opening up new potential sales opportunities for the Ilkley, West Yorkshire-based business.

With 90 per cent of its turnover coming from a select group of 10 customers Olicana has to be focussed on maintaining close and positive relationships with its customers. It achieves this by providing solutions in the form of designing for manufacture, and the ability to meet the challenges put to it by those customers. “We are competing against some of the best suppliers of tube product from around the world, so we have identified customers that are forward thinking and that we want to work with. We provide them with our expertise in manufacturing difficult to make products, in return they continue to challenge that expertise,” says Rupert Pearson, Managing Director, Olicana Products.

With the furniture and automotive sectors generating significant growth for the company, Olicana has embarked on a project to enhance its manufacturing capability. The investment in an Adige LT5 Tube Laser is a major part of that project, with the decision to purchase the Adige LT5 Fiber Laser system being taken to allow Olicana to take better control of existing processes; bring more work in-house and; to develop new manufacturing strategies that will give Olicana a distinct advantage over its competitors.

Most of the work undertaken by Olicana is thin-walled tube for which the Adige LT5 is ideally suited to cutting. Making use of Nitrogen as the assist gas for the Fiber Laser, Olicana is creating components with very clean cut edges with the accuracy of those cuts leading to overall improvements in product quality. Furthermore, that accuracy is having a significant impact on the welding processes further along the manufacturing chain. This welding can now be automated due to the consistent quality and accuracy produced on the LT5.

“The purchase of the Adige LT5 Tube Laser wasn’t just about fixing one specific area of our manufacturing, it was part of an ongoing strategy that will deliver improvements throughout the manufacturing process. Bringing in technology of this kind forces you to revise your thinking in order to achieve the maximum benefit. We are now witnessing productivity improvements, not only in the cutting of tube, but also in every process after the tube has been cut, thanks to the improved quality and accuracy of that cut tube. With our business model we are constantly looking for solutions to problems that our customers doesn’t always know they have, with the addition of the LT5 and the subsequent investments we are making to bring the rest of our facility up to the same standard, we are better placed to achieve this,” says Rupert Pearson

The Adige LT5 is the most compact machine in the Tube Laser family and has been developed with the processing of tubes with thin and medium wall thickness in mind. The use of a 1 kW fiber laser means running costs are low and up time is maximised. Thefiber laser also allows a wide variety of materials to be cut. The LT5’s six axes are digitally controlled via the Siemens 840D control, which added to the maximum raw tube capacity of 6500 mm in length with a maximum finished workpiece length of 4500 mm make it extremely versatile. Key to its development was the ability to synchronise all of the machine’s sub-systems, such as tube handling and measuring without any time loss. Furthermore, the LT5 only requires relatively simple adjustments to change from one job to the next, making changeover extremely quick. All important functions are located close to the operator station.

The LT5 also comes with the advantage of Artube BLM’s dedicated CAD CAM software that assists with design, programming and process/production management. Artube features many user friendly menus that will allow the user to move from drawing to finished part in a matter of minutes. During the component design phase the software also allows the designer to exploit all of the machine’s functions to ensure correct design for manufacture is undertaken. Full 3D simulation then confirms that all is as it should be, including providing cycle time and cost-per-part estimates before the file is transferred to production. At that stage a second piece of software, Protube, is available to optimise production.

The reliability of the fiber laser combined with the large-capacity tube loader, which can handle round, oval, square and rectangular tube, along with the LT5’s ability to measure each tube during pre-loading means that the machine can run for extended periods unmanned. The measurement of the tube is also used by the machine control to optimise part nesting and reduce waste material. During the entire from loading to cutting the tube is fully supported and guided, ensuring maximum accuracy of cut parts and protection of the tube surface. As well as the ease of use of the Siemens control, which can be positioned to give complete visibility of the cutting process at all times, other elements of the operator interface have been addressed in the design of the LT5. For example, at the front of the machine are large, double opening, doors for ease of access for setting and maintenance procedures. The LT5’s electrical cabinets are located in one position at the end of the machine, again for ease of access and functionality.

Olicana is making full use of these features whether on the small tubular assemblies that it produces for the automotive, including truck, tractor, off-road and yellow goods sector, or for the tubular frames it constructs for its furniture customers. The precision of the cut, and of particular note, the ability to cut a true circle in tube has improved overall component quality. The initial success of the LT5 at Olicana means that it is already running two shifts and with new components being added to its inventory every day the cost savings and performance benefits will continue to add up.

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