Many companies use laser cut components in the manufacture of their products, and the obvious starting point when prototyping or stepping up towards volume manufacturing is the use of a local subcontractor for laser cutting. The flexibility and affordability of a subcontract service can match with the varying needs of companies unfamiliar with laser cutting. With a prevalence of job shops offering fast turnaround and high-quality sub-contract services, why would you consider bringing laser cutting in-house?
When Just-in-time becomes Just-too-late
As production volumes increase or order quantities fluctuate it can become more difficult to manage external suppliers and the option to bring the laser cutting requirement in-house is usually considered at this point. Having a compact and efficient flatbed laser cutting machine, like the recently-introduced Hyperion 3GF standard system from Cyan Tec Systems means that parts can be produced within minutes when the need for urgent response arises. Sometimes the time taken to contact suppliers and book space in their production schedule can lead to delays from a day to a week. When parts are on the critical path (and perhaps require post-cutting operations like welding or anodising), a delay waiting for a supplier to respond can be circumvented by having the laser cutting machine and the material to cut available in your factory. Delivery time pressure and the need to satisfy unpredictable customer demand can be minimised by taking control of laser cutting and having the resource available “on tap”.
When Stock Isn’t an Option and Variety is Needed
Some companies use the flexibility of laser cutting to personalise production or to cope with a huge variety of spare parts. Making to order rather than making for stock is always going to be more efficient from a stock control point of view. The difficulty of forecasting can be overcome if a flexible laser cutting machine is available. Designs can be held in software (or customised in CAD) and transferred to the laser cutter in minutes. The cutting time with modern fibre laser cutting machines is short, especially on material less than 6 mm thick (which accounts for the lion’s share of the laser cutting requirements in most general industries).
When Volume Reaches Tipping Point
Monthly spend with sub-contract laser cutting job shops clearly increases with volume. As new products incorporating laser cutting gain acceptance in the market and the volume of laser cutting work outsourced increases, there comes a point when the monthly spend on laser cutting exceeds the cost of the monthly lease of a laser cutting machine. At this point, many manufacturers decide to take the decision to bring their laser cutting in-house.