After completing his apprenticeship and gaining further qualifications, Iain Summerfield found himself at a sheet metal subcontractor in 2001 sweeping the floor and loading material onto four Bystronic CO2 flat-bed laser cutting machines. Seven years later, in mid-2008, he joined forces with co-director Paul King to set up their own company, Laser 24, to provide similar subcontract services. In 2015, one of their CO2 machines was exchanged for Laser 24's first fibre laser cutting machine, a Bystronic 3 kW ByStar Fiber 3015. The effectiveness of fibre laser cutting was immediately apparent and the wider range of materials that could be processed resulted in new work being won.
Fibre technology had matured by then into one that was supplanting CO2 in almost all application areas. By mid-2018, the subcontractor had attached a 10 kW ByStar Fiber to the ByTrans Extended, which was joined by a second identical production cell six months later. Laser 24 is the only company in the south of England to operate a pair of such powerful sheet metal cutting centres.
A further advantage of having a 10 kW fibre laser source is that there is sufficient power to effectively use air rather than oxygen as the assist gas for certain jobs. It results in an edge quality indistinguishable from if oxygen is used when cutting material up to 1.5 mm thick and is still acceptable for thicknesses up to 3 mm. Laser 24 is currently considering air cutting, which avoids the cost of using bottled gas, as an economical alternative to plasma cutting for applications that do not require top quality edge finish. Trials are currently being carried out.