Like most other businesses, ES Precision suffered from the fall in business activity in 2020-21. ES uses its range of galvo-deflected lasers to provide a laser processing service to medical device, automotive, electronics and other engineering companies. Many of their key sectors were hit hard by the pandemic as there were fewer scheduled operations in the NHS and car plants temporarily closed assembly lines.
ES had been contemplating an expansion of its current laser marking-dominated service to include subcontract erosion cutting but hesitated to do so owing to economic uncertainties and reduced capital available as a consequence of business being hit by the pandemic.
Erosion cutting is a promising application for medium power fibre lasers. It harnesses the flexibility of familiar galvo-driven laser marking systems and meets a demand for precise cutting of thin materials that most commercial flat-bed laser cutters cannot. Such large, expensive CO2- or fibre-based machines with high pressure gas nozzles are not well suited to producing fine features and small profiles in metal sheets which are of order of 1mm thickness.
The idea is to present a service for profiling, drilling and perforating thin gauge materials (mainly any type of metal, up to about 2mm thick – see example below) to high technology manufacturing in Oxfordshire and across the UK and Ireland. Aside from ES Technology's core sectors mentioned above the company sees interest from motorsport, solar energy, sensor/lab-on-a-chip manufacturers, fuel cell development, instrumentation and aerospace.
Integral to ES’s plans to laser cut structures with great accuracy is a need to precisely measure what has been achieved. This requires investment in an optical measurement system to provide QA and reports for our customers in addition to the laser cutting workstation.
ES presented its business plans and the impact on Oxfordshire economy in its grant application and the OxLEP committee saw the benefits of funding the project via the government’s Getting Building Fund, which targets capital investment projects which can take part in a much-needed renewal phase for the economy.
ES Precision will take delivery of the erosion cutter and measurement system in the autumn and then launch the service towards the end of 2021.
Image: A Precision Exposure Mask Created by Erosion Cutting