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Large-capacity fibre laser

Manchester firm extends its premises to accommodate one of the largest machines of its type in the UK

Posted on 06 Apr 2017 and read 10009 times
Large-capacity fibre laserConcept Metal Products Ltd is a sheet metal worker and fabricator with a capacity for making particularly large parts and fabrications. The company — established in 1975 by current owners Geoff and Rosemary Bentham — has always invested in its premises and machinery to ensure that it can supply an ever-growing customer base with the products they need at a competitive price, while keeping one step ahead of the competition.

Concept’s core business is bending, and it operates some of the largest press brakes in the UK; these include a recently installed LVD tandem unit that can form parts up to 9,000mm long, with a first-bend depth of 605mm and a combined force of 640 tonnes. The company also services a variety of industries with its rolling capabilities, which start at inside diameters of 250mm.

In the early 2000s, Mr Bentham knew he needed to increase his sheet-profiling capabilities and capacity, so he bought a couple of laser machines to complement what he regarded as his ‘dream team’ of press brakes. The first was
a CO2 laser from Bystronic, with an 8,000 x 2,500mm capacity and a 4kW resonator. In 2007, he installed another CO2 laser from Bystronic, with a 4,000 x 2,500mm capacity and a 6kW resonator.

Speaking of more-recent investments, general manager Dean Barnard said: “In this industry, it is critical to keep up with the latest technology in metal processing, so in August last year we placed an order for a Kimla Powercut LF20100 4kW fibre laser with a working area of 10,000 x 2,000mm. It was with this Polish-made machine in mind — plus other equipment — that in November 2015 we completed an 8,000ft2 extension that took our shopfloor area up to 31,000ft2.

“The machine cost over £550,000; and while we lost out a little with the euro exchange rate, a £60,000 grant from Rochdale Council helped to ease the financial burden. The local authority recognised the growth that the machine would provide, and two new jobs were soon created as a result of its purchase. We also started two more apprentices from the Rochdale area, giving us seven apprentices in total.”

Fast and accurate

Kimla, which is represented in the UK by Wetherby-based MBA Engineering Systems Ltd (www.mba-eng.co.uk) and started out making electronics and control systems for CNC machines, soon moved to producing its own technically advanced machines. As well as lasers, these include water-jet machines, linear-drive machining centres and various routing machines. To date, the company has installed more than 2,500 machines world-wide.

IMG 0575“MBA’s managing director, Bradley McBain, said: “When Concept asked us about large-capacity fibre lasers, we knew that we could supply one perfectly tailored to its needs, thanks to Kimla’s ability to make machines to pretty much any size and specification. When we took Mr Bentham and his team to Poland so they could assess Kimla’s products and set-up, they were extremely impressed — particularly with the quality of the company’s engineering and its use of the latest technology. It was a perfect match.”

Mr Bentham said: “From the outset, we found that Kimla and MBA engineers were easy to work with; and having a Polish speaker on our team certainly helped when it came to sealing the deal. It was apparent that the Kimla machine was soundly constructed and that many of the components used in its build were universally obtainable and easy to maintain. Moreover, fibre lasers are inherently less complex than their CO2 counterparts, so maintenance is far more user-friendly and costly maintenance contracts are no longer a necessity — and fibre lasers cost 75% less to run than a CO2 equivalent!”

The machine was delivered on a Monday and — despite its considerable size — was cutting parts just three days later; and while its speed and accuracy are impressive (250mm/min axis speed, an acceleration of 60m/sec2, an accuracy of 0.02mm and a repeatability of 0.001mm), Mr Bentham says the speed in particular has caused “a few sore necks”.

'Pleasant problem'

Elaborating, he says: “The machine is so quick that we face the pleasant problem of unloading parts fast enough before getting it cutting again, which is why we are now looking at various automation options to address this issue that we had not anticipated.

IMG 0830The Kimla laser has brought many benefits to Concept. Its output is more than double that of one of our older CO2 machines, the quality of cut is excellent, and the software — supplied as standard — has improved our material utilisation. The business opportunities that this machine has given us mean that we will be buying another Kimla fibre laser in the near future — probably one with a 12,500 x 2,000mm capacity.”

In conclusion, MBA’s Mr McBain says that, while Kimla is relatively new to the UK market, it has more than 16 years’ experience in the design and manufacture of a variety of CNC machinery, along with the development and use of linear drives — and it offers a CAD/CAM and nesting package as standard.

“In addition to machine supply and installation, the services we offer include breakdown assistance, preventative maintenance, customer training and machine moves.”