From buying and selling nuts and bolts and other fittings from his garage 25 years ago, Roy Thurston — along with his two sons Neil and Dean — has grown Kings Lynn-based Optima Metal Services into a leading metal stockholder that also uses ‘state of the art’ laser and bending technology to offer customers a ‘pre-fab’ processing service.
The company’s success is on-going, with further expansion having increased its warehouse and manufacturing space to 45,000ft2
Optima’s move into stockholding began with stainless steel and aluminium, before adding mild steel to meet customer demand;
and when customers began asking for pre-fab sub-contract services such as profiling and forming sheet and plate to order, the ‘circle of growth and investment’ began.
On-going investment, along with reorganisation of its manufacturing capability, means that Optima now has three 10kW lasers (with 4 x 2m tables), a 3kW laser (with a 3 x 1.5m table) and a tube laser — the latter being part of the company’s latest £1 million expansion programme.
All of this investment generated more orders, with the most recent 10kW laser achieving a 30% increase in business.
Moreover, this increase in turn necessitated another seven employees to assist with part finishing — such as deburring — which was a fully manual operation and caused a bottleneck in what was otherwise a smooth product flow.
The solution to this bottleneck was to invest in a machine that could undertake deburring, finishing, edge rounding and laser oxide removal — a Timesavers 42-1350-RB series supplied by Christchurch-based Ellesco Ltd (www.ellesco.co.uk
Andy Knowles, Optima’s operations manager, said: “Stockholding remains central to our business, but there was a growing demand for us to laser-cut and fold to order, offering a same-day/next-day delivery where possible.
“A fast turnround is particularly important to customers in the local food-processing sector, where production break-downs can be costly if not resolved quickly.
“Generally, we can be called on to produce anything from a one-off from a rough sketch to batches running to tens of thousands.
“We have to be able to react fast, and this has been central to our investment policy; it has also been particularly encouraging that every time we add capacity, it generates new opportunities and business.
“It was the same with our purchase of the Timesavers machine. All our deburring and radiusing had previously been a manual process, which was subject to the usual human inconsistencies and was time-consuming.
“With the Timesavers, we now get consistent quality — and much faster.”
When Optima first viewed the Timesavers machine, there were some comments that the process seemed slow, with work travelling past the rotating brushes on the vacuum conveyor.
However, when applied to a working example, where manually deburring a batch of parts was taking up to 4hr, the total time when using the Timesavers machine was just 11min.
Mr Knowles said: “This one job alone was enough to convince everyone that it was a good move to make; by our calculations, the Timesavers 42-1350-RB is the equivalent of six operators manually deburring.
“With up-skilling and training, these people can now be transferred to other areas of the business.”
The decision to go for the Timesavers 42-1350-RB came after discussions with Ellesco’s sheet-deburring specialist Colin Moon, plus a review of the potential deburring workload.
This machine provides the optimum deburring and radiusing solution, with the bulk of Optima’s work being cut from a range of materials 1.5-4mm thick.
Mr Knowles said: “For what we need, we specified the machine with just rotating abrasive mops (brushes) and not an abrasive belt.
“Furthermore, programming the machine to suit the wide variety of stainless steel and aluminium that we process is straightforward, eliminating the need for detailed knowledge when manually processing these materials.
“Furthermore, there are definite health-and-safety benefits gained by eliminating hand tools.”
The Timesavers 42 RB series is available in two widths — 1,350 and 1,600mm.
Components are fed through two sets of four contra-rotating brushes (eight brushes in total) to achieve consistent and uniform deburring, while also rounding all the edges of the part with up to a 2mm radius.
The vacuum conveyor transports the parts at feed rates between 0.2 and 8m/min, and the table opening of up to 100mm means that as well as flat parts, those with pockets and protrusions — such as louvres —can also be processed.
Moreover, the brushes can be quickly changed to accommodate different materials and applications, with abrasives such as silicon oxide, aluminium oxide, ceramic and sprung steel tines available as standard.
A range of dust extraction systems is also available; the machine at Optima is fitted with a ‘W120-5.5kW Non Flam’ dust collector unit from Filtermist to ensure a clean working environment.
In conclusion, Mr Knowles said: “Deburring and component finishing is an important part of the standard service we offer to customers.
“Since installing the Timesavers 42 RB machine, the high-quality finish that we are achieving has been noted and commented on by customers.
“More interestingly, we are gaining more work as a direct result of the consistent quality that we can now achieve.”