Most service centres and fabricators adjust their manufacturing processes significantly to compete in today’s hotly contested race to gain new customers and keep existing clients happy, while at the same time they look for opportunities to cut production time and maintain, or even improve quality.
All customers have to be accommodated whether they place small (sometimes just one piece) or large orders. The situation is exasperated with customers requiring short lead-times (often just hours) and the demand from them for low prices.
In this environment, you must ensure that your machines aren’t just “running” but actually producing the required components at peak efficiency. An operator running punching and/or bending systems may look extraordinarily busy “running” the machines. But running the machines is not the same as producing good components ready for downstream forming, joining and assembly.
Technipunch have purchased a Fibermak Momentum Gen-3 fiber laser from Machine Tool Promotions, the beginning of another chapter in the business. It is only the second Ermaksan fiber laser to be sold in South Africa and the first to be sold in the Western Cape. The Fibermak Momentum has a 3kW source, a bed size of 3000 by 1500mm and can cut mild steel up to 20mm, stainless steel up to 10mm, aluminium up to 8mm and copper and brass up to 6mm
Likewise, increased attention must be given to adding services and capabilities (machines that offer different forming and fabricating, or metal removal machines for example) to your business that will compliment, enhance or just simply add value to your existing manufacturing processes.
Competitiveness within the market and a willingness to accept new technology to make a profit are also two big motivators. You may have to ask yourself if you are frightened by the notion of intelligent machines dominating humankind? History suggests that humans eventually harness technology, not the other way around.
Depending on the type of CNC machinery that exists in the shop, and the knowledge base of the owners and staff, the initial addition of new equipment can be either daunting, or a seamless integration.
By examining your market, and the competitors that you have, you may be able to find a niche to fill. This niche could be in material type, size, or thickness, and each will dictate the type of equipment that is needed.
Management and staff at Technipunch
Bringing material cutting in-house, for example, can cut costs, delivery times and adds a host of unforeseen benefits. Adding laser cutting capability can change the culture of a shop overnight and can be a monumental decision in any shop’s life. As with any major investment, whether it’s for capital equipment or something else, due diligence is needed. Adding a laser cutting machine to your shop floor can mean a lot of research to fully understand the current state of this technology. However, cutting components on a laser machine can increase throughput by almost a factor of 10.
One company that has decided to bring laser cutting in-house is Technipunch CC, which was established back in 2007 by Johan Steyn. The main focus of the company is to supply precision sheet metal components to a vast variety of markets, including the aviation, shopfitting, security, electronics and wine industry.
Cutting was previously outsourced to a shop with laser cutting capability.
“Outsourcing the cutting added two to three weeks to the lead-time as well as logistical complexity, which meant a sizeable parts inventory was simply unavoidable to ensure a quick response to customer demand,” said Steyn.
A view of a section of the shopfloor at Technipunch
“We knew we had applications for plasma, waterjet, and laser. We considered all the possibilities. The laser had a significantly higher cost and required high volume to be economical.”
“While the initial cost of a laser can be much higher than a plasma cutting machine, the rate a shop or OEM can charge for laser cutting is also relatively higher. The benefits of running a laser cutting operation, when compared to other forms of cutting, can also be easily measured.”
“In order for any manufacturer of fabricated sheet metal to remain competitive, a laser cutter should be on hand. No other tool offers the flexibility and ease of use like a laser. No other tool can offer the profit margins available with laser cutting because of the ease of setup and changeover from one material to the next.”
Considering Steyn’s background it was just a matter of time before Technipunch expanded in to laser cutting. After researching the laser machine market, they decided on the Ermaksan Fibermak Momentum Gen-3 fiber laser, supplied and installed by Machine Tool Promotions.
After studying and qualifying in mechanical engineering at Cape Technikon, Steyn’s first position was with another well known Western Cape metal cutting and fabrication company where he got his first taste of lasers, and the impact that laser technology could make on metal manufacturing.
“I spent three years with the company between 1997 and 2000. They were one of the first companies in the Western Cape to deploy a laser cutting machine into their manufacturing operations. This happened while I was there and most of my time spent with them was working as the programmer on the laser. I got to know the technology, and the experience I gained was a solid foundation for my next position.”
One of the first machines that Technipunch purchased was a Trumpf Trumatic 1000. The machine is known as ‘Little Faithful’
Technipunch Products was established after Johan Steyn manufactured a
braai for the tennis club he belongs to
“I worked in a similar environment for the next seven years before establishing Technipunch. In the back of my mind I always wanted to run my own shop. Today we employ 30 staff and operate from a 1200m² factory with ample space to expand. In fact we have just increased and moved the material storage area by 400m², which has given us space for the fiber laser.”
Originally Steyn had a partner but he came to an agreement to purchase the company outright in 2011.
For someone that has spent his career around lasers, does Steyn wonder if he missed out by not purchasing the latest fiber laser equipment sooner?
He doesn’t think so.
“The business has been growing steadily by 20% over the last few years, and during this period we have had to double the factory floor space every two years. We had to make sure that our punching capacity was maximized before we expanded into any other market. You have also got to take into consideration the cost of financing a machine as compared to the amount of work that was being outsourced. You can only consider purchasing new equipment when you attain the point where it becomes feasible to purchase your own machine. We had reached the crossroads, and business was robust enough to warrant investing in a laser cutting machine.”
“Initially the machine will be running a little below its capacity but as we bring the outsourced work inhouse, seek more service work and develop more of our own products this capacity will soon be taken up. Who knows, maybe in a year we will be sourcing another laser?”
Punch your way forward
“Punching was once considered simply a tool for large production runs. But now even small job shops are automating to free operators to perform other tasks, or prepare machines for their next job. Trumpf punching machines have been a timeless piece of equipment throughout the years and do not seem to have lost their appeal in an ever-changing market. We have built our business on CNC punching and bending.”
“One of the first machines we purchased was a Trumpf Trumatic 1000 R, which we have dubbed Little Faithful. All of our machines have been personalised with names. The machine was supplied by Retecon Machine Tools.”
Another braai that is marketed by Technipunch Products. This business is growing at a rate of 25% per annum
Technipunch manufactures the braais mainly in stainless steel
“Designed as an entry-level punching machine, the 1000 R is a cost-effective way for beginners to enter the field of CNC sheet metal processing. The idea is convincing. No other punching machine is so easy to install, operate and programme. Eight years later it still lives up to its reputation.”
The Trumpf Trumatic 1000 R features a working range of 1270 by 2032mm, punching speeds of up to 600 hits per minute and an automatic tool changer. The Multishear can be used for high-quality edging work, as well as the Multibend for bending, and the Multitool, in which up to 10 different punches can be integrated at one tool station. Tools for extrusions, threads and forming can also be used. By using the Multitool, the machine’s linear magazine can accommodate up to 150 tools. It can also high speed mark at 1,300 strokes per minute.
“The second installation was that of a Trumpf Trumatic 5000 R punching machine and she is known as ‘Amazing Grace’. As the number suggests it is a bigger machine with a working area of 2535 by 1280mm, a maximum sheet thickness of 8mm and a punching rate of 1200 hits per minute.”
“With a team of fabrication engineers, along with a range of equipment including MIG and TIG welding capabilities, we can undertake a high level of secondary op work including counter sinking, tapping, and spot welding and bending of components.”
“Our press brake is a Trumpf Trumabend 3120 that can bend sheets between 0.5mm to 4.5mm thick and 3 metres wide, and it has a 120 ton bending force. Additionally, we have a smaller press brake, which is a Gasparini Xpress 25 that has a bending width of 1250mm and a force of 25 tons. This department is complimented with a ACL guillotine.”
Components fabricated by Technipunch
A retail outlet product fabricated by Technipunch
“Other equipment includes a Heager 618 insert press with a feeder bowl that is ideal for cold press nuts, studs and standoffs from M2.5 to M10, and a plate roller that is 1500mm wide and can roll steel up to 2.5mm thick.”
“We also offer powder coating, electro plating, anodizing, silk screening and stud welding, but these services are all outsourced.”
Diversification – establishing Technipunch Products
“In business, success is often the product of a company’s vision—the aspirations for the future and the plans for creating opportunities and managing growth. Differentiation from the competition is an important factor in uncovering and realising those opportunities.”
“This typically means doing things better, more efficiently, and more economically than anyone else. Continually challenging the way things have been done in the past and viewing them from a new perspective ultimately leads to innovation and a strong competitive edge.”
“Our diversification began back in 2010. The tennis club I belong to needed to replace its existing braai. I said I would help out and tackled the task with the idea of manufacturing a braai in its simplest form possible that did not involve welding, but could still be used as an effective cooking tool.”
“It was a very rewarding exercise that led to the birth of Technipunch Products, which is a company that markets products to retailers and the braai and camping industry.”
“We have now built up a portfolio of products, all manufactured by Technipunch, that include braai tongs, built in and portable braais, camp cone kettles and tables, fire place spades, jam jar and bottle openers, pizza accessories, slow combustion ovens, postboxes, meat casseroles, fish scale scrapers, jerry can holders and house numbers.”
“Most of the products are manufactured in stainless steel and this business is growing at a rate of 25% per annum.”
Johan Steyn’s wife Jenny runs the Technipunch Products division. All products for this division are manufactured by Technipunch and include braai tongs, built in and portable braais, camp cone kettles and tables, fire place spades, jam jar and bottle openers, pizza accessories, slow combustion ovens, postboxes, meat casseroles, fish scale scrapers, jerry can holders and house numbers
“You could say that initially Technipunch Products was a hobby type business but with potential. My wife Jenny reluctantly became involved on the sales side, and now she fights with us to manufacture more products and to give her more storage space,” said Johan with a smile.
Fibermak Momentum Gen-3 fiber laser
Cutting and fabricating metal components for price-sensitive customers means that Technipunch has had to make the right investment in technology at the right time. The metal fabricator’s purchase of a fiber laser cutting machine is an example of this strategy.
Johan Steyn is perfectly clear on this. He’s interested in gaining new customers for his metal fabrication company but he doesn’t want just any customers.
The Kuils River, Western Cape based metal cutting and fabrication shop is not a job shop, where anyone with an idea for a metal contraption might walk through the front door. In fact, his business doesn’t even have a sign indicating to the passerby what type of manufacturing might be happening behind the closed doors.
This was not the case in the beginning though, and Steyn is still appreciative and respectful to all those clients that he engaged with in the beginning. Over the years the company has found its niche and is now comfortable with the range of businesses that they deal with, which is over the 450 mark.
The business has grown, serving companies that operate in a number of different industries. They need quality components and fabrications delivered in a timely manner.
The new Fibermak Momentum Gen-3 fiber laser is fitted with a Precitec ProCutter cutting head, which is equipped with a highly-sophisticated sensor system that monitors the cutting process, and provides the user with all the relevant information to achieve optimal cutting quality. When using a ProCutter head, flexibility can be increased in the case of varying processing requirements, particularly in the case of varying sheet metal thicknesses
The purchase of the Fibermak Momentum Gen-3 fiber laser was initially not an easy decision, but with the recent exchange rate changes and the devaluation of the rand, Steyn is very grateful that he did make the decision.
“The Fibermak Momentum Gen-3 fiber laser is the beginning of another chapter in the business. It is only the second Ermaksan fiber laser to be sold in South Africa and the first to be sold in the Western Cape. After visiting the factory in Turkey I was reassured that I was buying quality, and it is the latest generation product that Ermaksan manufacture. We did not walk blindly into this capital equipment purchase. We took our time and understood exactly what was going to happen when the new fabricating technology hit our shop floor.”
The Fibermak Momentum has a 3kW source, a bed size of 3000 by 1500mm and can cut mild steel up to 20mm, stainless steel up to 10mm, aluminium up to 8mm and copper and brass up to 6mm.
Additionally, the Fibermak Momentum is fitted with a Precitec ProCutter cutting head, which is equipped with a highly-sophisticated sensor system that monitors the cutting process, and provides the user with all the relevant information to achieve optimal cutting quality. When using a ProCutter head, flexibility can be increased in the case of varying processing requirements, particularly in the case of varying sheet metal thicknesses.
The second machine purchased by Technipunch was a Trumpf Trumatic 5000 R punching machine, supplied by Retecon Machine Tools. The machine is known as ‘Amazing Grace’
“Besides the extra capacity that is now available to us with this type of machine, it will also give us the opportunity to offer customers more options that we were not able to do before, and to deal with demand variability. Like any machine, the best productivity comes from straight-line cutting, which can take full advantage of the cutting speed offered. However, the modern laser is equally fast at cutting part variation. When I first encountered laser work 18 years ago I did not envisage what we can achieve on one now.”
“The addition of a laser cutter will change mine and the working lives of company’s employees. Even the staff that do not directly work on the laser cutter need to think differently to maximize the success of the machine.”
“Understanding how a laser works is not as necessary as it once was. As these machines become easier to run, and controls become more powerful, knowing how a resonator works and how a beam is created, are not necessary to create components.”
“What everyone needs to fully comprehend and appreciate is the efficiencies and quality that the laser will bring to the shopfloor. Downstream operations are going to be put under pressure to deliver because the time frames and speed of delivery are going to change drastically.”
“It is a scenario I am looking forward to. My staff, most of whom have been with me from the early years, are innovative and will enjoy the challenge to adapt. Life won’t be mundane at Technipunch going forward.”
Technipunch has as its core focus the use of CNC sheet metal punching, bending and laser technology in the manufacture of precision metal components. If you require your product to be designed by Technipunch, they can offer you a 3D design option. The company uses the latest software available for design, nesting and quoting including Tops.
For further details contact Technipunch on TEL: 021 905 0894