AAA Laser recently expanded its equipment capabilities to facilitate its continuous growth.
The multi-capable forming and fabricating company has drawn on its ability to diversify to grow and prosper.
When Greek immigrant Dimitri Anastasiu left Greece in 1991 he had no idea that he would end up making South Africa, his choice of a holiday destination at the time, his home and run a very successful engineering business.
“South Africa was not my first choice but I was persuaded to visit your country and have remained here ever since. I still maintain that the standard and quality of living in South Africa must be one of highest in the world and at this stage I would not swop it for anything else,” enthused Dimitri.
Dimitri Anastasiu, owner of AAA Laser, stands in front of the Messer MultiTherm CNC plasma machine fitted with a single Kjellberg Hi-Focus 440i plasma cutting unit, that was installed earlier this year
In March AAA Laser installed a Doosan DNM 650 VMC CNC vertical machining centre and a Doosan Puma V550 CNC vertical turning centre, both supplied by Puma Machine Tools
Armed with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering and over 20 years of business experience Dimitri initially found a position with a local company, but after being an employee for two years he decided it would better suite his disposition if he became the employer.
Dimitri acquired a relatively small sheet metal and light engineering company Microcode in 1993, a company that still runs alongside his other company – AAA Laser – which he established six years ago.
“The two companies compliment each other in respect of facilitating in the different disciplines that the other one does not have. In essence you could say it is one company because they are both housed under one roof and the processes flow from one through to the other and there is no duplication,” explained Dimitri.
“We are a full-service custom metal fabrication company that is committed to delivering superior quality and service at a fair price. We can design and fabricate practically any job in sheet metal. Our in-house metal fabrication processes include cutting, punching, forming, plasma, welding, and assembly. Whatever your needs, we have the team, experience, and manufacturing equipment to take your project from start to finish.”
“We can handle all your manufacturing needs – from design and prototyping to final inspection and delivery. As part of our commitment to be your convenient one-stop shop, we have developed partnerships with reliable suppliers to provide complementary services such as water jet cutting, powder coating, wet painting, silk screening and plating.”
“Some of our in-house metal fabrication services include CNC punching, bending, forming, stamping, shearing, flat sheet rolling, tube/pipe rolling, tube/pipe bending, MIG and TIG welding, spot welding, grinding, deburring, brushing, polishing and of course assembly.”
Not just a fabricator
Innovation has been said to be at the heart of business success, but in a fabrication company that often doesn’t work with product development or design, where is that innovation? According to the experts, innovation doesn’t necessarily apply to just products. It also can be about process innovation, like innovative manufacturing methods or technologies. And then there are innovations within supply chain relationships.
A component being machined on the Doosan Puma V550 CNC vertical turning centre
During a tour of AAA Laser’s facility in Germiston South, Gauteng my suspicions are that there is more to this company than first meets the eye. These suspicions are confirmed when you are only allowed to look at certain areas and not allowed to take any photographs. Then Dimitri sits you down and reveals what the company is actually involved in.
On the floor there are numerous electrical boxes being assembled but these are not just ordinary electrical boxes. Sometimes it pays for metal fabricators to think inside the box—electrical enclosures, to be precise.
The production of electrical boxes and similar enclosures are the bread-and-butter jobs for numerous fabricators. They cut the blank, bend it into a box, and weld it up so efficiently that some of the workers probably can do the job blindfolded.
But what about the components inside the box? Most shops aren’t involved in that. A few, meanwhile, have jumped into the electronics assembly, where they pull the parts together and assemble the final box before it’s shipped to the customer. And a select few actually make some of the electronic components that are put into the enclosure.
AAA Laser was a value-added manufacturer before adding “value” to simple metal fabrications became cool. In this case Dimitri designed the complete enclosure, building in security features that allow the monitoring of the box from a control centre, via GPS, 24 hours a day seven days a week. Not rocket science in this day and age of electronics monitoring, but a technology that Dimitri used to his advantage early when GPS arrived.
The Trumpf TruBend 3120 CNC press brake supplied by Retecon Machine Tools
Today the company ships over 100 of these enclosures a day. At this stage there are three different sizes manufactured by the company.
“I don’t know where or what industries they are used in,” Dimitri answered bluntly when I enquired. “I don’t even know whom the client or clients are,” he continued.
But it is just not the enclosures that make this company fascinating. For the last fifteen years the company has been one the main maintenance contractors at OR Tambo airport.
“This security card allows me to access any area in the airport,” Dimitri says as he proudly displays it.
“Any area at the airport where there is fabrication maintenance needed we are called in to sort it out. And this maintenance work cannot be done during the normal working hours of the airport, especially in the public areas. Our teams can generally only move in once the last plane has either left or arrived so that involves tight planning from our side.”
“We are not just involved in the maintenance side. Next time you pass through security at the domestic or international terminal look at the conveyors that you put your hand luggage on. Those are all manufactured by my company.”
“Another example where we have done fabrication work at OR Tambo is in the international arrivals hall. All those columns have been fabricated by us.”
AAA Laser was a value-added manufacturer before adding “value” to simple metal fabrications became cool. In this case Dimitri designed the complete enclosure, building in security features that allow the monitoring of the box from a control centre, via GPS, 24 hours a day seven days a week. Not rocket science in this day and age of electronics monitoring, but a technology that Dimitri used to his advantage early when GPS arrived
Next time you are in the international arrivals hall at OR Thambo airport look at the columns – fabricated by AAA Laser
Other examples that Dimitri gave me is the fabrication work at the restaurant located at the Sandton Sun Hotel, the Engen Garage in Modderfontein and the fixtures and fittings in Stuttafords in Sandton City.
“We have also supplied numerous shopfitters with their fabrication requirements as well as kitchen equipment manufacturers where stainless steel work tops and doors are needed.”
Diversification strategies in metal fabrication tend to follow a predictable path. Business leaders identify core competencies and then identify industries that can use those competencies. The approach isn’t unique. However often fabricators frequently purchase equipment to meet the demands of a new customer. It’s how they justify the capital expenditure. Not the case for AAA Laser.
The company’s desire to invest in new equipment over the last few years has come about through necessity and diversification in the processes it wanted to offer. Arriving over the last few years has been a number of high-tech metal fabrication and forming equipment.
First to arrive was a Trumpf TruLaser 3040 CNC laser cutting machine with a working range of (XYZ) 4000 x 2000 x 115 mm and maximum cutting thickness of mild steel 20 mm, stainless steel 20 mm and aluminium 10 mm, together with a Trumpf TruBend 3120 CNC press brake that has a bending length of 3110 mm, a force of 132 tons and with precision up to 10 microns and 0.25 degrees, both supplied by Retecon Machine Tools.
“We had been doing just fine without a laser. 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.”
Make sure you look at the security conveyors and fixtures at OR Thambo airport, because they have been manufactured by AAA Laser
AAA Laser has a Trumpf TruLaser 3040 CNC laser cutting machine with a working range of (XYZ) 4000 x 2000 x 115 mm and maximum cutting thickness of mild steel 20 mm, stainless steel 20 mm and aluminium 10 mm which was supplied by Retecon Machine Tools
“The addition of a laser cutter will also change the work lives of any company’s employees. Even staff members that do not work directly on the laser cutter need to think differently to maximize the success of the machine.”
“The TruLaser 3040 has transformed this department as has the Trumpf TruBend 3120 CNC press brake. We have other bending equipment, all of which are bigger than the TruBend which we still use, but with the number of relatively small components that are required for the electronics enclosures the TruBend has pushed up our productivity remarkably.”
More firsts – plasma and oxyfuel
Dimitri was keen to continue acquiring capabilities, so the company added oxyfuel and plasma cutting to its repertoire. Last year AAA Laser installed a Messer MultiTherm oxyfuel cutting machine and earlier this year the company acquired a Messer MultiTherm plasma cutter.
“Deciding what automated cutting equipment is best for your company depends on many factors: part size, part thickness, part accuracy, parts quantity, computer skills, and machine payback, or return on investment. After considering these factors, you’ll be able to choose a machine configuration.”
“Then you have to decide which process is best for your company while taking the above factors into account – oxyfuel, plasma or laser? The nature of the application and cutting process all play a role and they all have their benefits. We already had a laser so to accommodate cutting thicker materials we chose the oxyfuel cutting machine.”
“Oxyfuel cutting requires very little capital to implement and operate. Oxyfuel also provides an advantage when the same pattern can be cut in parallel, which enables using multiple oxyfuel torches. In fact, multiple torches on the same gantry are relatively common. However, its cost per part advantage is at 50 mm and greater. Below that the plasma process has a speed and cost advantage and below 25 mm the laser comes into its own, especially when it comes to cutting sheet metal. Of course the thermal properties of the material you are cutting must also be taken into account.”
Components that have been bent on the Trumpf TruBend 3120 CNC press brake
Messer Cutting Systems supplied a MultiTherm CNC oxyfuel machine with four gas heads in 2013
“Now that we have laser, plasma and oxyfuel we are covering most bases. Who knows, maybe when you next visit there will be a waterjet cutting machine installed somewhere.”
Messer Cutting Systems supplied MultiTherm CNC oxyfuel machine with four gas heads in 2013. This machine has the capability of cutting mild and low alloy steels up to 300mm thick. The machine incorporates the latest of drive technology giving a very accurate cutting accuracy. The Messer ALFA gas cutting torches have fully integrated height sensing, this not only maintains the optimum cutting height but also ensures consistent cut quality.
The second machine that has just recently been commissioned by Messer Cutting Systems is a MultiTherm CNC plasma machine fitted with a single Kjellberg Hi-Focus 440i plasma cutting unit. This machine has the capability of cutting mild and low alloy steels as well as stainless steel and aluminium up to a thickness of 80 mm. The Kjellberg “Contour Cut” ensures quality surface finish on both contours and holes. This gives a completely new dimension of precision plasma cutting on mild steel, whilst cutting of stainless steels offers one of the best possible cut quality currently available anywhere in South Africa.
The machine incorporates the latest of drive technology giving a very accurate cutting accuracy. The Messer Arc Voltage Height sensing systems not only maintains the correct cutting height but also consistent cut quality.
To meet customers’ requirements over the years, the company has relied on its conventional machining equipment. However, constantly shifting demands and changing technology have affected the company’s ability to follow its philosophy to add value where it can.
“The company has seen a great shift over the last two years in the cutting and fabrication areas and yes our expertise does lie in these fields. But we wanted to expand our horizons and at the same time offer a more efficient machining service.”
“The result is that in March we installed a CNC vertical machining centre and a CNC vertical turning centre, both supplied by Puma Machine Tools.”
The MultiTherm CNC oxyfuel machine comes equipped with Messer ALFA gas cutting torches that have fully integrated height sensing, this not only maintains the optimum cutting height but also ensures consistent cut quality
The MultiTherm CNC oxyfuel machine has the capability of cutting mild and low alloy steels up to 300mm thick
Buzzbar fabrication also takes place at AAA Laser
“The Doosan DNM 650 VMC is incredibly versatile, providing high accuracy and excellent cutting performance. The machine has a 18.5 kW 12,000 rpm direct drive spindle (40 taper), 30-position tool changer and a 1,300 mm x 670 mm table.”
The second machine we purchased is a Doosan Puma V550 CNC vertical turning centre with a maximum machining diameter of 730 mm, a maximum work length of 750 mm and travel distances of X axis 390 mm and Z axis 780 mm.
“Now having a Doosan DNM 650 and Doosan Puma V550 in-house has allowed much of the CNC out-sourcing to cease, eliminating the previous time, cost and quality issues.”
Preparation leads to profit
“Expanding the company’s manufacturing capabilities to keep up with industry changes aren’t problems to be overcome but opportunities to be embraced. In fact it is essential.”
“We operate from a 10 000 m² facility, employ 170 staff and use the latest designing software such as SolidWorks and Autocad, fabrication software such as Sigmanest and TruTops and have purchased EdgeCam for the machining section.”
“Successful innovation in the factory can come directly from responding to your customer’s requests. However, to be successful and profitable usually requires planning so that you can capitalise on the opportunities when they arise.”
For further details contact AAA Laser on TEL: 011 873 1166 / 1160 / 6125 / 6036