The metal fabrication industry’s business case for high laser cutting power has evolved over the years. In the early years of CO2 laser cutting, more power let you cut faster and thicker. Especially for custom fabricators, a higher-powered laser broadened a shop’s capabilities, which in turn opened the door to new customers and markets.
Then in the late 2000s came the fibre laser and a whole new ballgame. Cutting thin stock, a fibre laser could run circles around a similarly powered CO2. The fibre laser pushed the industry’s cutting capacity skyward, so much so that many shops struggled to feed the beast. Sure, a shop could automate the material handling, but even so, a laser that cuts extraordinarily quickly can overwhelm processes downstream, especially bending and welding.
Fabricators don’t have to be an expert in fibre laser cutting technology to know that if they can cut 6mm sheet with a 4kW laser, they can cut it faster with an 8kW laser power source. Now think what they can do with a 12kW fibre laser cutting machine. What about a 15kW machine?
Those choices are available for metal fabricators today, but to focus solely on thick metal cutting with these new high-powered fibre lasers would be wrong. These 10kW, 12kW and 15kW machines can do much more than cut thick materials, even if that may be the first thing that comes to mind for a metal fabricator when talking about these powerful machine tools.
The story of high-powered fibre laser technology is about decreasing process time in laser cutting. That’s why we are seeing metal fabricators buying one high-powered laser cutting machine to replace two or even three older lasers. They can get parts off the laser bed faster and cheaper than they ever could before.
Operating costs probably will go up as the power level on a fibre laser cutting machine goes up. Generally, doubling the power increases laser operating costs by 20 to 30 per cent. That’s why it’s so important that the fibre laser is operating at peak efficiencies, so that part cycle time can be decreased to offset the higher operating costs. By decreasing cycle time, a fabricator can reduce the impact of variable and fixed costs and increase profitability.
Luckily, fibre lasers cut fast. Just watch them race up and down a piece of sheet metal. Unfortunately, most fabricators aren’t cutting parts that feature long and straight lines. They are cutting small holes and unique geometric shapes. In this reality a fabricator needs fast acceleration to take advantage of the machine’s linear speeds.
For instance, a 1G machine that accelerates at 10 metres per second squared is easily outperformed by a 2G machine, which accelerates at twice the rate. When the Gs are doubled, the machine needs half the time and half the distance to reach the same programmed speed. The rate the machine can decelerate into and accelerate out of corners and tight arcs often has a greater impact on cycle time than laser power or maximum machine speed. Acceleration is vital.
Sheet size, acceleration and thickness
When you combine these three factors into one machine then you open up many more possibilities of acquiring new clients because of your process flexibility and time to customer.
“Pegasus Steel believes that the only way you are going to stay ahead and satisfy the demands of clients is not to dream about the equipment you would like to have on your floor but rather to take action and invest,” said Alex Russell, joint owner of Pegasus Steel.
“Our last acquisition was a Trumpf TruLaser 5040 8kW fibre laser cutter with a 4 by 2 metre cutting bed, which took our Trumpf laser cutting machine tally to five. The TruLaser 5040 fibre, which was installed by Retecon, allowed us to cut carbon steel sheets up to 25mm, stainless steel sheets up to 40mm, aluminium sheets up to 25mm and copper and brass up to 10mm.”
15kW Bystronic ByStar 8025 fibre laser with nitrogen concentrator
“Now we have invested in a 15kW Bystronic ByStar 8025 fibre laser with a table size of 8 metres by 2.5 metres. This might not be the first 15kW laser to be installed in South Africa but it certainly will be the first with this size table.”
“The only reason that we chose the Bystronic machine as against another Trumpf was because Trumpf do not supply the size machine that we wanted.”
“The new machine offers a reliable cutting process even with the high laser output for use across a wide range of applications. The technological leap from conventional 3kW to 12kW systems to the new 15kW is significant.”
“On average, through the increased power, the cutting speed of the ByStar has increased by up to 50% when cutting with nitrogen compared to a 10kW laser source. This means that sheetmetal processing companies can benefit from higher productivity at a lower unit cost. The new machine cuts steel, aluminium and stainless steel precisely and reliably in thicknesses between 1mm and 30mm, and brass and copper in thicknesses up to 20mm.”
“The 15kW laser output also enables extended applications in steel and aluminium of up to 50mm and thus offers optimum flexibility for large series and urgent customer orders.”
“The reality is that a large majority of metal fabricating companies in South Africa that use fibre laser as its cutting source process metal that is 6mm or thinner. There’s simply not a lot of shops requiring laser cutting of very thick specialty metals for something like nuclear reactors. Those types of applications are not abundant.”
“In laser cutting, you need to stay current or you’re going to be out of the game. We have purchased this machine for that very reason, while also adding capacity and productivity. We have not purchased it for bragging rights.”
Upgrade of press brake
“One of the largest press brakes that we have on the floor has recently gone through a refurbishment and upgrade, bringing it up to the speciﬁcation of a new machine with the latest Delem DA-60Touch CNC control. We tried to go the OEM manufacturer route but that proved to be complicated and a challenge so instead we engaged local company Flexible Electronic Systems.”
“The 500-ton press brake originally equipped with a Cadman control system and Cybelec drives was retrofitted with a Delem 66 6-axis control (four new electric servo motor axes on the backstops and two hydraulic servo axes on the main cylinders) with a proportional pressure regulation that is controlled by the Delem 66.”
“The 500-ton machine with a work table width of 6 100mm has been completely rewired because of the new controls.”
Dillinger Dillimax and Dillidur wear plates
“Another relatively new service that we offer is the supply of ultra-high strength and wear resistant wear plates and components. We import the wear plates from the Dillinger steel mill in Germany.”
“High-strength Dillimax and wear resistant Dillidur steels are degassed under vacuum. This treatment, in combination with sophisticated secondary (or ‘ladle’) metallurgy reduces undesirable ‘tramp element’ contents (impurity), such as sulphur, to a minimum. A high-quality plate, particularly the larger thicknesses, also requires sufficiently thick and homogeneous feed material. Dillinger can continuous-cast so-called slab feed material in up to record thicknesses of 600mm.”
“Pegasus Steel carries stock of the imported wear plates from Germany, ranging in size from 8mm to 160mm.”
Pegasus Steel is a one-stop three-shift, 24-hour seven-day-a-week steel working service centre specialising in CNC laser cutting, high definition plasma cutting, CNC bending, CNC oxyfuel cutting, CNC punching, guillotine cutting, rolling, forming and fabrication. The company is ISO 9001 certified and has a level 1 BB-BEE.
For more information contact Pegasus Steel on TEL: 087 310 2863 or visit www.pegasussteel.co.za