Dutch steelworker begins digital journey

Bart Kroesbergen, managing director at steel service centre Joop van Zanten is a visionary who states that within 10 years the company’s entire production will be automated.

“To achieve this, we have to break with standards and need courageous partners who can join us on the extraordinary journey towards Industry 4.0,” he says. Messer Cutting Systems became the right partner for that journey.

“We wanted a supplier capable of delivering the full range of specialised machine equipment,” says Kroesbergen. “This includes state-of-the-art technologies for laser and plasma processes, as well as software and material handling experience.

The core of the solution is the software and 4.0 intelligence that links everything together. In workshops, a team with ERP manufacturer Ridder, the ISD Group as supplier of the 2D/3D CAD software HiCAD and Messer Cutting Systems with digitisation solutions from MesserSoft defined the integration of the various IT solutions.

Another important part in the digitisation process are two new machines with the latest cutting technology: a Messer PowerBlade 6500 with laser, 6 KW bevel head, drilling unit with 24 tool changers and LNC nozzle changer; and a Messer OmniMat 6500 with 2* HiFocus 360I, Skew Delta plasma bevel head, OmniScript and drilling unit with 24 tool changers.

With the fibre laser technology, powerful drives, precise linear guides in both longitudinal and transverse directions, and a multi-faceted bevel head, the PowerBlade is equipped for a wide range of applications, while OmniMat is a large CNC cutting machine with a heavy-duty structure and multi-axis control that is suitable for applications that include oxy-fuel, underwater or dry plasma.

“Both machines meet all our expectations for easy handling, low costs and high reliability,” concludes Kroesbergen.

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YLF adopts exclusively Amada solutions

Yorkshire Laser & Fabrication (YLF), a Wakefield-based subcontractor specialising in fine-limit CNC sheet metalwork, has invested £2.2m in the latest high-specification Amada machinery to help increase throughput and quality. New machines installed in the past two years include an Amada ENSIS 6 kW fibre laser with ASLUL-3015 automation tower, and an Amada EML-2515AJ punch/fibre laser combination machine. The company also uses a range of AMADA software suites, completing its transition to a completely exclusive Amada shop.

Clearly seeking more uptime from the company’s laser-cutting capacity, the Amada ENSIS-3015AJ 6kW fibre laser with ASLUL-3015 automation tower arrived in 2020.

“The machine has been fantastic; exactly what we hoped for,” declares Matthew Orford, technical director at YLF. “It’s been very robust and the uptime we’ve been getting is excellent. Sales have been really strong this year, to the point where we started to outsource some of our laser cutting. I didn’t want to install another laser and keep running an old punch. It made more sense to gain the flexibility available from a punch/laser combination machine, so we bought the EML.

The fully electric Amada EML-2515AJ combination punch/fibre laser with RMP- NTK automation arrived at YLF in May 2021.

“We have lots of parts with louvres, forms and countersinks, and we can process these much faster than on our previous punching machine, which has now gone,” says Orford. “The EML has demolished our cycle times. Batches of parts we were previously punching in 40 hours now take 10-12 hours. And the quality of the finish – from what was a very good machine before in the Amada Vipros King – is like night and day.”

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Tube and sheet laser-cutting solution

Metal cages, or, more generally, structures for the collection or storage of parts or semi-finished pieces are industrial products made from tube and sheet whose design and creation requires specific know-how.

Céline Hugot is the co-founder of Viollet Industries, a French family company based near Annecy that has developed most of its business on this very structure. The right solution for the company’s production is the BLM LC5 combined tube and sheet laser-cutting system.

“In 2008, we had purchased a laser system for sheet metal,” says Hugot. “Although it was very old, it was fine for us. However, when we started running out of parts we had to look around. We saw the LC5 combined laser cutting system for tube and sheet metal and it immediately went on our list of favourites.

“Last year we felt ready to buy it and a very interesting proposal came from BLM Group,” he adds. “It was the right time; we had time to train people and now that the market is exploding we are using the machine at 120% of its capacity.”

The machine has been running for about 9 months and production is 50% tube and 50% sheet metal.

“In general, I don’t really like combination machines because, while one part is working the other is standing still and it seems wasteful, but with our volumes this is the perfect solution,” says Hugot. “A tube laser would have been excessive for our current needs. With this combo laser-cutting system for sheet and tube, we have flexibility, and this is a good mix for our type of production. Even our regular customers have seen an advantage because they see the difference in lead times.”

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CADMAN v8.7 adds powerful features

LVD has released CADMAN v8.7, the latest update of its software suite, which introduces several key features such as the ability to integrate foreign operations like tapping, chamfering and painting. There are also updates for CADMAN-JOB (MES), CADMAN-SDI (Smart Drawing Importer), CADMAN-P (punching), CADMAN-L (laser cutting), CADMAN-B (bending) and Touch-i4 (sort and validate). LVD’s software suite helps streamline the sheet-metal fabrication process to make smart manufacturing possible.

The latest version of CADMAN is able to integrate foreign operations – defined as non-core and secondary operations – including tapping, deburring and grinding. This update helps enhance the sheet-metal fabrication process flow by allowing CADMAN to control, monitor and log an order from raw material to finished part. Foreign operations are now visible in the CADMAN-JOB overview screen, and can be tracked and traced in the production process for real-time transparency. Using a single system (CADMAN) keeps the user interface consistent and helps improve process efficiency.

CADMAN v8.7 can now manage the complete sheet-metal production process without the need for an ERP system. Users can create work orders within CADMAN-SDI for transfer to CADMAN-JOB.

Notably, CADMAN-L can destroy internal contours using a spiral cut, avoiding possible collisions and saving processing time. The latest version of LVD’s punching and laser-cutting CAM software maximises material usage with the option to ‘expand parts’. When the sheet is not completely used but there is not enough material to create a remnant, CADMAN can automatically spread components over the entire sheet, providing larger margins between parts for increased stability during cutting.

For further information www.lvdgroup.com

MTC engineer wins funding for laser research

Manufacturing Technology Centre principal research engineer Dr Sundar Marimuthu has been awarded a prestigious UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship. Marimuthu, part of the laser processing team at the MTC, has secured a grant of £1.5m over four years to develop next-generation laser-based manufacturing processes for processing composite materials.

Most existing laser-based manufacturing technologies are for metals and alloys, and are incompatible with composites. Marimuthu will develop two laser-based technologies into fully-fledged manufacturing solutions, underpinning the large scale industrialisation of advanced composite solutions.

The first of these technologies will be a waterjet-guided laser process for cutting, drilling and machining composite materials. Secondly, Marimuthu and his team will develop a solution based on ultrashort pulsed lasers. While the capability of ultrashort pulsed laser machining is proven using low-power lasers for a limited number of niche applications, its low material removal rate limits its viability in the wider manufacturing sector. To address this issue, the MTC and its partners will be developing a high-power ultrashort pulsed laser machining process that will offer productivity and quality in line with industrial requirements.

Skills and technologies developed through this fellowship will support UK industry to exploit the widespread innovation of composite materials in a variety of fields, including zero-emissions transport. Marimuthu says that the two emerging laser technologies – waterjet-guided lasers and ultrashort pulsed lasers – have the potential to transform the use of advanced materials in UK industries.

“The exploitation of these laser technologies will have a significant impact on the ability to machine advanced materials which are essential to develop zero-emission transportation, a key aim in meeting the net-zero ambitions of the Government.”

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