Fabricating Solutions, based in Twinsburg, Ohio, believes that high-power laser cutters give the company a competitive advantage over other metal fabrication companies.In April 2021, owner Dewey Lockwood installed a 15 kW Bystronic machine, replacing a 10 kW machine he had purchased just 14 months earlier.Image: Galloway Photography
As a business owner, Dewey Lockwood focuses on operations on the one hand and advances in metal fabrication technology on the other.Specifically, he targeted the ever-increasing power and performance that today’s high-performance fiber laser cutters can provide.
Want proof?A 10-kilowatt fiber laser cutter was installed on his 34,000-square-foot site.Fabricating Solutions store, February 2020, 14 months later, he replaced that laser and replaced it with a 15 kW Bystronic machine.The speed improvement was too large to ignore, and the addition of mixed assist gas opened the door to more efficient processing of 3/8 to 7/8 inch.mild steel.
“When I went from 3.2 kW to 8 kW fiber, I cut from 120 IPM to 260 IPM in 1/4 inch. Well, I got 10,000 W and I was cutting 460 IPM. But then I got 15 kW , now I’m cutting 710 IPM,” Lockwood said.
He’s not the only one noticing these improvements.The same goes for other metal makers in the region.Lockwood says that nearby OEMs and metal fabricators are more than happy to seek out Fabricating Solutions in Twinsburg, Ohio, because they know its high-performance laser cutters will help them in laser-cut parts and the turnaround time for the job will be just a few days. question of the day.It also helps them enjoy the benefits of modern laser cutting without investing in technology.
Lockwood was happy with the arrangement.He doesn’t have to hire salespeople to drive around and knock on doors all day looking for new business.Business came to him.For the entrepreneur who once thought he was going to spend the rest of his life in his garage with a laptop and a press brake, it was a pretty good scene.
Lockwood’s great-grandfather was a blacksmith, and his father and uncle were millers.He may be destined to work in the metals industry.
However, in the early days, his metal experience was related to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry.That’s where he received his education in cutting and bending metal.
From there he migrated to the metal fabrication industry, but not as part of a job shop.He went to work as an application engineer at a machine tool supplier.This experience exposed him to the latest metal fabrication techniques and how to apply them to the real world of fabrication.
Automated parts sorting systems minimize the risk of laser cutting becoming a bottleneck as parts are sorted and stacked for delivery to downstream operations.
“I’ve always had some kind of entrepreneurial flaw. I’ve always had two jobs, and I’ve always been driven to follow my passion. It’s an evolution,” Lockwood said.
Fabricating Solutions started with a press brake and wanted to provide bending services to nearby metal fabricators who did not have sufficient bending capacity in their own facilities.This worked for a while, but evolution isn’t just for personal growth.Manufacturing solutions must evolve to keep up with their manufacturing realities.
More and more customers are requesting cutting and bending services.Additionally, the ability to laser cut and bend parts will make the shop a more valuable metal fabrication service provider.It was then that the company purchased its first laser cutter, a 3.2 kW model with a state-of-the-art CO2 resonator at the time.
Lockwood was quick to notice the impact of high-power supplies.As the cutting speed increased, he knew his shop could stand out from nearby competitors.That’s why 3.2 kW became 8 kW machines, then 10 kW, now 15 kW.
“If you can justify buying 50 percent of a high-power laser, you might as well buy it all, as long as it’s about power,” he said.”That’s the ‘dream land’ mentality: if you build it, they will come.”
Lockwood added that the 15-kilowatt machine is winning over it to process thicker steel more efficiently, but he also said the use of a mixed laser-assisted gas during the cutting process also helps improve the quality of the final product.When cutting with pure nitrogen on a high power laser cutter, the dross on the back of the part is hard and difficult to remove.(That’s why automatic deburring machines and rounders are often used with these lasers.) Lockwood says he thinks it’s mainly the small amount of oxygen in the nitrogen mixture that helps create smaller and less intense burrs, which are easier to remove.deal with.
A similar but slightly altered gas mixture also showed benefits for cutting aluminum, according to Lockwood.Cutting speeds can be increased while still maintaining acceptable edge quality.
Currently, Fabricating Solutions has only 10 employees, so finding and retaining employees, especially in today’s post-pandemic economy, can be a real challenge.That’s one reason the shop included an automatic loading/unloading and parts sorting system when it installed the 15 kW machine in April.
“It also makes a big difference for us because we don’t have to get people to dismantle the parts,” he said.Sorting systems remove parts from the skeleton and place them on pallets for delivery, bending or shipping.
Lockwood said competitors have taken notice of his shop’s laser-cutting capabilities.In fact, he calls these other stores “collaborators” because they often send him work.
For Fabricating Solutions, the investment in the press brake made sense because of the machine’s small footprint and ability to provide formwork on most of the company’s parts.Image: Galloway Photography
None of these laser cut parts are going directly to the customer.A large part of it requires further processing.That’s why Fabricating Solutions isn’t just expanding its cutting division.
The shop currently has 80-ton and 320-ton Bystronic Xpert press brakes and is looking to add two more 320-ton brakes.It also recently upgraded its folding machine, replacing an old manual machine.
The Prima Power panel press brake has a robot that grabs the workpiece and moves it to the position for each bend.The cycle time for a four-bend part on the old press brake could be 110 seconds, while the new machine only needs 48 seconds, Lockwood said.This helps keep parts flowing through the bend department.
According to Lockwood, the panel press brake can accommodate parts up to 2 meters long, which represents about 90 percent of the work handled by the bending department.It also has a small footprint, which helps Fabricating Solutions make the most of its workshop space.
Welding is another bottleneck, as the shop is growing its business.The early days of the business revolved around cutting, bending and shipping projects, but the company is taking on more turnkey jobs, of which welding is a part.Fabricating Solutions employs two full-time welders.
To eliminate downtime during welding, Lockwood says his company has invested in Fronius “dual head” gas metal arc torches.With these torches, the welder does not need to change pads or wires.If the welding gun is set up with two different wires working continuously, when the welder finishes the first job, he can change the program on the power source and switch to the other wire for the second job.If everything is set up correctly, a welder can weld from steel to aluminum in about 30 seconds.
Lockwood added that the shop is also installing a 25-ton crane in the welding area to assist with material movement.Since most of the welding work is done on larger workpieces—one of the reasons why the shop hasn’t invested in robotic welding cells—the crane will make moving parts easier.It will also minimize the risk of injury to the welder.
Although the company does not have a formal quality department, it does emphasize the emphasis on quality in the production process.Rather than having one person solely responsible for quality control, the company relies on everyone to inspect parts before sending them downstream for the next process or shipping.
“It makes them realize that their internal customers are just as important as their external customers,” Lockwood said.
Fabricating Solutions is always looking to improve its shop floor productivity.There has recently been an investment in a welding power source that can be paired with two wire feeders, allowing welders to quickly switch between two distinct jobs.
Incentive programs keep everyone focused on producing high-quality work.For any reworked or rejected parts, the cost of correcting the situation will be deducted from the bonus pool.In a small company, you don’t want to be the reason for a reduced bonus payout, especially if your coworkers work next to you every day.
The desire to make the most of people’s efforts is a consistent practice at Fabricating Solutions.The goal is to ensure that employees focus on activities that create value for customers.
Lockwood pointed to plans for a new ERP system that would have a portal where customers could insert their own order details, which would populate material orders and timesheets.It feeds orders into the system, into the production queue, and ultimately to the customer faster than the order entry process relies on human intervention and redundant entry of order information.
Even with two press brakes ordered, Fabricating Solutions is still looking for other possible investments.The current laser cutter is combined with a dual cart material handling system, each of which can hold approximately 6,000 pounds.With a 15 kW power supply, the machine can run 12,000 lbs.16-ga.Steel is completed in a few hours without human intervention.That means his dog has frequent weekend trips to the store to replenish pallets and set up the machine so it can continue laser cutting in lights-out mode.Needless to say, Lockwood was thinking about what kind of material storage system could help his laser cutter feed the hungry beast.
When it comes to addressing material storage issues, he may want to act quickly.Lockwood was already thinking about what a 20 kW laser could do for his shop, and it sure would take more weekend visits to the shop to keep such a powerful machine going.
Given the company’s manufacturing talent and investments in new technology, Fabricating Solutions believes it can produce as much, if not more, than other factories with more employees.
Dan Davis is editor-in-chief of The FABRICATOR, the industry’s largest circulation metal fabrication and forming magazine, and its sister publications, STAMPING Journal, Tube & Pipe Journal, and The Welder.He has been working on these publications since April 2002.
FABRICATOR is North America’s leading metal forming and fabrication industry magazine.The magazine provides news, technical articles and case histories that enable manufacturers to do their jobs more efficiently.FABRICATOR has been serving the industry since 1970.
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Post time: Feb-21-2022