Leicester-based ADS Laser Cutting has invested in a new TRUMPF TruLaser 5030 fiber with 10kW power source, effectively doubling the speed at which it can profile components. With the machine, ADS also becomes an early adopter of new TRUMPF technologies such as Active Speed Control, while a further feature of the installation is a LiftMaster Compact load/unload automation system, which enables lights-out operations.
ADS Laser Cutting is the premier supplier of metal laser cutting, folding, fabrication and metal finishing in the UK. Founded in 2005 by brothers Stephen and Duncan Keates, ADS has grown tremendously year-on-year, today generating turnover of circa £7 million and employing over 70 people across two sites. Among the keys to this rapid growth is the company’s continuous investment in the latest manufacturing technologies.
“Our customers want correct parts, on time, at a competitive price,” states Stephen Keates. “By having the latest technology in-house, we can better control factors such as lead times, quality and cost.”
Another consideration is investing in machines that can accommodate the wide array of parts handled by a manufacturer. ADS needs to be flexible and competitive when supporting the needs of its customers, which come from sectors such as construction, machine building, signage, automotive, rail and medical, to list but a few.
“To maintain our high standards we strive to adopt the fastest lasers producing the best quality parts, which is why we look to change one of our laser cutters every three years,” says Mr Keates. “Until recently we ran a TRUMPF TruLaser 5030 fiber 5kW and a 5kW CO2 laser cutter – and it was time for the latter to be replaced. We had no qualms about going 100% fibre as the cut quality of modern fibre lasers is just as good as CO2, even on thicker materials.”
ADS assessed four different fibre laser cutters for speed, quality and reliability, but the 10kW TruLaser fiber was deemed first choice, and was duly installed in November 2019 at a total investment of circa £1 million.
Says Mr Keates. “If you’re an OEM making your own product against in-house targets, you can probably get away with having a 15-year-old laser. However, as a subcontractor we need to compete year-in, year-out with others in our arena. ”
Due to the speed of the new laser, which Mr Keates estimates is twice as fast (on average) as the company’s existing 5kW 5030 fiber, the decision was taken to install a TRUMPF LiftMaster Compact load/unload system, which can accommodate up to 3 tonne of material.
“We specified several other TRUMPF features to help us run lights out,” he adds. “For example, Active Speed Control works by looking straight through the nozzle directly at the cutting zone, monitoring it in real time and controlling the feed rate of the laser to suit specific material conditions. Ultimately, we want to load the program, input standard parameters, press the button, walk away and come back to perfect parts - every time. And that’s what the TRUMPF machine provides.”
ADS Laser Cuttings’ capabilities have further improved, now being able to cut common materials such as mild steel up to a thickness of 30mm, stainless steel to 40mm, aluminium to 30mm, plus brass and copper to 12mm and 16mm respectively. More exotic materials ADS have experience with cutting, include treat plates, tool steels and they have cut shim steel down to 0.05mm.
All parts are programmed offline, with the company upgrading from TRUMPF TruTops to TruTops Boost with the latest machine investment. “TruTops Boost works on 3D architecture rather than 2D,” explains Mr Keates. “So now we can take 3D models, unfold them and create optimised nests based on the best sheet size for the parts. Using 3D models also means we can use TruTops Boost to better prepare parts for our TRUMPF press brakes.”
ADS is clearly ambitious and want to grow even further, but there is a distinct desire to retain its personal touch with clients.
“We’ve done really well in recent years, with turnover up nearly 30% in 2019,” says Mr Keates. “We are good communicators and react quickly to any issues. Honesty and transparency are also key; suggesting ways to make parts cheaper. On top of these factors, it’s clear that our investment in the latest manufacturing technologies is paramount. The Midlands is the UK’s most densely populated area for laser cutters, so we have to differentiate, which is what we’ve done with the 10kW TruLaser 5030 fibre.”