Low volume automotive laser

05 Feb 2020

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

A specialist in prototyping and low-volume production for the high-end automotive industry can now laser cut all its steel and alumimium components in-house.

The company, which supplies a range of OEM and tier-one manufacturers has invested in a new TruLaser 1030 fiber from Trumpf, the first machine of its type to be installed in the UK.

This has enabled it to bring in-house its previously outsourced requirements for 2D aluminium and stainless steel components, which it was not able to cut cost effectively on its ageing CO2 laser cutter.

“Our previous CO2 laser was getting older, more inefficient and slower,” says Director Andrew Easter. “Such was its performance that we were sending our 2D aluminium and stainless steel parts to third-party subcontractors.”

Frustrated with the situation, the company decided to research the market for a suitable alternative. As ASE already had a TruLaser Cell 3000 3D laser cutter, which had been highly successful at producing a host of five-axis components since its installation in 2017, Trupmpf proved the supplier of preference.

Offering 3kW of power output via its TruDisk 3001 solid-state laser, the entry-level machine has a working area of 3000 x 1500mm and a maximum sheet thickness cutting capacity of 20mm mild steel, 15mm stainless steel, 15mm aluminium, 6mm copper and 6mm brass.

Work at ASE typically falls within the 0.5 to 4mm thickness range, usually from aluminium, stainless steel and mild steel. Grilles, bracketry and pressings are among the common types of components produced, prototypes and low volume production.

“Since installing the Trumpf TruLaser 1030 fiber we have stopped putting our laser cutting out to subcontractors, which is a significant saving,” explains Mr Easter. “What’s more, we are making major savings against our previous machine in terms of running costs, as we operate with compressed air as the assist gas where possible, particularly when cutting aluminium.”

In addition to profiling with oxygen and nitrogen, users of TruLaser 1030 fiber machines can use compressed air as the cutting gas. This application is possible up to a sheet thickness of 3mm, depending on laser output and material type. Benefits include reduced cutting gas costs with a more cost-effective alternative, and greater process flexibility thanks to the availability of an additional cutting gas.

“We’ve made real gains with the TruLaser 1030 fiber,” states Mr Easter. “In fact, what we’re saving a month on subcontracting and running costs, is probably equivalent to what we’re paying for the machine, essentially making it a cost-neutral investment. Moreover, our cut quality is better and we have far more control over our lead times as the process is now in-house.”