Walking On Air

When a new fiber laser cuts with air assist gas, it also cuts operating costs

YOU CAN ALSO LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE

Can a machine tool acquisition change the way a 50-year-old shop approaches production? When it’s a fiber laser system that reduces processing time more than 90 percent – cutting with air assist gas at a fraction of the cost of nitrogen – the answer is clear. “The new fiber laser is a game-changer,” says Stuart Rumple, production manager at Doyle Equipment Mfg. “This was a technology leap for our company, and it’s the best thing we’ve ever done to increase productivity. It has changed the way we think about how we manufacture.”

Rumple was speaking of the Cincinnati Inc. CL-940 fiber laser that had replaced two older CO2 lasers at Doyle, a 1,500- and 3,000-W. It immediately reduced processing time from 64 hours to four on components for Doyle’s dry bulk material handling equipment. The CL-940 has also cut operating costs and helped the company stay current on manufacturing techniques that lead to higher productivity.

 width=

Doyle Equipment Mfg.’s new Cincinnati Inc. CL-940 fiber laser reduced processing time from 64 hours to four on components for Doyle’s dry bulk material handling equipment.

“Our results from operating the fiber laser with air assist have made us much more open to new ideas, equipment and techniques,” says Rumple. “Now we focus on processing the right material with the right machine for the most efficient results.”

Doyle Equipment Mfg. is a fourth-generation family-owned business based in Quincy, Ill., with a second manufacturing operation in Palmyra, Mo. Its 150 employees manufacture dry bulk material handling equipment for a worldwide customer base in the dry fertilizer industry, and the company’s vertically integrated product line includes conveying, blending, tending and spreading equipment.

The company produces more than 11,000 parts, with annual quantities ranging from a few to more than 10,000 pieces. More than 90 percent of all Doyle parts, primarily stainless steel, are processed through lasers, so highly productive laser cutting is a key to the company’s cost-efficient operations.

 width=

Higher productivity: A breath of fresh air

Rumple and the team at Doyle were aware of the possibility of cutting with air assist on a fiber laser and saw it first-hand in a training session at Cincinnati Inc. “We saw it was possible, but didn’t know which materials and thicknesses it would work best with,” says Rumple. “We also thought the low pressure of shop air would be a limiting factor, so we decided to do test cuts with breathing-quality air to see if we could make it work.”

Using its existing shop air at 100 psi, Doyle added filtration with a refrigerated dryer, which feeds a high-pressure booster (450 psi maximum) to a high-pressure receiver, filters and a refrigerated dryer, which ultimately supplies 350 psi regulated clean, dry air to the machine.

“We did five hours of test cuts on all of our various parts and materials and were very pleased with the results,” says Rumple. “Our main concern is the weld quality after the part is cut. We need a nice clean edge for a good weld, and those processed on the fiber laser with air assist welded perfectly.”

Doyle now cuts all its 18-gauge through 1/4-in. 304 stainless steel and 14-gauge through 10-gauge mild steel using high-pressure air assist. The fiber laser also gets limited use running on oxygen, cutting 1/4-in. mild steel used in fixture work. “Ninety-five percent of our fiber laser cutting is stainless steel using shop air,” adds Rumple.

 width=

Air assist gas cuts operating cost to $4 per hour for the new Cincinnati fiber laser at Doyle Equipment Mfg., while the machine’s performance slashes part-processing time more than 90 percent.

And, the price is right

In addition to higher productivity, the new fiber laser cutting system is also saving money due to the lower cost of air compared to nitrogen. According to Rumple, a nitrogen system requires a 50-HP compressor to generate the necessary pressures, but with air assist, the required compressor is only 15 HP.

“We’ve brought the cost to run the fiber down to less than $4 per hour which is about 90 percent cheaper than using nitrogen as the assist gas,” says Rumple. “And, Cincinnati has added a cover for above and below the lens that extends lens life indefinitely. Replacement lenses are typically the second biggest operating cost on the fiber machine, and now that’s no longer a factor, either.”

 width=

Doyle Equipment Mfg. partnered with Cincinnati Inc. for its press brake and laser equipment needs in the late 90s. The companies have worked together ever since.

It started with a press brake

The fiber laser system was not Doyle’s first Cincinnati machine. The company’s partnership with Cincinnati started in the late 90s with the acquisition of a 230-ton AutoForm press brake to bend formed parts up to 1/2-in. mild and stainless steel. Since then the company has added two Cincinnati AutoForm press brakes at its Quincy location – a 135-ton and a 90-ton – and a 135-ton AutoForm at its Palmyra facility. In late 2011, a Cincinnati CL-850 5000-Watt CO2 laser was added at Palmyra to improve throughput and cut lead times by bringing laser work back in-house.

“The CL-850 handles all of our 14-gauge through 1-in. mild steel cutting as well as processing our 1/2-in. and thicker 304 stainless,” says Rumple. “Our experience with Cincinnati has been excellent, and we consider them a partner in our business. We’ve provided input to them on different things we like to see in their machines and they’ve taken that feedback and implemented it. The press brakes are easy for our operators to learn and use and the CO2 laser provides some flexibility, as it can also cut wood and ABS. We also love the ‘American reliability’ of all our Cincinnati machines.”

Doyle also uses Cincinnati software modules to enhance its laser and press brake performance. “We like the convenience of being able to cut one part at the machine, and the software helps us do that,” says Rumple. “We usually use the bend simulator during part/product development and it makes that process much simpler.”

To higher productivity and beyond

The success of operating the CL-940 using air assist has led Doyle to order a second fiber laser cutting system from Cincinnati as well as another 230-ton Autoform press brake – both set for delivery in July. The machines will be housed in the company’s new 195,000-sq.-ft. facility, also in Palmyra, Mo.

Cincinnati Inc.

Doyle Equipment Mfg.

Get industry news first
Subscribe to our magazines