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New Horizons for 45-Yr.-Old Metal Stamper

Thursday, January 1, 2015
 

Carmeco Inc., Lebanon, MO, was founded in 1970 as a 6000-sq.-ft. metalforming company with a handful of stamping presses. From its modest beginning, the firm has evolved into a full-service contract manufacturer with 80,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space over two buildings. Its customer base includes OEMs in the trucking, housing, agriculture, recreation and other industries.

 Carmeco’s new laser-cutting cell includes Prima Power’s compact 10-shelf TowerServer material-handling system that allows easy loading/unloading of blanks and processed sheets.
Carmeco’s new laser-cutting cell includes Prima Power’s compact 10-shelf TowerServer material-handling system that allows easy loading/unloading of blanks and processed sheets. It has an elevator for loading and unloading the pallets on and off the tower, and features single-sheet separating.
Now with a stamping-press count of 22, the metalformer also employs press brakes to 110-ton capacity, as well as a slew of arc- and resistance-welding equipment. Its latest evolutionary step came in April 2013, with the investment in a high-power laser-cutting machine.

Carmeco’s laser-cutting machine, a Prima Power Platino model 1530 with a 60- by 120-in. table and 5000-W CO2 resonator, cuts a broad range of materials and thicknesses with speed and precision, without the need for manual adjustments. The cutting head gives users a choice of a 10-in. focal length in addition to the standard 5- and 7.5-in. lenses. The 10-in. lens enhances application flexibility by increasing the depth of focus and enlarging the spot diameter for high and uniform cut quality of thick stainless (5⁄8 in.), aluminum (1⁄2 in.) and mild steel (1 in).

Offering a compact footprint along with a Cartesian cantilever structure that provides three-sided access, the machine has proven easy to operate and quick to program, says John Carr, Carmeco vice president of business development. Its unique stonecast frame reportedly reduces vibration and increases stiffness compared to cast iron and welded frames. And, its low heat conductivity results in high thermal stability compared to traditional cast or steel frames.

Changing Market

The 5000-W laser-cutting machine carves up mild steel to 1 in. thick, stainless steel to 5/8 in. and aluminum to 1/2 in. 
The 5000-W laser-cutting machine carves up mild steel to 1 in. thick, stainless steel to 5/8 in. and aluminum to 1/2 in.
For the past several years, Carmeco’s customer needs have been changing. “Today, we perform an increasing amount of complete manufacturing services, from raw material to welding, painting, assembly and shipping,” explains Carr. “This led us more and more to invest in laser cutting. We see an increasing amount of assembly work and smaller-piece runs where stamping is not the most efficient production method.

“In addition,” Carr continues, “customers often want to change designs or add or eliminate holes and other part features. We can achieve these changes more quickly with the laser. We had been outsourcing all of our laser work and our lead times were getting longer and longer. To meet customer demands, we began our search to purchase a laser of our own.”

According to Carr, Carmeco spent several years researching the latest laser technology and talking to numerous builders.

“We did our homework,” he says. “We visited several suppliers, talked to a number of users and went to FABTECH to see the machines in action. High on our wish list was flexibility and the ability to handle a variety of materials and sheet thicknesses.”

Carr expresses appreciation for several of the Platino’s features, including the cantilever arm, user-friendly software, one-piece stonecast construction, and the flexible automation—Prima Power’s compact 10-shelf TowerServer material-handling system, which allows easy loading/unloading of blanks and processed sheets. It has an elevator for loading and unloading the pallets on and off the tower, and features single-sheet separating.

Learning the Laser

Since the Platino was Carmeco’s first laser, there was a small yet definite learning curve when the machine first arrived. “When the machine was first installed, it wasn’t very busy,” reflects Carr. “But all of that changed once we became comfortable with the technology.”

Carmeco has 48 employees that work 10-hr. shifts, four days/week. Initially, the Platino ran four 10-hr. shifts per day, but now runs lights out, clocking 18-hr. workdays.

“The Platino and accompanying 10-shelf TowerServer have greatly increased our flexibility,” says Carr. “Previously, we might have been one or two weeks out before we could get a rush job into the production schedule. Now if we have to jump in and laser cut something for a rush job, with the tower we can switch from cutting 12-gauge material, for example, to ¼ in. in just a few minutes. We can get the job in and out quickly and then jump right back to the job we had been running.”

Carmeco’s new laser-cutting machine has opened the door to new business, and delivered several new customers to the firm. “We now can process smaller runs with ease,” notes Carr. “In fact, we’ve taken some shorter-run jobs off of our stamping presses and put them on to the Platino. It also has opened up new opportunities with existing customers, and helped improve our ability to get involved in the design stage by building prototypes for our customers.”

Quality Delivers Cost Savings

Carr also notes quantifiable returns on the cutting-machine investment resulting from the cut-edge quality the laser provides.

“Before purchasing the Platino, we had been, for example, fabricating a large 14-gauge part which we had to ship to an outside vendor for plasma cutting,” explains Carr. “Then we had to grind the cut edges to enable repeatable, high-quality welding (the firm performs robotic welding on parts to 48 by 60 in.). Now, laser cutting the part inhouse allows us to skip the edge-grinding process, which has reduced our time to fabricate the product by one hour.”

The Platino also has replaced most of the shearing that used to occur at Carmeco.

“Our shear has cobwebs all over it now,” jokes Carr. “Using the laser is so much easier and faster. Some of the shearing work was on ¼-in. material, and our employees would have to drag 60 by 120 sheets around, which weigh 400 lb. They’re more than happy that the Platino has eliminated that physical labor—the tower does that work now, and it doesn’t even sweat or grunt.” MF

Article provided by Prima Power, Arlington Heights, IL: 847/952 6500, www.primapower.com.

 

See also: Prima Power North America, Inc.

Related Enterprise Zones: Fabrication


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