Fracking-Equipment Manufacturer Turns to Laser for Flexibility

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Prior to acquiring this Platino Fiber laser-cutting machine in 2018, UE Manufacturing used to outsource most of its sheet metal fabrication.
UE Manufacturing (UEM), Oklahoma City, OK, manufactures oilfield-pumping equipment for fracturing and cementing, as well as transfer units and cryogenic pumps. It also specializes in remanufacturing and service, and can customize equipment to meet its customers’ needs for land and offshore applications. Since its founding in 1994, UEM has grown from a handful of employees to more than 425, with more than 200,000 sq. ft. of facility space.

According to Brent Finley, director of production and material management, prior to 2017 the firm outsourced most of its sheet metal fabrication. Then, in 2018, UEM, seeking to alleviate its dependence on outsourcing, purchased a 6-kW laser cutting machine—a Platino Fiber fiber laser model from Prima Power.

“We visited three different laser manufacturers prior to our purchase,” says Finley. “The Platino had the greatest number of options, and appeared easy to use. In addition, we also liked the NC Express CAD/CAM sheet metal-processing software, the unique granite backstop for stability, which nobody else had, and the gantry-style cutting head.”

The Platino Fiber can cut a wide range of materials, including highly reflective materials such as aluminum alloys, copper and brass. In addition, UEM can employ the machine to cut mild steel as thick as 20 mm.

Remanufacturing and New Production

UEM’s new 6-kW cutting machine features a single focusing lens system with an automatic nozzle changer. From a quality and productivity standpoint, the automatic nozzle changer eliminates the possibility of someone forgetting to change the nozzle or installing the wrong nozzle.
“We split production time for the Platino Fiber equally between remanufacturing jobs and new production,” Finley explains. “However, the biggest justification for purchasing the cutting machine was in remanufacturing. We needed the ability to react quickly to any last-minute changes or repairs in order to ensure on-time delivery to the customer. We run the Platino Fiber all of the time—day and night shifts, and a weekend shift.”

Other features and benefits appreciated by Finley and the UEM team include:

  • Low power consumption;
  • No laser gases;
  • Minimum maintenance and low consumable cost;
  • Floor space-saving—compact automatic sheet loading, unloading and storage;
  • Easy and fast operating interface—fast setup;
  • Unique machine design using a synthetic granite frame offering good thermal stability and vibration dampening;
  • Cantilever design for optimum accessibility to the machine;
  • Protection cabin with roof, fiber-safe windows and fully opening sliding doors; and
  • Single focusing lens system with automatic nozzle changer.

Brent Finley, UEM director of production and material management, explains that the biggest justification for bringing laser cutting inhouse is in the area of remanufacturing, where the company needed capacity to react quickly to last-minute changes or repairs.
The machine software also provides a trio of useful cutting modes:

  • Smart Cut, for fast cutting of thin sheets (to 5 mm), with as much as a 30-percent cycle-time reduction thanks in part to the ability to minimize unproductive positioning time;
  • Max Cut, for fast cutting of medium-gauge sheets (from 6 to 25 mm), with processing-time reduction of as much as 40 percent and as much as a 90-percent piercing-time reduction; and
  • Night Cut, which optimizes piercing and cutting-process safety, made possible by devices that control process status and intervene in case of errors, restarting the operation or informing the operator remotely.

“We still do some outsourcing, but 75 percent of that work has come back inside,” explains Finley. “When we remanufacture equipment—a pump for example, we may come across a bracket or other part that has cracked that we didn’t notice and that we had not planned on replacing. If we had to outsource that replacement part, it could take four or five days to replace. With laser cutting inhouse, we can produce the part in a matter of hours instead of days. The laser allows us to keep our line moving—a big plus for that unplanned work that comes up during remanufacturing.”

Additional Favorable Features

Finley continues his discussion on the benefits of UEM’s new laser cutting machine.

“I like the fact that the Platino can open from either the front or the side,” he says. “If we have an issue or a small part, for example, we don’t have to shuttle the table. We can open the front of the machine or the side door and have direct access to the table.

“Further, the machine employs a single focusing lens system with an automatic nozzle changer. From a quality and productivity standpoint, the automatic nozzle changer eliminates the possibility of someone forgetting to change the nozzle or installing the wrong nozzle. And, the laser allows us to cut parts for some of our sister companies.

The biggest benefit the machine has delivered:

“It has given us the ability to react and quickly turn parts,” says Finley, “to keep our production lines moving. It has been a real game changer.” MF

Article provided by Prima Power;


See also: Prima Power North America, Inc.

Related Enterprise Zones: Fabrication

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