With the introduction of the newest generation of laser cutting machines for tube and sheet materials, more and more steel construction companies are seeing the benefits of high precision cutting with a laser.
Plasma cutting and conventional processes such as drilling, sawing, and milling are giving way to laser cutting technology in a growing number of industrial sectors.
The Dutch steel construction firm Staalbouw Hendriks recently made this choice for a laser, with a sheet fiber laser cutting system LS5 equipped with an 8 kW laser source. A machine that easily allows the company to cut all material and thicknesses between 1 mm (20 gauge) and 35 mm (13/8").
"With this, we now supply parts that fit exactly in the assembly phase," said the owner Hendriks Staalbouw Hendriks B.V.
LS5 can be equipped with a fiber laser source up to 10 kW according to production needs to cut steel, stainless steel, iron, copper, brass, aluminum sheets, with the best laser quality.
The initial situation
Staalbouw Hendriks makes tube bridges, canopy structures, and unique steel structures mainly for regional utility builders. "We don't do hall construction, but the more difficult jobs in steel construction," explains Noud Hendriks.
the company was on the verge of reconsidering all the cutting and punching work of the two companies that belong to the group. Hendriks also owns a machining company that outsources all laser cutting work 1 mm - 6 mm (20 gauge - 1/4") and does some punching on an outdated punching machine. In addition, an existing BLM GROUP sheet and tube laser cutting machine equipped with a CO2 laser source at the steel construction department was in need of replacement.
"If you then add up the cutting requirements of both companies, you have sufficient coverage to invest in a laser for both needs. Moreover, you are then not dependent on third parties and you can switch faster than if you outsource the cutting work." Explains the entrepreneur.
Laser quality instead of plasma
For steel construction, all head and footplates were cut from strips and the holes were punched.
"That process can be more efficient when you cut that out of the plate. Plasma is one of the options then, but less suitable for cutting in 1 mm - 6 mm (20 gauge - 1/4") plate thickness. Plasma cutting quality is no longer competitive in that segment and therefore discarded as an option. Laser on the other hand, with the current high cutting capacity and fiber laser sources, can cut both thin and thick plate. Moreover, with the laser-quality you stand out in the steel construction sector in terms of accuracy," Hendriks explains.
LS5 is a high-end plate metal fiber laser cutting system, which allows steel constructor producers to cut any type of material with superior quality.
The choice for BLM GROUP
Hendriks approached BLM GROUP, which for the past two years has had its own sales and service office for the Benelux market just around the corner.
With its strong presence in the tube processing market and, with its new generation of sheet metal lasers, BLM GROUP is directly competing with the established brands in that field.
"After our visit to the Open House 'INTUBE' at BLM GROUP's Italian home base, we were quickly convinced of both the quality standard and their strength in R&D, construction, and organization. With the service around the corner and support from Italy, the choice was quickly made for us," says the Managing Director.
BLM GROUP facility in Levico Terme (TN) that hosts INTUBE – the open house which is held every two years to show the latest solutions proposed by the group.
8 kW fiber laser suitable for thin and thick plate
"The LS5 3015 with 8 kW fiber laser source was a perfect match for our requirements: 1 mm to 6 mm (20 gauge - 1/4") bulk cutting for sheet metal processing and 10 mm, 12 mm, 15 mm, and 20 mm (3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4") thick cutting for steel construction. The 8 kW can even cut 25 mm (1") thick steel with oxygen. This allowed us to more than cover our cutting needs for both companies. The plate laser can be delivered with a changing pallet connected longitudinally as an extension of the machine or transversally on the lateral side. We opted for the last one. What also appealed to us is that the bed can be opened on the entire side, so that the bed is easily accessible, for example, to clean the grating table or to put in a residual plate."
The LS5 is available in both versions: with a table connected longitudinally as an extension of the machine or transversally on the lateral side. Both versions allow the operator to widely open the entire side of the machine, so that it is easily accessible, for example, to clean the grating table or to put in a residual plate. The choice was based on the one that has the most suitable for the customer’s footprint.
The entire side of the machine cab be opened, so that it is easily accessible for the operator.
Internal supply of cutting work
The sheet metal laser is housed in a separate department that supplies cutting work for both companies. Son, Dennis Hendriks, has been responsible for programming, logistics, purchasing, and stock management since the machine was installed. "After a short training at the machine and e-learning support from Italy, the first products could soon be cut.
The sheet insertion is currently still done with a lifting aid, but in the future, it will also be possible to supply it automatically from a warehouse. The machine is now fully occupied for one shift and we are already thinking about expanding to a second shift. But first, we need to have the process completely under control", concludes Dennis Hendriks.