Laser Technology
Tuesday | 11 April, 2017 | 10:27 am

Bigger is better

By Gretchen Salois

Above: The Mazak Fabri Gear 400 has an expanded range of laser-cut tube, pipe and structural applications and is available with a 2.5 kW or 4 kW resonator.

For one tube and bar processor, upgrading to a larger machine opened new avenues of business

April 2017 - With four lasers already working at capacity, leaders at Central Tube and Bar decided an additional tube laser with a larger diameter capacity as well as longer in- and out-feed capabilities would generate more business. 

“We started receiving RFQs for larger sized tubes and we needed a machine that could handle the larger materials while not sacrificing speed and accuracy,” says Director of Business Development Eric Chambers.

Conway, Arkansas-based Central Tube and Bar supplies materials for various industries—large OEMs are the target base, as well as customers serving the automotive and heavy truck equipment sectors. “We also offer value-added tube and bar for furniture, filtration and skid work, just to name a few,” Chambers adds. 

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Central Tube and Bar needed larger diameter cutting capabilities as well as longer in- and out-feeds to generate more business.

Capacity upgrade

The company started with one laser eight years ago. “We added three additional lasers and the fifth came online mid-2016,” he says. As customers started coming in with requests for larger sizes, “we couldn’t accommodate them and we were losing those jobs,” he says. “So we knew we needed a 40-foot-long in-feed and a 28-foot-long out-feed in addition to the larger capacity.”

Central Tube and Bar purchased the Mazak Fabri Gear 400, which has proved to be more efficient than their other, smaller tube laser cutting systems. Besides the size that was needed, “we also got the advantage of the laser’s 6-axis bevel cutting—a big advantage over our other machines.”

The platform is similar to the fabricator’s older machines, but finishes jobs faster than the other lines in the shop. “Our other loaders have separate controllers, which are offline,” explains Chambers. “Now, our laser is integrated into one streamlined control panel with a user-friendly interface.”

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Automated load/unload features can mix and match the in and out feeds.

What it can do

The Fabri Gear 400 provides high capacity while holding tighter tolerances because of the precise chucking system. The machine has an expanded range of laser-cut tube, pipe and structural applications and is available with a 2.5 kW or 4 kW resonator. It can handle larger, longer, thicker and heavier material due to its heavy-duty construction.

“A four-chuck system is able to cut more accurately since the part and the material are both being secured,” says Tyler Van Wyhe, applications engineer at Mazak Optonics Corp. in Elgin, Illinois. This design helps to meet tighter tolerances, making longer parts more accurate and easier to cut; and ensures full control of the cut part and the raw material. Scrap is reduced to nearly nothing, according to Van Whye, “because the machine transfers the material from the first two chucks to the final two chucks.” 

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Because a four-chuck system doesn’t have a set minimum or set remainder/remnant like a two-chuck system has, operators can obtain “more parts out of their nest,” he notes. Additionally, the four-chuck system is able to make parts out of material that is already cut to length.

The Fabri Gear 400 features automated load/unload functions and can mix and match the in and out feeds. The model holds up to 16-inch round and 11.8-inch square pieces that weigh up to 1,058 pounds.

The latest model will also multitask, says Van Whye. “It can perform simultaneous operations. It can unload a part while starting to process a new part.” 

Tapping is one of many possible functions. “Tapping is not unique to just the Fabri Gear 400,” he acknowledges. The tool head comes with six different taps ranging from a #3 tap unto a 1⁄2-inch tap. “The tapping system also lubricates and has breakage detection,” he says.

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Central Tube and Bar can take on jobs requiring tight tolerances and other cutting features with the Mazak Fabri Gear 400.

With full 3D capabilities in the cutting head, the entire line comes fully automated: “All that is necessary is loading the raw material in and unloading the finished parts,” says Van Whye.

Since installing the 400, the biggest impact on Central Tube and Bar’s business has been with water filtration and oil and gas-related processing orders, says Chambers. “The ability to cut larger size manifolds, and work with larger structural materials like I-beams, channels and angles just wouldn’t have been possible before we got the larger laser from Mazak,” he says. “We are able to participate in business that was beyond our reach before.”

Customers expect Central Tube and Bar to handle virtually any part size and order volumes without hesitation. Before the fabricator purchased its latest laser, however, some of those large-format jobs simply weren’t possible. But since installation, “we never really know what kind of job will come to our door,” Chambers says. “The Mazak laser gives us the flexibility we really need.” MM

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