In the competitive business climate for job shops around the Huntsville, Alabama area, American Alloy Fabrication, Inc. (AAFI), has cut a new path to success in the last year. AAFI General Manager Barry Langford credits his forward thinking staff and a CO2 laser from Mitsubishi for this development.
"Like any job shop, we're called upon to produce one prototype part and up to 10,000-piece runs, all the time. Our main business is supplying parts and mechanical assemblies to customers in various materials, shapes, sizes and finishes," Mr. Langford observes.
"We are a full service contract job shop, offering laser cutting, CNC turret punching, CNC forming, machining, welding, metal finishing and mechanical assembly. But the laser really made a difference. We're now producing the types of complicated parts and assemblies which were once "no-quote" situations for us."
Mr. Langford cited the specific features of his Mitsubishi Model 2512LXP which enabled this rapid evolution in the business AAFI could pursue.
"All CO2 lasers have some given benefits, such as no tooling cost, burr-free finish and fast throughput but this machine had much more. The unique rectangular waveform high peak pulsing has allowed us to produce parts at maximum speeds with sacrificing accuracy or superior edge quality. This was a very attractive feature of the Mitsubishi machine because of the accuracies we hold, usually ±0.010-inch on hole-to-hole but often ±0.005-inch or better on critical dimensions. The other machines we considered didn't match up."
We spent almost a full year studying laser, plasma, waterjet and other technologies before deciding the speed and precision of the CO2 laser was best suited for our needs," Mr. Langford continues. "The laser has reduced our part processing time on most jobs. Our turret punch is now viable only when a part has a large number of equally sized holes, requiring no tool changes. Even then, when the turret is running a faster cycle time, we can still operate more efficiently with the laser because laser-cut edges are smooth and require no deburring."
"Also, the machine has a quick response power sensor to enable our cutting of highly reflective materials. We do a lot of stainless steel and up to 1/4-inch aluminum. Of particular interest was the open bed design with removable material supports, which allowed us to process pre-fabricated shapes and enclosures." The Mitsubishi 2512LXP has a pallet shuttle system which rotates workpieces up to four feet by eight feet in less than 30 seconds and Mr. Langford further commented on the advantages of this feature for AAFI. "It keeps our production type jobs going non-stop because the operator can be handling finished parts or fixturing the next workpieces while the laser is cutting."
"Of course," Mr. Langford continues, "the proof of performance was the fact that we were running good parts just one day after this machine tool system was installed at AAFI."