Established in 2010 by Dave Mawer and Mike Barratt, D & M Design & Fabrication has seen dramatic progression since the joint owners started running the business from the former's bedroom and the latter's garage. At the time, neither thought that seven years later they would buy one of the most advanced fibre laser cutting centres on the market, a Bystronic 10 kW ByStar Fiber with automated sheet handling.
In May 2017, the machine was installed in one of the firm's factory units in Kirkby Malzeard, in the Yorkshire Dales near Ripon. Capable of processing 3 metre x 1.5 metre sheet, it employs the highest power fibre laser currently available on a cutting machine. According to Mr Barratt, it is about 10 times faster at processing 10 mm thick material than D&M's previous Bystronic 3.3 kW CO2 fibre laser machine bought five years earlier. A sheet can be completed typically in less than 40 minutes, rather than six hours.
Mr Barratt said, "We were previously struggling to keep up with laser-profiling our material, despite running the CO2 machine around the clock, six days a week.
"With the speed of fibre technology, we are easily processing more material per day in a single shift and now only work five days a week. The fibre machine stands idle for some of the time at present, as it finishes all the work going through the shop so quickly."
Mr Mawer added, "With an eye to the future, we specified the machine with an inline ByTrans Extended handling system to automate supply of material to the machine and return of laser-cut sheets.
"We have proved the cell's reliability during lights-out running a few times. It is not needed at the moment, but will be invaluable as volumes build in the future."
Between 2014 and 2016, annual growth in turnover of the company was 10 per cent. This jumped to 20 per cent in 2017 due to the efficiency of fibre laser cutting and this rate of increase is continuing through 2018. Work is flowing in from a broad spread of sectors including automotive, construction and food and involves cutting mainly stainless steel, mild steel and aluminium.
Additionally, fibre laser technology allows reflective materials like copper and brass to be cut without damaging the optics, unlike with CO2, so expands the range of work that D&M can take on. For the same reason, fibre also helps when cutting aluminium.
The two company directors had access to a lot of advice before they bought their first laser cutting machine in May 2012, as until then they had been putting this work out to subcontractors. Visits to their factories revealed the makes of laser cutting equipment commonly in use and one of the most popular was that supplied by Swiss manufacturer, Bystronic. At the time, there was not much to choose technically between the different CO2 offerings. However, Bystronic was selected due to the UK subsidiary's more personal sales approach and the level of service offered.
This was again the case when the ByStar Fiber 3015 was purchased. Dave Mawer had witnessed its launch during the BLECH 2016 exhibition in Germany and subsequently visited the Bystronic factory in Niederonz to see the machines being built. Impressed by what he saw, he was finally convinced by the 10 kW laser source, higher power than on other machines offered and capable of cutting material up to 30 mm thick.
Both D&M partners regard the on-site training provided by the supplier as comprehensive. They also think the BySoft 7 software is efficient for nesting and easy to use, especially when transferring designs from their SolidWorks CADCAM seat into the Bystronic control to create the cutting routines. Cut pieces are invariably folded on D&M's six press brakes and powder coated on-site before delivery to customers.
Such is the success that D&M is enjoying that expansion plans are already under way. The unit housing the fibre laser machine is being extended and by mid-year will include a deburring facility. Later in 2018, the shop containing the company's press brakes will also be enlarged to accommodate a new powder coating plant. Overall, the factory area will increase from 20,000 to 28,000 sq ft.