Dorset sheet metal subcontractor Ackerman Engineering's freehold, 1,500 m2 factory was purpose-built in 2006 by the current managing director, Graham Ackerman, great-grandson of the company's founder, William, who started the enterprise in 1885. 2006 saw the purchase of a Bystronic BySpeed 4.4 kW CO2 laser cutting machine, another press brake from the same supplier and a generation facility for nitrogen.
CO2 laser technology, which had been used by the company since 2001, was phased out in August 2018 when the 4.4 kW machine was part-exchanged for a ByStar Fiber 8 kW fibre laser cutting centre, which joined a 3 kW BySprint Fiber installed four years earlier. Both are of 3 m x 1.5 m sheet capacity. At the same time, an Xpert 150-tonne, 3.1-metre press brake was added to the six Bystronic models already on-site.
The advantage of profiling and bending components on the same make of equipment is that Bystronic's offline Bysoft 7 software modules, Laser and Bend, work seamlessly together to produce very precise 3D sheet metal parts. Graham Ackerman says that drawing tolerances are almost incidental, as they are routinely held due to the accuracy of machining. Inspection is scarcely needed, as quality is virtually guaranteed once a job is in production. Any mistakes are almost always down to human error, so most of inspection effort is at the CAD/CAM stage.
The Bridport factory mainly processes aluminium, stainless steel and mild steel sheet from 0.7 mm to 8 mm thick, with a lot of material in the 1.2 mm to 2 mm range for the manufacture of electrical cabinets destined for the electronics and telecommunications industries. When cutting these gauges, the 3 kW fibre machine is typically two to three times faster than CO2. When the 8 kW fibre laser was installed, a further increase in throughput was seen, as processing times are less than half those using the 3 kW fibre source.