The compact laser eases the cutting and drilling problems of pipe manufacturers

Franke, a manufacturer of kitchen equipment, used to use hand-made tubular parts. Cutting to a certain length on a saw and drilling on a drill press to drill on the drill press is not a bad process, but the company seeks to upgrade. Image: Franca
You may not have heard of Franke, the manufacturer of kitchen equipment, although it has a great influence in the United States. Most of its products are designed and manufactured for commercial applications—kitchen equipment is behind the house, and the service line is in front of the house— -Its residential kitchen series are not sold in traditional retail stores. If you want to enter a commercial kitchen, or if you want to carefully observe the service line of a self-service restaurant, you may find Franke brand sinks, food preparation stations, water filtration systems, heating stations, service production lines, coffee machines, and garbage disposers. If you visit the showroom of a high-end residential kitchen supplier, you may see its faucets, sinks and accessories. They are not only practical but also beautiful; everything is designed to coordinate work and make organization, use, and cleaning as easy as possible.
Although it is a large company with more than 10,000 employees in manufacturing facilities on five continents, it is not necessarily a high-volume manufacturer. Some of its production work includes small-batch, high-mix mode in the manufacturing workshop, rather than the traditional high-volume, low-mix work of OEMs.
Doug Frederick, the company’s production chief in Fayetteville, Tennessee, said: “10 rolls are a large number for us. We might make a food preparation table and then No more tables of this design will be made in three months.”
Some of these parts are pipes. Until recently, the company survived the manual manufacturing process of its tubular components. Cutting to a certain length on a saw and drilling on a drill press to drill on the drill press is not a bad process, but the company seeks to upgrade.
The sheet metal manufacturer will be in Franke’s Fayetteville home. The company manufactures a large number of parts for the equipment it manufactures, which are mainly used in the fast food industry, including workbenches, bakeware covers, storage cabinets and heating stations. Franke uses a sheet metal laser for cutting, a bending machine for bending, and a seam welder for long fillet welds.
At Franke, pipe manufacturing is a small part of the job, but it is still an important part. Tubing products include workbench legs, canopy supports, and supports for sneeze guards in salad bars and other self-service areas.
The second aspect of Franke’s business model is that it references the entire commercial kitchen. It writes quotations to provide everything needed to store, prepare and serve food, and clean service trays. It can’t make everything, so it references freezers, refrigerators, bakeware, and dishwashers from other manufacturers. At the same time, other kitchen integrators are doing the same thing, writing quotations that usually include Franke equipment.
Since commercial kitchens typically serve 18 hours or more a day, 7 days a week, the key to being on the list of preferred suppliers (and staying there) is to make reliable, robust equipment and deliver it on time every time. Although Franke’s manual process of manufacturing tubes is sufficient, the supervisor of the Fayetteville plant is still looking for new things.
“The saw needs to be manually adjusted to make a 45-degree cut, and the drill press is not suitable for drilling holes in pipes,” Frederick said. “The drill bit does not always go straight through the center, so the two holes are not always aligned. If we have to install hardware like a lock nut, it is not always suitable.” Although measuring with a tape measure and marking the holes with a pencil The location is not a big deal, but sometimes workers in a hurry will mark the hole location incorrectly. The scrap rate and the amount of rework are not large, but stainless steel is expensive, and no one wants to rework, so the management team hopes to reduce these as much as possible.
Setting up the machine from 3D FabLight is as easy as it seems. It only requires a 120-volt circuit (20 amps) and a table or a stand for the controller. Because it is a lightweight machine equipped with casters, it is equally easy to relocate.
The company considered using a machining center, but after a long search, Fayetteville employees did not find what it wanted. The staff are familiar with laser cutting from their sheet work, using four sheet lasers day after day, but the traditional tube laser far exceeds their needs.
“We don’t have enough volume to justify the large tube laser machine,” Frederick said. Then, while looking for equipment at the recent FABTECH Expo, he found what he wanted: a laser machine that fits Franke’s budget.
He discovered that the system designed and built by 3D Fab Light is based on a general principle: simplicity. The design concept adopted by the company is simple decoration and ease of use.
The founder initially submitted the concept of the Ministry of Defense initiative. Although most of the repair work performed by military personnel involves replacing worn or damaged components with replacement parts from original equipment manufacturers, some military warehouses are tasked with manufacturing these replacement parts. Machining, manufacturing, and welding are common activities in some military maintenance sites.
With this in mind, the two founders conceived a lightweight laser cutting machine that does not require foundation and can pass through standard commercial double doors. The system gantry and the bed have been aligned before leaving the factory, and there is no need to align the machine after it is set up. It is small enough to fit into a shipping container, so it can basically be transported to any location, which is essential for transporting this machine to remote military bases where it is most needed. Using less than 20 amperes of current on a normal 120 VAC circuit, these machines use about $1 per hour of electricity and workshop air.
The company produces two models and provides three resonators for your choice. FabLight Sheet can handle a quarter of the sheet, the maximum size is 50 x 25 inches. FabLight Tube & Sheet can handle sheets of the same size and tubes with outer diameters from ½ to 2 inches, with lengths up to 55 inches. The optional extender can hold tubes up to 80 inches long.
The machine models-FabLight 1500, FabLight 3000 and FabLight 4500-correspond to wattages of 1.5, 3 and 4.5 kW respectively. They are designed to cut materials up to 0.080, 0.160, and 0.250 inches, respectively. The machine uses fiber optic power and has two cutting modes. The pulse mode uses the maximum power, and the continuous mode uses 10% of the power. Continuous mode provides better edge quality and is intended for material thicknesses at the lower end of machine capacity. Pulse mode helps power budget and is used to cut high-end material thickness.
Franke’s investment in FabLight 4500 Tube & Sheet has yielded benefits in both manufacturing and assembly. Gone are the days of making waste by cutting parts that are too short, reworked parts that are cut too long, and misplaced holes. Secondly, the components can be combined smoothly every time.
“The welder likes it,” Frederick said. “All the holes are where they should be, and they are all round.” Frederick and a former saw operator were two people who were trained to use the new machine. Frederick said the training went well. The front saw operator is an old-school manufacturer, not very computer-savvy, and certainly not a digital native, but that’s okay; the machine does not require programming, as this video (used to make the corkscrew) shows. It imports common file formats, .dxf and .dwg, and then its CAM function takes over. In the case of 3D Fab Light, CAM is a real CAT, just like in a catalog. It relies on a material catalog or database of cutting parameters with a large number of alloys and material thicknesses. After loading the file and selecting the material parameters, the operator can view the optional preview to see the finished part, then jog the cutting head to the starting position and start the cutting process.
Frederick found a shortcoming: Franke’s parts drawing is not in any format used by the machine. He asked for some help inside the company, but in a large company, these things took time, so he asked 3D Fab Light for a pipe drawing template, received one, and modified it to make the parts he needed. “It’s very easy,” he said. “It takes three to four minutes to modify the drawing template to make the part.”
According to Frederick, setting up the machine is also a breeze. “The most difficult part is opening the crate,” he quipped. Since the system is equipped with wheels, it only needs to roll on the floor to move it to a predetermined position.
“We put it in the right place, plugged in the power source, connected the vacuum cleaner, and it was ready,” he said.
In addition, when things don’t go according to plan, the simplicity of the machine helps to troubleshoot, Frederick adds.
“When we encounter a problem, Jackie [operator] can usually diagnose the problem and get it to run again,” Frederick said. Even so, he also believes that 3D Fab Light pays attention to details in this regard.
“Even if we start to provide service tickets and then let them know that we solved the problem ourselves, I usually receive a follow-up email from the company within 48 hours. Customer service is an important part of our satisfaction with the machine.”
Although Frederick did not count any indicators to measure the return on investment time, he estimated that it would take less than two years based on the operation of the machine, and even less when calculating the waste reduction.
Eric Lundin joined the editorial department of The Tube & Pipe Journal in 2000 as an associate editor. His main responsibilities include editing technical articles on tube production and manufacturing, as well as writing case studies and company profiles. Promoted to editor in 2007.
Before joining the staff of the magazine, he served in the U.S. Air Force for five years (1985-1990), and worked for a manufacturer of pipe, pipe, and conduit elbows for six years, first as a customer service representative and later as a technical writer (1994-2000).
He studied at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, and received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1994.
Tube & Pipe Journal became the first magazine dedicated to serving the metal pipe industry in 1990. Today, it is still the only publication dedicated to the industry in North America and has become the most trusted source of information for pipe professionals.
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Post time: Nov-24-2021