Interview with Dan Morgan, Production Manager at Scandic Springs
In the second part of this two part interview (first part here), we learn how the FabLight fits into Scandic's business.
The beauty of the machine that you have is: it's got a low cost of entry; it's taking up a significantly small footprint; and there's no special power requirements.
What was the solution you were looking for when you found us?
We were looking to add capacity to our existing waterjet operation, and also be capable of cutting at a smaller kerf size than our waterjet’s 0.024” (0.6mm) kerf. We were also looking to lower the operational costs of that type of cutting, in that the waterjet has fairly high consumable costs. The high pressures and abrasive materials cause waterjets to eat themselves alive — that's kind of the nature of the beast.
Had you been looking at lasers?
Yeah, but the cost of entry...I didn't want to spend a half a million dollars on a laser, and I didn't want something that could cut a 4’x8’ (1.2m x 2.4m) sheet, or 4’x12’ (1.2m x 3.6m) sheet of steel. Our core business is small parts. Our waterjet is only 26”x26” (0.7 x 0.7m). So your bed of roughly 2’x4’ (0.6 x 1.2m) is fine for that — it's right in our wheelhouse.
How did you find us?
Hale [Foote, president of Scandic] had heard about you. I remember him pointing it out to me saying, “Look at this company that’s starting up. What do you think of this thing?” I said, well let me go talk to them in San Francisco. The fact that you were local, made it a little bit easier of a decision.
Why’d you get the mid-range FL3000 laser power?
Probably 70 to 80% of what we do is 0.040” (1mm) or under, and we have a source — the waterjet — for cutting as thick as we need. The FL4500 version would have gotten us up to maybe 3/16” (5mm) thick, so jumping from roughly 0.125” to 0.188” (3mm to 5mm) — there's very little that we do in that range.
The beauty of the machine that you have is: it's got a low cost of entry; it's taking up a significantly small footprint; and there's no special power requirements. It's basically drop it in place, plug it in to 110V, and you're off and running. So if push came to shove next year, or down the road, and we were running that thing forty hours a week, and there were times when we had constraints because of workload, I wouldn't hesitate to just add another, because one operator can run two lasers and a waterjet at the same time.
Have you done financial analysis?
I kind of deferred to Hale on that. His response is that the laser compares favorably over the waterjet for the thinner gauge materials. The thing you have to understand is that there are certain advantages to a waterjet. I can put three parts triple stacked, and so I get three out of each cut, and I can't do that with a laser. Going in I was expecting the laser to run faster and to be twice as fast as our waterjet. The reality is it's about as fast as our waterjet. But again, consumables are much less, overhead is much less, and it gives us smaller kerf size, less maintenance, all those kinds of things.
What are the volumes of jobs you do on the FabLight?
It could be a prototype of developing a part, and the customer needs one or two pieces. It could be a thousand pieces. It could be three or four thousand. It depends on the complexity of the part. Typically, when we start getting up into the thousands, we start considering other tooling approaches depending on the complexity of the part.
Is the stamping business changing a lot these days?
I don't think so. I think the changes that we tend to see are that some of the materials that customers are requiring are a little harder to work with. They have these new high-strength alloys that tend to be more prevalent in the automotive industry. We do a lot of full hard, extra hard stainless steel. But the laser and the waterjet don't care.
What would you tell someone considering buying a FabLight?
If a smaller style machine is what you're looking for, I believe that this machine is worth the investment. Again, it delivers what they promise it will deliver. It is, from what I can see, the lowest entry point for a laser of that size and quality. This is not a hobby machine. It is holding up under the rigors of a manufacturing facility, running five to eight hours a day, and we've now had it running for well over a year.
As the largest stamping and spring company in Northern California, Scandic is the leading source for custom metal parts. They offer raw material guidance and information on heat treating and plating. Scandic can handle your project from prototyping to soft tooling to hard tooling for millions of parts, shipping worldwide. (www.scandic.com)