Productivity Equals Profitability

Praxair’s StarSolver® productivity enhancement program uncovers opportunities, helps metfab shops big and small increase workflow

Let’s face it – in the metfab world, laser downtime is a productivity killer. If you’re down, even for a minute, you’ll never get that minute back. And that means you’ll never get that potential profit back. So what’s the best way to keep your lasers running at peak performance? That is the question LaserCraft, Inc., based out of North Ridgeville, Ohio, faced. LaserCraft is one of the most technologically advanced laser cutting job shops in the Midwest, using 11 lasers to cut tubing, flat sheet and multi-axis productions. The company was using a bulk nitrogen tank with Trifecta™ 10 to provide a continuous flow of gas to their lasers. Everything was running smoothly, until one day – it wasn’t. LaserCraft began experiencing unidentifiable issues with the system, causing excessive downtime in their processes, and ultimately a drop in output. “We were having so many problems, we had to schedule certain jobs to run on certain machines and coordinate everything so that no more than three machines at a time were drawing from the nitrogen tank,” said Dale Hawkinson, manufacturing engineer for LaserCraft. To help identify and, more importantly, fix the gas supply issues, Praxair called in their team of laser and gas supply experts to conduct a StarSolver productivity enhancement audit and break down the entire manufacturing operation.

Finding a Solution

Upon arriving at the LaserCraft facility, Praxair familiarized themselves with LaserCraft's lasers and the entire gas delivery system. The team started by gathering data for each laser, including the nozzle type, diameter, maximum pressure and percent of nitrogen-oxygen mix it used to cut. Then, they collected all of the operational information they could get, including the number of hours worked daily and the number of shifts to calculate beam on time. Using the laser and operational information, the Praxair team determined what was the worst-case nitrogen demand and compared that to the equipment and its abilities and limitations. After carefully analyzing the results, Praxair found the cause of the problem. LaserCraft was exceeding the capabilities of their Trifecta 10 system and existing gas piping capabilities. The peak total demand exceeded 10,000 CFH. When the Trifecta 10 and gas piping systems were initially installed, the laser process needs were based on an 8,400 CFH calculated demand. Praxair presented Hawkinson with a list of recommendations to upgrade the gas piping system and remove and replace the bulk tank and Trifecta 10 system. “Trifecta was the right solution for us when Praxair initially installed a few years ago,” said Hawkinson. “But, we’ve been consistently growing and Praxair was again able to come in and make  recommendation with my productivity and bottom line in mind.”

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