Prime time for investment in automation

Prime time for investment in automation
Prime time for investment in automation

Automation was the key driver for Stevens & Carlotti's investment in Prima Power according to Marco Carlotti, director of the Sandwich, Kent-based company

, which has been operating since 1967 and which has been using laser cutting technology since 1999.

Stevens & Carlotti focuses on the needs of its customers delivering large volumes of components and assemblies at competitive cost. The markets it serves include power generation, street furniture, pumps and security entry equipment.

The first investment for the company with Prima Power was in two 4kW Platino CO₂ lasers in 2005 and 2007. One has a Prima Power Tower Server and the other a Compact Server. For the installation, the Tower server was modified by Prima to fit into the workshop with a shuttle trolley to take the weight of three ton packs of sheets and make use of an existing overhead crane rather than a forklift.

Marco Carlotti says: “When we made this investment it was a crucial time for our business with a big expansion in customers and workload. We had identified a bottleneck around the older laser so, by replacing the existing laser with a Prima Power Platino and automation, we could continue working day and night unattended.”

As well as the increased capacity provided by the automation, the Platino lasers proved to be faster than the previous machines and had a smaller footprint. The company cuts material from 0.9mm thick up to 20mm thick, using nitrogen for thin material and oxygen on thicker steel.

“The reliability of the lasers and the Prima Power Servers has been very good and it gave us the confidence to make further investments with Prima Power,” Mr Carlotti adds.

Since then, Stevens & Carlotti has added an E5 punch with LST automation and a BCe panel bender with robot loading in 2012 and an E5x punching machine with Compact Express load and unload in 2015. The punching machines and panel bender are in a new building which is a designated punch and fold unit to minimise handling and transport. The laser workshop is just next door, so laser cut panels can also be easily moved to the BCe panel bender. The BCe automated panel bender is ideal for a large number of the parts produced on the punching machines.

The part picker handles the components quickly and efficiently, turning and presenting them to the panel bender to fold complex shapes that would be very difficult on a press brake. “The BCe panel bender is five to six times faster than the press brake; it certainly makes life easier and has eliminated the bottleneck on the press brakes as most material up to 2mm thick now goes through the BCe panel bender. We have won a high profile contract thanks to this machine. It has doubtless reduced our leadtimes and increased our capacity for this type of panel bending work,” Mr Carlotti affirms.

Both the E5 and E5x punches are servo electric which has a positive impact on the workshop environment with less noise and lower energy consumption.

“The Prima Power punches enable us to process three to four times more work than the machines they replaced,” Mr Carlotti says. “We have even moved parts back to punching which were previously lasered as it is more economical, especially for parts which are generally rectangular in shape. We also use a Wilson wheel on some parts to shear profiles, and an engraving tool which further increases our capacity and flexibility.”

Investing in Prima Power machinery has enabled Stevens & Carlotti to achieve its lean manufacturing ambitions. Customers have been impressed with the level of sophistication provided by the new equipment and it has helped the company to retain existing business and get new contracts and customers.

Mr Carlotti concludes: “Our relationship with Prima Power goes back 10 years and we have found them to be a very good partner and we have complete confidence in their capabilities and service. The investments we have made are beneficial for our long-term plans, not only for our customers, but also for our employees.”



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