Moving at the Speed of Light: Laser Cutting and Marlin Steel

In Sheet Metal Fabrication, American Manufacturing

Drew Greenblatt on April 24, 2014

In the world of manufacturing, the turnaround time for one project can have a huge impact on the success of a whole business. In today’s world, consumers of manufactured goods want what they want, when they want it, not 4-6 weeks from now.

Shipping delays are a common factor in lost business, even the world of Business to Business sales. Especially in B2B transactions.

Why? Because, in a B2B transaction, the buyer might be relying on the speed of the manufacturer’s shipping to fulfill their own obligations to customers who find delays unacceptable. When the manufacturer is unable to meet deadlines, the other business suffers for it.

A Hypothetical Delay

For example, a major S&P 500 company wanted to sub-contract to another business the manufacture of a part critical to their product line. Without this part, their product is incomplete and cannot be distributed, so a timely turnaround on the manufacture is critical to success.

In their search for a suitable partner, this company discovered a foreign-based manufacturer (from China) to make the part for a rock-bottom price. The company latched onto this amazingly-priced deal in order to lower costs and increase margins.

For a time, the partnership worked well enough. The parts are not complex, nor do they require a high level of precision to manufacture, so a commodity manufacturer worked well enough.

The 4-6 week long delay for shipping time was unfortunate but unavoidable, because the sheer quantity of parts being shipped made air delivery too costly. Instead, the manufacturer has to ship their products via boat, which is much slower.

One day, the boat encountered a drastic problem that ruined the shipping timetable. Instead of a 4-6 week timetable, the shipping for this batch of manufactured parts would take 8-13 weeks.

Needless to say, this is unacceptable for the company relying on regular, timely shipments.

From Zero to Full-Tilt Production in Six Days

With deadlines looming and time of the essence, this company had to find a new manufacturing partner to make parts. The new manufacturer had to be able to set up a new production line quickly.

Here is where Marlin Steel’s automated laser cutter comes into the picture. The S&P 500 company (which we are not naming because of their demands!) sent us a design document of the part that they needed on a Friday night. By Monday, we had proposed revisions for the design. By Wednesday, approval was received and prototype parts were being manufactured. By Thursday, prototypes were accepted and the part was in full production.

In less than a week, we went from a design proposal to full-scale production, allowing the other company to go ahead with the rest of their manufacturing and potentially saving their product line.

Light-Speed Laser Cutting Automation

How could we move from apaper concept to mass production so quickly? Thanks to our design engineers, and the efficiency of our automated equipment.

Specifically, our trusty laser, which can cut intricate designs in sheet metal quickly and reliably. In fact, you can see our laser cutting machine at work in this video :

This machine uses the intense, and tightly-focused, heat generated by a laser to quickly make cuts in the sheet metal. The laser will repeat these cuts over and over, hundreds of times per hour, all day long. Once the machine is programmed with the right cutting patterns, it makes the cuts on its own.

By automating the laser cutting process, we minimize the risk of human error (not to mention laser burn injuries), so we can reliably repeat perfect results time and time again. The precision possible through automation allows us to make parts that will fit together perfectly every time, without the variances that can occur when an operator is in a rush or is fatigued from performing repetitive, mundane tasks.

Thanks to these reliable and precise devices, Marlin Steel is able to rapidly take a basic design document and turn it into a physical product. Once our design engineers have turned a design document into a CAD file, they can push a switch which programs the machines and they start production.

By integrating automation into our production line, we are able to greatly reduce physical stress on our workforce, and greatly increase the amount of product we can manufacture per worker, all while largely eliminating traditional risks of worker injuries.

The use of automated manufacturing equipment has made Marlin Steel better, faster, and safer than ever before, and our partners can reap the benefits of our fast and efficient manufacturing process.

If you would like to learn more about how Marlin Steel’s automated manufacturing can bring you fast and reliable results to benefit your product lines, contact us today.

Author: Drew Greenblatt
Drew Greenblatt
Drew Greenblatt bought Marlin Steel Wire Products in 1998 when it was a small maker of a commodity product. Since then, it has grown revenue seven-fold. In the face of challenges to the global economy, Marlin Steel has invested more than $3.5 million in robotics in a quest for quality and speed.

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