A Laser-Sharp Shop
- May 24, 2019
Calgary custom fabricator becomes first in Canada with an Amada fiber laser combo machine for flat sheet and tube cutting
Problem: Long lead times for outsourcing cutting processes
Solution: Bringing cutting capabilities in-house with combination fiber laser flat sheet and tube cutting cell
Calgary-base, Reggin Industries is on a constant quest to discover what more it can do with metal and how it can expand its capabilities as a company.
So when the company began to experience bottleneck issues associated with outsourcing work, it turned to Amada and became the first metal fabricator in Canada to invest in Amada’s new fiber laser combination machine that cuts flat sheet and tube, the ENSIS RI designed with an integrated rotary index.
The Reggin name has been around for eight decades but the evolution of what this company is the result of a family-run business with a passion for metalworking, and consistently diversifying its offering over the past 30 years.
Phil Alle, president of Reggin Industries, explains, “my father worked for the original Reggin at the time it decided to close. He and a business partner purchased the foodservice section of the company, the assets and kept the name. They were one of the biggest firms in western Canada and between them and another large competitor from Edmonton dominated that market.
Over the years they landed major contracts with the Fairmont hotel chain and ski hills in both the U.S. and Canada, and well-known landmarks such as Commonwealth Stadium—home to the Edmonton Eskimos, BC place in Vancouver and Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome. But in the early 2000’s the foodservice market became saturated with competition, and Reggin Industries decided to pivot the company focus to architectural metals—building railings, structural column cladding, wall panels, escalator clads, elevator frames, etc.
Always pushing the boundaries of what they can do, Reggin also evolved into art. One of its most notable art installations is the SEI, a looming stainless steel arc that resembles a Baleen whale that stands in the courtyard of the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Vancouver, B.C.
Having spent the last 20 years in the architectural construction industry, Reggin Industries is truly a hybrid custom fabrication shop, as it’s a manufacturer and construction company that will take a concept from design to fabrication, and manage the installation.
“Turnaround time in the construction industry is extremely important,” says Alle. “If you’re not onsite installing, they don’t believe you’re working for them. We have been outsourcing our laser cutting for years. If nobody is cutting for the oil and gas sector, you can get your orders within a week, which is good but still not fast enough for the construction industry. And if oil and gas kicks back around and everyone is cutting for them, it will go up to three weeks.”
And although Reggin had established a very close relationship with a cutting company, it would have to send out entire jobs or massive batch sizes. Given tight timelines, some post processes might not have been done, creating added work for the Reggin team. And the cutting company’s technology was not as powerful and its laser would max out on stainless materials over 46 mm (1/8 in.) thick, and thicker materials would have to be processed on a waterjet system, which would increase manufacturing prices.
“The turnaround times in schedules are unbelievably tight right now. And with problems in the Alberta economy and margins getting tighter and tighter, we’re trying to vertically integrate by bringing more in-house,” says Alle. “We’re also looking at how we can diversify in the construction industry and manufacture our own products that can be shipped all over North America and installed by someone else so that we’re not tied to our local economy so much.
“That’s where the Amada laser came in. We needed to find ways to not outsource to companies and control our costs more.”
Alle and his team discovered the Amada ENSIS RI at FABTECH Chicago. The combination machine features fiber laser cutting capabilities for flat sheet, tube and pipe. The ENSIS technology allows for continuous variable beam control and automatically adjusts beam properties for a wide range of thin and thick materials. With an integrated rotary index, the cutting head can be positioned near the chuck and pipe and tube can be accurately cut without vibration.
“We were building up to buying a laser but were finding that machine that successfully integrated those two technologies and capabilities moved up our timeline,” says Alle. “We spent the rest of our time comparing other combination machines, but we just didn’t see anything that managed to combine fiber laser technology with a decent tube cutting option.”
Similar to Amada’s C02 combination flat sheet and tube cutting systems, the ENSIS RI, which was introduced in 2018, features a fiber laser. While the standalone flat sheet ENSIS cutting systems does come in three, six and nine kilowatt power options, this combination machine is available as a 3,000 kW power option. “This fiber laser is going to give Reggin lower operation costs than a C02 version, and it’s going to be much faster from a cutting perspective,” says Jason Hillenbrand, general manager of Amada’s blanking division. “They’re going to get more productivity out of the same small footprint. And the combination portion—going from flat sheet to tube and vice versa—is the fastest changeover in the industry. That changeover time is about two minutes. A lot of shops don’t do high volumes of tube cutting, so they don’t need a dedicated machine for that.”
The ENSIS RI can cut thin material really fast, but it can also cut one-inch thick material with a pristine cut quality. Using the ENSIS technology and software, Hillenbrand says, “we can change the shape of the laser beam [mode] infinitely. Depending on the material type and thickness that’s input into the system parameters, the mode of the beam will change automatically, therefore maximizing the cutting speed and capability.”
Space and time
Reggin Industries is the first to have this technology in Canada. But, of course, when planning for such automation and a significant addition to the shop floor, it’s vital to consider precious floor real estate and production flow.
When Alle first saw the machine at FABTECH, he was initially only planning for the cell footprint. It wasn’t until Amada flew his team to its facility in Chicago to see the machine running did he get a full perspective of the amount of space needed.
“We definitely had to make room for it, but that also spurred us along in looking at some of our operational flow,” says Alle. “You have the shuttle table and the laser, and then you have the rotary index, behind which you need another 20 feet to load your tubes. So now, one side of our shop is a material processing area where we also have our shears and brakes. The second half is welding and polishing. The way our flow looks now is more like a horseshoe starting with the ENSIS RI.”
For some of the supporting equipment, such as a nitrogen generator, gas mixing tanks and a compressor, Reggin built a mezzanine above the cell to free up physical floor space. “The only things we couldn’t get up on the mezzanine is the cooler because it needs to be on the same level, and the dust collector was just too tall to be up there,” says Alle.
The installation took about 10 days to get it operational and signed off by inspectors. Over four weeks, Amada spent time training the operators on the software and the physical operation of the machine. “Amada did a really great job with us and helped out with any problems. Being a company that hasn’t done CNC cutting in-house, this was definitely a big step up for us,” says Alle. “But we have a very strong design team and very competent craftsmen. It seemed really daunting at the start, but after our third day running it, we had our processes down and dialed in, and we were already trying to figure out how to decrease our cut times.”
All design and programming is done offline and sent to the machine. Now, instead of waiting days or weeks for cut material, Reggin’s process has been reduced to a few hours. In addition, Alle says that the moment a piece of material is cut, they can pull it off and have their craftsmen working on it right away. And being able to demonstrate this combination technology is helping with clients. “They really enjoy seeing how it works, especially the tube aspect of it. I know tube lasers have been around for a while, but a lot of our clients don’t know the capabilities and what we can offer with it. Architects are always trying to come up with something new. Being able to show them what we can do helps them design for that capacity.”
Reggin recently added 1,850 sq m (20,000 sq ft) to its existing 2,322 sq m (25,000 sq ft) facility as a part of its future growth strategy. And Alle has additional supporting machinery on order: an automated storage tower next to the laser that will be able to fit 32 racks, each capable of holding up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lb). And there will be a bridge crane with a pneumatic vacuum plate lifter hung below the mezzanine, so that one operator can pick material with the crane and place it easily on the shuttle table within 30 seconds.
The Amada fiber laser combo machine is the first step in Reggin’s growth strategy that is enabling the company to shift to another level—creating a standardized product and getting it out to the market. In fact, it has already designed a column system that’s easily stackable and can be assembled by general labourers. It supplied over 200 columns for the new Calgary Airport. “If you can get it onsite and it’s easy to assemble, you can build quicker and cheaper,” says Alle.
“With the size and amount we cut, this new machine doesn’t run to full capacity every day. But being able to switch between the two technologies allows us to see a better ROI,” says Alle.
Reggin’s ten-year plan is focused on growth through automation—stand alone tube and fiber laser cells, with the combination machine running as backup, as well as fiber laser welding and automated press brakes all linked together. “Going all Amada is definitely an interest of mine.” SMT