Vehicle Accessory Manufacturer increases efficiency
To increase efficiency and productivity, Sydney-based Formula Offroad decided to invest in an ART CNC plasma cutter and to use a CAD/CAM system to replace its ink-drawn optically traced plasma cutting records to streamline its manufacturing process while saving valuable machining time on the shopfloor.
Established in 1991, Formula Offroad designs and manufactures steel and aluminium vehicle accessories for commercial vans, 4WD and private vehicles. All the bullbars, profile bars, nudge bars or roof baskets are designed, manufactured and finished in-house.
With a passion for off-road vehicles and expertise in engineering, design, welding and fabrication, CEO Wes Patterson never stops trying to improve his business.
Until recently, the company drew manually all parts for processing on the plasma cutter. To increase efficiency and productivity, Mr Patterson sought to replace this process with an upgraded CAD software that would be easy enough to use in a small shop environment, yet capable enough to enable quick conversion into machine language.
Moreover, the 30-year old plasma cutter needed to be replaced with a modern CNC machine. The company chose an ART XR plasma cutter, which offers reliable air plasma technology at a low investment cost, yet featuring a high level of performance and features.
“We chose the ART XR plasma cutter because it was affordable and the fact it was made in Australia so we knew there was sufficient backup if we needed it, ART is only a phone call away,” Mr Patterson explains. “The backup proved to be there when we needed it and we managed to take all our drawings from our previous plasma cutter, convert them in dxf and reduce the storage of all the original paper drawings. The clincher was the ability to reverse engineer existing parts and drawings using the inbuilt laser alignment and digitising feature,” Mr Patterson says.
The experienced ART service engineers helped Formula Offroad to create a parts library for the plasma-cut parts, which is extensive, dating from the mid-80s to today. ART knows that lengthy manual design times and inefficient toolpath strategies can more than offset productivity gains derived from even the most high-tech machines; that’s why the company developed its ToolShop software for use on all ART machines. The toolpathing and nesting software together with the ART ProfileShop software allows unparalleled usability over all machine functions through the innovative touch-screen interface, giving the user control over each job while maintaining simplicity of use.
The XR plasma cutter is available in 1.6 and 1.9m wide process areas and is designed to work with most commonly available sheet and plate sizes and thicknesses. “We manufacturer all of our parts in-house,” Mr Patterson says. “We use the CNC air plasma to cut anything from 8mm down to 2mm in aluminium, or 20mm flat bar down to 1mm sheet steel, which could be anything from our bumper replacement bullbars right through to parts for the nudge bars we manufacture for different vehicles.”
By replacing its old plasma cutter with the ART machine, Formula Offroad realised a threefold increase in productivity on some parts. “Today, we can cut a 6mm plate with about 650 lead-ins in two hours, while on the old machine it would have taken about three to four times that long. That’s huge savings!”
Mr Patterson adds that the upgrade to a CNC machine also paid off. “Since we installed the CNC plasma cutter, the operator can now do other things around the factory while the machine does the work on its own, which saves labour costs.”
Additionally, Formula Offroad managed to improve on quality and accuracy, thereby opening new areas for product innovation not possible on the older machine. ART’s intelligent torch height control (THC) ensures correct piercing and cutting by providing optimal height during cutting for good results and long consumable life. The integrated THC includes an initial height-sensing mechanism and voltage control settings. Therefore, before every cut, the torch senses the plate so that it can pierce at the correct pierce height.
“The investment will certainly pay off,” Mr Patterson concludes. “We are very happy with the machine’s performance and the resulting savings, as well as with the service ART provide.”