TAMCO adds fiber laser technology to reduce time to market and increase flexibility
Comprised of six unique brands, TAMCO offers a wide variety of high-quality electrical products and consumable materials. These brands include Tamlite Lighting, Fusion Lamps, RPP Devices, F4P First for Performance, MCG Motor Control Gear and Centaur Electrical Installation. While diverse, each of these brands work separately within their own market sector.
TAMCO in Port St. Lucie, Florida is the North American Headquarters where Tom Wouters is the Engineering Manager responsible for product and process development for the many internal companies.
TAMCO’s challenge was that the industry was changing to the LED revolution. LED technology has not come close to hitting its peak yet, so the technology is always changing. TAMCO didn’t want to be stuck with a hard tool system because of the always-changing LED technology. The manufacturer needed flexibility.
The fabrication operation processes primarily 24 and 26 gauge galvanized steel for most parts. Occasionally, it works with thicker gauges and with some aluminum. This operation is much different than a typical job shop.
Tom Wouters, TAMCO's engineering manager explained, "I came from a job shop, and it's nothing like it. In my job shop, we had more variety. Here, everything is related somehow to the electrical store. In the job shop, I was involved in medical, gun ranges, plumbing, and air conditioning. That was just all over the place. I felt scatterbrained in that industry because you could never really focus on one thing."
At TAMCO that one thing is lighting. But with the first LED with white light from luminescence conversion in the late 1990s, the lighting market was going going to dramatically change. By the 2000s LED technology matured which now led companies to keep pace with the continuous improvement in lighting.
"Now there's this variation where you're changing over to LED, and not everybody has the same mounting patterns for your LED boards. There is no standard to it, so it makes you have to be very flexible in your underlying sheet metal component to be able to from supplier to supplier and be able to switch out power supplies or printed circuit boards," said Wouters.
When switching from fluorescent tube lighting to LED lighting the design changes and a lot of the sheet metal inside the fixtures which are different. There is a lot of design work to make the fixtures look identical.
Previously TAMCO was using a CNC turret press, hard tool or were stuck outsourcing the laser cut parts. The outsourcing was overpriced and was not flexible. The outsourced parts required a three-week window but the technology was changing so quickly that by the time TAMCO got these farmed-out parts, they were useless.
TAMCO wanted the laser flexibility but did not want the cost and maintenance that came with a CO2 laser. In the lighting industry, there is no downtime allowed so a fiber's easier maintenance was just what TAMCO needed.
The company also wanted the long life span that came with a fiber laser. TAMCO wanted service that was in their area in case the machine was to malfunction. "We wanted someone who could be out there within a couple of hours," Wouters explained.
In 2015, TAMCO purchased a Mazak OPTIPLEX 3015 FIBER 2kW laser. “Mazak won it for us on every level. Mazak has a great reputation, premiere quality machines and a service staff that is local to us," said Wouters.
TAMCO decided to place the laser-cutting machine in its own room. The idea was to make it a sort of clean-room environment where the machine would be spared the dents and dings that other equipment gets on a fabricating shop floor.
Wouters stated, “The laser has been a workhorse; it can carry its load.”
TAMCO is now able to do the necessary product development while also having the flexibility to do smaller orders and custom designs. Another benefit of having the fiber laser is that the fabricator is now able to make revisions on the fly fixing them within a matter of minutes.
"You get your samples now in five minutes instead of two to three weeks," he said.
The programmers also have found additional benefits as they become familiar with the laser-cutting technology. They now run tons of common-line cutting in which parts share the same cut line. Programmers also like to include serrations in the laser-cut part so folding can be done by hand and bypassing the press brake in many instances.
TAMCO’s greatest improvement is that they have been able to work on developing the products, designs and system.
TAMCO hosts one to two tours per week of its manufacturing operations. With the additional green glass windows on the laser, everyone gets a chance to see the latest in fiber laser technology.
Article published in the April issue of The FABRICATOR.