Recol Ltd, a world-class provider of sheet metal fabrication, precision machined components and mechanical assemblies, has placed an order for a new AMADA FLW ENSISe 6kW automated fibre laser welding machine. The first model of its type in Europe, the FLW ENSISe will enhance the quality and repeatability of the company’s welding operations while in many instances eliminating a number of on-processes, including straightening, grinding and polishing.

With annual turnover currently around the £12 million mark, Northampton-based Recol Ltd is showing its ambition by targeting £15 million in the next 18-24 months. With circa 100 employees, this progressive manufacturing business builds its success on three key differentiators: good people, good equipment and continuous improvement. The latest Recol process to feel the scrutiny of the latter, is welding.

“We currently rely on manual TIG welding, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to source the skills,” reports Recol’s Managing Director Ben Guntrip. “We process a lot of high-quality, highly polished stainless steel, and not every welder we see has the aptitude or dexterity to manage challenges such as distortion, weld consistency and aesthetics.”

The management team at Recol admits it has been thinking about AMADA’s FLW fibre laser welder for nearly a decade, probably since it was first mooted by AMADA’s R&D engineers.

“We were waiting for the right time: that time is now,” states Mr Guntrip. “We have completed several successful welding trials on our parts. We’ve also seen machines working at end users in both Japan and Germany, welding everything from small brackets to enormous tanks.” 

The AMADA FLW at Recol will feature a six-axis robot with 50kg payload mounted on a travelling track with 3,000mm stroke. The system will also house a two-axis rotary positioning table and AMADA VPSS 4ie Weld CAM 3D offline programming software.

The FLW houses AMADA’s proprietary fibre laser engine, which utilises proven ENSIS technology for optimal beam shape and high-quality, fast laser welding. Key features of the FLW include AI-TAS (Artificial Intelligence – Teaching Assist System), which automatically detects weld lines and uses real 3D images to guide the system to the correct weld location. Automatic nozzle gap adjustment and automatic focus control are among further notable features.

The impending arrival of the AMADA FLW ENSISe 6kW automated fibre laser welding machine at Recol will make it the first such model in the UK. Recol has previously notched up a number of AMADA installation firsts, including two ACIES punch-laser combination machines which were the first in Europe, and an AMADA REGIUS 3015AJ laser cutter (first in UK).

“We like to be first out the gate as it gives us something in that initial 6-12 months that is unavailable elsewhere, potentially providing a path into new customers and markets,” explains Mr Guntrip.

Recol is anticipating numerous advantages from its AMADA FLW ENSISe 6kW fibre welder. Primarily, by automating this notoriously challenging fabrication process, the company will tap into significant quality and consistency gains, not to mention higher productivity and reduced labour cost through lights-out welding. However, there is also the considerable potential to eliminate a number of secondary operations.

“We straighten, grind and polish a lot of our welded stainless steel,” he says. “A major advantage of the AMADA FLW is minimal heat input to reduce distortion and maintain the weld aesthetics. We’re currently identifying a list of products for the new machine which can simply cut, fold, weld and despatch. No straightening, grinding, cleaning or polishing.”

Recol’s progressive approach to reinvestment has secured its place at the head of a very competitive market, helping to establish a strong and diverse customer base. At the heart of this success is the company’s 35-year plus working relationship with AMADA.

“We always go with AMADA because I know they will work with us, combining their machine expertise with our fabrication know-how,” concludes Mr Guntrip. “AMADA always focuses on the overall objectives of our investment projects. They see the big picture.”

Amada United Kingdom Ltd

Recol Ltd