INSIGHTS FROM OUR EXPERTS GIULIO AMORE, PRIMA POWER 2D LASER PRODUCT MANAGER, AND MARKO PIIRTO, PRIMA POWER PUNCH, COMBI, SHEAR AND TOOLING PRODUCT MANAGER


The global sheet metal fabrication services market, valued at US$ 4.2 billion in 2022, is forecasted to reach US$ 6.1 billion by 2031, according to Transparency Market Research (2023)(1). This growth is driven by increasing demand for lightweight, strong, and precise components across sectors like construction, aerospace, and defense. The 2023 Sheet Metal Machinery Market Report by Cognitive Market Research(2) highlights that the metal cutting equipment segment is experiencing higher growth rates compared to forming, welding, and other segments. This is largely due to the evolving demands of the automotive and aerospace industries which require precision, efficiency, and the ability to work with advanced materials. With new materials entering production, sectors such as e-mobility and machinery are expected to fuel the demand for innovative cutting technologies. The HVAC sector continues to be a significant trend, while the construction and infrastructure industries are also expanding. As these sectors continue to push the boundaries of design and functionality, manufacturers must level up their facilities to accommodate the production of more complex and specialized parts. To better understand the trends driving sheet metal cutting industry and help businesses navigate the array of technologies at their disposal, we consulted our experts Giulio Amore and Marko Piirto from Prima Power. Their insights help clarify the main forces shaping the industry and how to effectively use advanced cutting technologies for growth. 

1 Source: Transparency Market Research, December 2023
2 Source: Cognitive Market Research, Sheet Metal Machinery Market Report, 2023

In your experience, how have you seen customer needs change over time? Are there any emerging trends on the rise?

Marko Piirto - Punch, Combi, Shear

In recent years, there has been a growing need for holistic efficiency, which includes reducing electrical and gas consumption, optimizing materials, and streamlining production flows. Consequently, there has been a significant rise in demand for high-level automation across various industries. Modern
sheet metal factories now require automation from the workshop floor to back-office functions. Even smaller manufacturers, once discouraged by cost and complexity concerns, are now recognizing the economic feasibility and simplicity of today’s solutions. Leveraging our extensive expertise, we provide sustainable digital production solutions and a comprehensive 360-degree view of the production process.

Giulio Amore - 2D laser

Today, there’s a significant market focus on automation and integration, areas in which we have always excelled and that are deeply embedded in our DNA. Our expertise lies in seamless machine integration, particularly through direct line automation, a key factor in choosing our machines. Unlike other solutions on the market that simply connect machines to a warehouse, our unique feature offers direct line integration from blanking to bending, effectively functioning as a complete logistics center. Additionally, there’s a growing shift towards interconnected smart factories. Initially, the focus was on connecting machines; now, it’s about leveraging this connectivity to enhance efficiency and minimize maintenance.

What are the unique advantages offered by 2D laser cutting and combined (punch-laser and punch-shear) technologies for sheet metal cutting?

Marko Piirto - Punch, Combi, Shear

Our combined solutions offer remarkable accuracy and high tonnage capacity. Furthermore, employing fully servo-electric technology, our punch-shear and punch-laser solutions deliver a significant reduction in the cost per part. Finally, our modular design allows for seamless expansion, from standalone setups to fully automated systems. Integration is an invaluable benefit across all our solutions, not limited to combined technologies.

Giulio Amore - 2D laser

2D laser technology offers exceptional material flexibility, handling various shapes, thicknesses, and geometries with just one tool and without the need for extensive setup. Whether it’s thick mild steel, up to 30 mm, or thin stainless steel at just 1 mm, a 2D laser handles it all, from aluminum to brass, copper, and various steel types. This versatility has fueled its success over the past few decades, along with its precision, speed, and easy integration with automated systems. Moreover, with fiber laser technology, significant energy-saving benefits are obtained.

What are the typical industries and applications where punchshear and laser cutting technologies are preferred, and what are their respective advantages in those contexts?

Marko Piirto - Punch, Combi, Shear

Defining sectors can be tricky as both technologies are widely used across various industries. However, for clarity, I can make some examples. Punch-shear technology is prevalent in HVAC and steel door manufacturing, handling thin, pre-painted, zinccoated, or perforated materials, often in square shapes or panels. High capacity and automation are vital in these segments, making punch-shear the preferred choice for productivity and costeffectiveness. Combi laser technology excels, for instance, in kitchen product manufacturing, dealing with thin materials and complex shapes, including decorative and sensitive materials like copper or brass. It excels in crafting radius curves and complex
corners, which can be challenging with punching. For simple cuts or intricate shapes, 2D laser cutting is the most cost-effective. However, punching technology comes with a lot of different processes such as threading, offset forming, and tool marking that can significantly increase the added value on the part.

Giulio Amore - 2D laser

Both combined and 2D laser technologies offer equal precision across various materials. However, cutting speed depends on the specific shape, geometry and thickness. For single and standard geometries, punching is faster, whereas lasers are quicker for multiple complex profiles. Punching technology handles thicknesses from 1 to 8 mm, while 2D laser offers a complete thickness range and excels from 4 mm up to 30 mm. For thicknesses above 8 mm, 2D laser technology is often the only solution. Concurrently, the production of a multitude of parts with varying specifications and low batch numbers per part represents a significant challenge. In such instances, 2D laser technology offers a highly flexible solution that minimizes setup time, allowing for the optimal utilization of its capabilities.

How is Prima Power integrating emerging technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning into its offerings?

Marko Piirto - Punch, Combi, Shear

Our machines are at the forefront of Industrial IoT solutions. We provide standard connectivity solutions to enable our customers to access all the data generated by our machines and seamlessly integrate it into an IIoT application. Prima Power also offers a dedicated solution for production data analysis. This enables our customers to make daily decisions based on real-time data rather than assumptions.

Giulio Amore - 2D laser

AI plays a pivotal role in our software and technology, particularly in maintenance. Our dedicated tools allow to collect, profile, and analyze vast amounts of data to enhance machine uptime and performance, making preventive maintenance a reality. Machine learning algorithms run continuously in the background of our software to provide reliable automatic programs and efficient tool selection.

What advice would you offer to manufacturers looking to integrate advanced cutting technologies into their operations or to upgrade their current cutting technology?

Marko Piirto - Punch, Combi, Shear

When considering the adoption of cutting technologies, conducting a feasibility study is crucial. At Prima Power, we guide our customers through this process, analyzing production flow from final product to individual parts, assessing features like forming shapes, threading, and corner complexities. We also assess the customer’s expectations
regarding production capacity, level of automation, and output with the new machinery. The feasibility study ensures that the chosen system aligns with both current production requirements and future needs. It’s essential to envision how today’s investments will shape future operations and to build a roadmap accordingly. We’re committed to assisting in this process and offer expandable solutions to accommodate future growth.

Giulio Amore - 2D laser

Regarding 2D laser technology, if manufacturers haven’t considered integrating fiber laser technology or updating
their systems in the past five years, now is the time. About 15 years ago, we saw the shift from CO2 to fiber lasers, which have since matured significantly. Therefore, if you are still using outdated lasers, it’s time to explore newer options, along with integrating automation and connectivity. This shift requires upskilling workers to handle advanced technology. My advice to manufacturers is to invest in enhancing their workforce’s skill sets and assess the benefits of adopting state-of-the-art fiber laser technology. In doing so, they should choose solutions offering a native integration with scalable automation that can fit today’s needs and be ready for tomorrow’s ones.

 

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