Metal, works

Matt Hardy, director of Skyglaze explains how the new LMX650 from FOM is redefining possibilities in aluminium fabrication.

FOM allows you to manufacture better product by accessing more technical processes – flow and friction drilling, notch cutting, T-milling – and the integration of those processes. That specialism means that ultimately as a manufacturer you can do more and offer your customers a higher performing product.

I own Skyglaze with my business partner Steve Daley, and we manufacture in systems from Schueco, Cortizo’s Cor Vision Plus, and Alumil’s Supreme. The company is focused on the architectural and high-end residential market, that demands a premium product offering.

This has driven Skyglaze’s investment in machinery from FOM, which includes: a Keope E5 compound angle double head saw; the Dali four-axis CNC centre, which has been designed for complex boring, milling and drilling operations; and the Axel 5 machining centre, which features standard bed lengths 7.5m and 10m but can also be configured to handle profile of up to 18m.

Skyglaze is now building on this capability further, having become the first fabricator in the UK to place an order for FOM’s new LMX650. With delivery expected early in the new year, it will give us the ability to cut a machine bar length using a single platform and as part of a single cycle.

What we’re getting is the ability to fully prep bar length in a single cycle without the loss of the specialist machining ability that we have – the flow drilling, notch cutting and T-milling.

The other really significant advantage that we get is the ability to do that on really large profile. Average sash size on a sliding door for us is now around 6m2 or 7m2, which can mean we’re cutting and machining some pretty large profiles. The LMX will give us the flexibility to handle those larger profiles more efficiently and as part of that single cycle.

Launched by FOM at Fensterbau in March, the LMX650 is a fully automated machining and cutting centre. With movement across four axes and up to 50 NC controlled motorised axes, it offers exceptional flexibility in cutting applications, including end-milling and notching.

Exploiting electro welding technologies, which remove tension from steels during the manufacturing process, the LMX650 delivers the same core bed stability which defines FOM’s aluminium machinery platforms, guaranteeing performance regardless of profile weight.

With automatic pick-up and feed, precision manufacture is also guaranteed by two sets of vices upstream and downstream of the electro-spindles. These exploit pneumatic systems to lock the profile immovably in place during the machining phases.

Configurable to include up to 18 electro-spindles, the LMX650 also features a swarf extraction system and automatic label printer, which applies labels while the bar is in motion, minimising cycle times.

The other key thing that you get with FOM is the software. We have grown through the integration of our processes and the increases in quality and the efficiencies that that has delivered.

It’s not quite ‘plug and play’ but working with the software from Business Micros together with the FOM software, has given us the flexibility to develop and refine our manufacturing processes in a way that other machinery platforms weren’t able to.

This has included friction drilling. The process uses a conical bit, which uses friction to create a high but localised heat, which ‘plasticises’  the aluminium, before sinking through the profile wall to create a conical sleeve and slip around the hole, improving the mechanical jointing of frames by increasing screw pull-through strengths.

It was a capability we developed with Business Micros and FOM, using the Flow-drill system and it’s a real selling point for us because it allows us to create a far more substantial fixing-point.

That’s been done through software integration and the core capability of the FOM platforms we have already and will also be a capability of the LMX. FOM machinery allows you to do the unusual.

If you look at the market, 85% of aluminium manufacturers are still knocking product out more or less manually. In comparison we operate on a fully integrated basis.

We can design it and then move to an automated production process. The LMX will pick up bar length, cut it and machine it in a single and shorter cycle time and with even greater precision. It’s the logical fit.