Laser Department Grows as Demand Intensifies
Change will sometimes come in unexpected ways. About 20 years ago, a change began to take shape in a business that had built its reputation on metal stamping, machining and fabrication. In the late 1980’s, Dave Young and his father Richard Young (Dick Sr.) attended a conference that introduced new technologies in metal cutting. The main purpose of their trip was to investigate the possibility of purchasing a new wire EDM (Electrical Discharge Machine). The machine they were using was old and too small for most of the production and tooling needs of that time.
The conference became very important in many ways. Though the initial purpose of attending the conference was to find a new EDM, Dave and Dick Sr. were also introduced to laser cutting equipment for the first time. Dave said the idea of using lasers to make parts was intriguing, even to the point of considering lasers more important to future growth than a new wire EDM.
Their banker was not enthused by the idea of investing in “risky” technology, Dave explained, and was not ready to help finance a laser. Instead, a new EDM was purchased and the laser cutting equipment became a distant dream.
A few years later the stamping industry began changing. Stamped parts were being designed using CAD programs and customers were insisting on faster turnaround on new projects. The accuracy and speed of producing sample parts was becoming a factor in obtaining new business. YMI was using older methods of making samples and prototypes, and those methods were slow. With competitors using lasers to shorten lead times and produce production quality samples, Young Mfg., Inc. began to lose market share very quickly. The business began struggling because of a down-turn in work. The decision was made to purchase a laser, but this time with their bank’s blessing.
In the spring of 1999, YMI took ownership of its first laser, a 4000 watt Trumpf 3030 with a 5 x 10 foot bed. This laser was fast, and was designed to run production quantities of parts.
Dave decided to learn how to operate the new equipment himself, not with the idea of running it personally, but to prevent the machine from being underutilized.
“I didn’t want my employees telling me the machine was not capable of doing something I wanted done,” said Dave. This started a new era for a company primarily focused on metal stamping. The use of new manufacturing tools and technology has helped the company to diversify and grow in its ability to meet the needs of its customers.
By 2004, customer demand dictated that a second laser be purchased. This time a 4000 watt, 4030 Trumpf with a 6 X 12 foot bed was chosen. Currently, Young Manufacturing has two lasers operating on two shifts. The laser team includes four laser operators and two laser CAD/CAM programmers.
Brian Peterson joined the laser team after the first machine arrived and never looked back. He is the manager of the laser department and does maintenance as well. Mike Schmidt is the lead laser tech programmer and a former 2nd shift operator. Other members of the team are laser operators Eric Nelson, Kris Smith, Jody Madson and laser tech Paul Hvidston.