Bringing aluminium ‘in from the cold’

“There will be significant change in the industry in the next few years”, says Paul Ford, Managing Director, Abcell, “I can’t see some of the smaller fabricators still being there because product is moving forward so quickly and you need the infrastructure to manufacture it.”

Manufacturing conservatory roof systems from Global and the Guardian solid roof, Warmroof system, Abcell added Synseal’s Warmcore to its trade offer in June this year. It’s thermal performance, key to the Birmingham-based fabricator’s growth strategy.

“Energy efficiency is driving the market. The Warm Roof achieves u-values as low as 0.18W/m2K, it’s been a key driver of our growth. Up until now we hadn’t been able to match that thermal performance in aluminium, which is ultimately why we brought in Warmcore” continues Paul.

“We’re manufacturing the complete Warmcore range – windows, flush sashes, patios – we expect to see growth of around 18% on bi-folds next year alone.”

As a PVC-U aluminium composite system, Warmcore can achieve u-values of as low as 0.1W/m2K. It does this by exploiting a hybrid solution which features a thermally efficient warm core, housed between aluminium internal and external faces, to form an energy efficient 70mm aluminium hybrid system.

“What we recognized early on was that we needed to be able to manufacture Warmcore at volume but with a very high-level of precision, because we already knew that the growth potential was there.

“We started speaking to Joe Hague and Promac Group and it was clear that the Graf seamless welder was going to be key, in doing it – particularly because we wanted a welded product.

“We’d spoken to our customers, looked at manufacture and it was what people wanted – they didn’t want mechanically jointed windows because of the additional strength that welds offered over cleats in fabrication of Warmcore and because of the finish quality.”

Supplied exclusively in the UK by the Promac Group, the ‘genius’ of the SL4FF is that having pre-cleaned to exacting tolerances, it then then zip welds the corner joint whilst controlling the flow of sprue, delivering a seamless but incredibly strong corner joint.

It employs an on-board control system and CAD Scan software, which maps the profile chamber configuration directly from a standard photocopier scanner.  This allows the operator to work with actual dimensions rather than profile related drawings bringing a new level of accuracy and finish perfection.

This has been employed by Abcell to provide an ultra-strong weld of Warmcore’s underlying PVC-U profile and perfect alignment of its aluminium ‘skin’. “The quality we have got on the joints is just incredible”, says Paul. “The zip weld delivers great strength on the corner but the way the aluminium faces butt up to one another is just incredible. It’s a really nice finish.”

According to Promac, the SL4FF not only delivers a better quality product but can also deliver a twofold increase in productivity compared to other traditional manufacturing processes. This is in part because the SL4 FF eliminates any requirement for cooling tables and corner cleaning, also giving it a space-saving footprint of just 25 sq metres.

The machinery platform is self-contained with installed extraction and automatic heater plate cleaning, reducing downtime for any manual intervention. For maintenance and service the SL4 FF is also equipped with on board self-diagnostic software and can be accessed via remote support.

Abcell has opted to pair the SL4FF with the FOM LMT65 aluminium cutting and machining centre. FOM and Graf announced the formation of the new FOM-GS Group at the end of last year. The synergy exhibited in this new partnership, also carries across to the shop-floor.

“We’ve been really pleased with the LMT65”, says Paul. “The precision that you get out of it is incredible. It gives us capacity to handle 6m bar lengths – it will cut, prep, rout and drill profile, including pilot holes for hinges.

“It also maximizes outputs and minimizes waste. It’s absolutely incredible and key if you want to do volume but do it well.”

At the literal and metaphorical, cutting-edge of aluminium machining technology, the FOM LMT65 delivers significant operational efficiencies, increasing outputs, improving product quality and reducing costs.

The highly flexible aluminium cutting and routing line works to an extraordinary accuracy. It features a multi-spindle preparation unit with 360⁰ variable angle access to all four sides of the profile. This is automatically linked to the sawing unit which features a 650mm diameter blade with electronic tilt control.

A bar feeder and pick up system with adaptive rotating gripper, means that the LMT65 has the in-built flexibility to handle different profiles with ease. Equipped with the latest FST 3D software, it’s also user-friendly and requires just a single operative.

This collectively contributes to its exceptionally high output – the LMT65 has the capability to cut and machine a three-pane bi-fold in less than 12 minutes.

“The LMT65 is actually so fast that despite the efficiencies and speed of the Graf, it can’t weld as quickly as the FOM can cut and prep”, says Paul. “It’s clearly a bit of kit that’s designed to do volume and be running all of the time, so one of the things that we’re considering is making that spare capacity available to other fabricators.”

Investment in its own manufacturing capabilities has been key to Abcell’s exponential growth, including 20 per cent growth in sales in the last year. With its own powder-coating plant and glass shop, it owns the manufacturing process each-and-every step of the way.

“Yes, we’re confident of continuing growth because of the investment that we’re making and because of the product and service offer that that allows us to bring to the market”, says Paul.

“We have the LMT65, the Graf, our own Forel IGU lines and powder coating facility. This allows us to own the manufacturing process from start to finish, which gives us complete control.”

Aluminium is forecast to reach a 17-year high topping 220,000 frames by 2020 (Palmer). This includes growth in the bi-fold door market of 30% in the same period to 55,000 door sets. Of these Palmer predicts that that aluminium will account for sales of more than 35,000 units.

“We have added Warmcore to our Global and Guardian Warmroof ranges and will also launch the Guardian modular extension later this year. With the efficiencies but also the product quality that the Graf and the LMT65 give us, we expect to see continuing growth going forward because of the service and product quality that they allow us to offer to our customers.”

For more information on the FOM LMT65 or Graf SL4FF seamless welder, log on at  email or call 01788 577 577.

For more on Abcell’s dedicated trade offer please visit email or call 0121 356 3376.