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UK's first automated enclosure-making machine gets going

27 February, 2018

The British electrical engineering and controls group LCA has combined the operations from its sites in Runcorn and Ewloe in a new multi-million pound manufacturing plant in Hawarden, North Wales. The facilities include a £500,000 laser machining centre for the automated production of enclosures ­– the first of its kind in the UK, and one of only seven in use around the world.

The new site was opened recently by the Welsh Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Ken Skates.

The new machine will automate LCA’s previously manual production of stainless-steel control panels. The company expects to boost its production rate “dramatically”, as well as well as turning around orders faster – allowing next-day deliveries in some cases.

LCA Controls’ managing director, Alan Sheppard, describes the investment in the Rittal automated machining centre as being “incredibly important for the growth of our control panel manufacturing and design business… It means we can deliver more, faster, better, more efficiently for customers across the world, without compromising on the quality we’re famous for.”

He adds that the machine “will give us capabilities that are way ahead of the curve on our competitors in the UK”.

LCA's new site was opened recently by the Welsh Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Ken Skates (centre), seen here with LCA's chairman David Williams (left) and managing director, Alan Sheppard (right).

Built-in 3D modelling and CAD capabilities mean that the machine can process panels in a fraction of the time needed previously. “We can immerse our customers in the design and build process like never before,” says Sheppard. “They can literally fly in and fly out of the designed products we build, and we can deliver them to their door within days. Not only that, but we can now do one-off jobs, or high-volume mass manufacturing of control panel boxes, at the touch of a few buttons.”

According to Paul Metcalfe, Rittal’s product manager for industrial and outdoor enclosures in the UK, the automated enclosure-production machines are “light years ahead of the alternative, manual approach” and can speed up processing by up to 66%, compared to traditional hand-tooling.

Despite its move to automated enclosure manufacturing, LCA is currently recruiting control panel experts to expand its workforce.

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