Don-Bur taps new markets with investment plan

UK-based trailer and rigid body OEM, Don-Bur, is investing £4 million (approx. €4.6 million) in new plant, software and training to mass-produce a range of standard product types including curtain-side and box van trailers, together with a pallet-network design double deck. 

The strategic move supports a targeted increase in turnover of £10 million (€11.5 million) per annum and recognises a growing demand for short-contract, standard design equipment at highly competitive rates.

Although Don-Bur already designs and manufactures the complete range of commercial vehicle bodywork, it is best known for its fuel-saving aerodynamic solutions and Double Deck trailer range.

The heavy investment in the latest cutting-edge equipment was focussed on standardisation, speed, efficiency and volume, according to Don-Bur.

At the core of the new development is a cutting-edge £1 million (€1.1 million) autonomous raw material and parts management hub; a large pallet racking space with room to store 15,795-square-metres of sheet steel.

Measuring 25m long by 7m wide and 5m tall, the STOPA stock handling modules are tied in to a new ERP software suite which automatically dissolves 3D engineering models into full ‘bill of material’ components. It recognises whether each individual component needs to be cut and pressed or, if not, exports the remainder as an internal order for miscellaneous parts. It also anticipates production schedule requirements for laser cut sheeting, pressings, drilling, and shotblast and issues orders for raw material when it believes stocks are running low. It also manages ‘scrap’ material; storing and re-using remnants of material wherever it can to maximise yield. The only manual intervention is to feed it with raw material and collect prepared job-specific assembly kits.

The processing workhorse of the new development is a top-of-the-range Trumpf ‘Fibre’ Laser cutter. ‘Fibre’ laser technology is a process of combining multiple laser beams into one lossless optic fibre beam which cuts standard 3mm steel sheet at the staggering rate of 1.38 metres per second.

The new laser uses both Oxygen and Nitrogen gases – oxygen to supplement the laser with an exothermic power boost and nitrogen to shield the surface of the cut material from oxidisation. An additional compressed jet of air blasts hot material away from the active site which maintains clean and precise cuts through previously problematic materials such as thin aluminium.

As well as cutting through up to 40mm thick stainless steel, it will also process mild steel, copper, brass and titanium. The new ‘Brightline’ fibre laser technology will cut a hole as small as 3mm diameter through 25mm stainless steel without clogging or melting the surrounding material. Much of this flexibility is assisted by a cutting head with an automated focal length, enabling quick changes between different materials and thicknesses.

The enclosed laser ‘house’ was designed to be as autonomous as possible. The STOPA system feeds to, and collects from, the laser via synchronous loading platforms meaning that the laser never has to stop and wait for more raw material as cut shapes are being transferred.

Even the cutting head itself is automatically monitored to ensure optimum performance, according to Don-Bur. When performance drops below 60 per cent of maximum efficiency, the system swaps its own cutting head for a new one from a spares drawer.

In addition to raw cutting speed, the new shape nesting software and head placement technology is able to reduce a typical nest cut time (for a 3m x 1.5m sheet) from 21.5 minutes to just 2.5 minutes. The end result is the ability to process nine times more material with virtually no loading or unloading time. It also reportedly achieves that using 70 per cent less gas than the previous laser cutter.

Other production innovations include all-eletric press brakes, a hydraulic-on-demand power driven beam as well as an advanced user interface that utilises 3D Augmented Reality (AR) technology that overlays a ‘correct’ 3D part placement over a live video feed to ensure accuracy and minimised waste.

“Last, but not least of the new equipment is a twin robotic welding cell [Yaskawa Auto Welding Cell] which manages complex welded components up to 3.5m x 1.7m and up to 1T in weight,” said Don-Bur. “The two high performance arc machines can weld mild steel, stainless steel or even aluminium and reduces average man hours by a factor of six.”

The OEM compared the typical weld time of a deck bridging plate (120 minutes) to the new Yaskawa weld time (eight minutes).

“The significant boost in speed enables Don-Bur to manufacture far more assemblies per hour; allowing existing resources to focus on other, less standard components,” said Don-Bur. “To minimise change-over time, the new welding cell has a twin, flip-over work station area which enables a continuous process.  It also records weld characteristics for each assembly which means it can predict processing time and makes production planning far simpler.”

Don-Bur said it will retain the same drive, devotion and capacity for the design and manufacture of its specialised product portfolio. The new investment plan allows it to rapidly produce a range of ‘configured to order’ standard product lines on short lead times, which the OEM expects will draw new business from general hauliers, rental companies and pallet network operators.

Earlier this year, postal service company, Tuffnells, launched a fleet of new-look semi-trailers produced by Don-Bur.

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