COMPRESSED AIR 48 HYDRAULICS & PNEUMATICS October 2021 www.hpmag.co.uk Laser metal cutting and fabrication specialists, LaserMaster has switched from bulk delivery of nitrogen, essential for the process, to an Atlas Copco on-site, high pressure nitrogen generation container unit. A move that ensures a continual, unlimited supply of high purity nitrogen, independent of bulk deliveries, and saves the company around £2,500 a month. Located in Redruth, Cornwall, LaserMaster offers metal cutting services from two fibre optic lasers, as well as CNC folding and bending operations, to industries ranging from private customers to local, national, and international manufacturing companies. Founded 20 years ago by its managing director, John Gotts, the company processes mild steel, stainless steel, aluminium, copper, and brass components – items as diverse as brackets, machine panels, hoppers, bespoke sculptures, agricultural items, and fishing trawler parts, with nationwide next day deliveries on both one-off custom cut items and volume production runs. Laser-cutting metal relies on a continuous supply of nitrogen gas as a blanket to prevent burning during the process. Purity of the gas is an important factor in overcoming the tendency for discolouration of laser-cut edges and to provide a high-quality finish. As well as these critical process requirements, it was Atlas Copco on-site nitrogen generator saves LaserMaster up to £30,000 a year important for LaserMaster’s production management to achieve savings on the cost of delivered bulk nitrogen supplies. Perceived benefits For the past seven years, LaserMaster has had a bulk nitrogen supply agreement in place and was renting an on-site storage tank. The perceived benefits of this approach were: a large storage facility with the required nitrogen quality; a scheme cheaper to run than delivered bottled gas; no large capital outlay was involved; and there were regular deliveries from the supplier. However, for all these advantages there were evident drawbacks to the scheme. Rental costs were in the order of £8,000 p.a. and long contracts with 12 months’ minimum notice were the norm. Other negative aspects comprised the company’s dependence on on-site deliveries, the percentage of tank losses, environmental carbon footprint issues, and, ultimately, the total cost of a nitrogen supply which was in the region of 35-40p per Nm3. The alternative option of on-site generation had been considered for some while, but the decision had been put off by the apparent prospect of dealing with several separate companies