A sub-contract machining specialist with a strong focus on the rail industry, Kaler Engineering was established in 1996 by the current managing director Raj Kaler, a time-served engineer who started his career as an apprentice at a valve manufacturer. He ‘rose through the ranks’ to become shopfloor manager and eventually engineering director.
When the company ran into difficulties and was forced to close, Mr Kaler decided to set up his own business in Rochester to provide a precision engineering service to customers in a variety of industries, including plastics, food, power generation and general maintenance. Needing more space to keep up with demand, 12 years ago the company bought a nearby plot of land on the Medway City Estate. However, unable to find a suitable contractor to supply the steelwork required for his new factory, Mr Kaler decided to manufacture it in-house.
He said: “Soon after completing the building work and moving out of our old premises, we had an opportunity to produce some components for Network Rail; and in a twist of fate, when representatives visited our new facility, they were so impressed with the building’s structure that they also asked us to provide the steelwork for a platform refurbishment at Ashford International that would allow the station to accommodate the first Javelin high-speed trains.”
The success of that first contract resulted in Kaler Engineering undertaking increasing amounts of work for the rail industry. Indeed, the company is now an established contractor for this sector, with a reputation for reliability and service. It has since completed contracts for station extensions (including the manufacture of the steelwork, as well as undertaking the ‘ground works’), carried out platform and staircase refurbishments for a number of stations (including a major refurbishment at Clapham Junction) and built the Orient Express platform at the Stewarts Lane Depot in Battersea. Kaler Engineering has also upgraded the former Eurostar terminal at Waterloo station, undertaking the steelwork and glasswork for the new entrance. The company also oversaw the relocation of the famous Terence Cuneo statue from Waterloo to its new home at the Royal Engineers barracks in Gillingham, and it is currently working on six platform refurbishments at Charing Cross (these will take a number of years to complete).
Move to fibre
Kaler Engineering offers a full CNC turning, milling and fabrication service, with the combination of a new Durma CNC guillotine and a Durma 220-tonne CNC press brake — supplied by Milton Keynes-based Axe & Status (www.axestatus.com) — allowing the company to cut and fold sheet material up to 4m long x 10mm thick. Recently, Kaler Engineering decided to purchase a Durma HD-F 3015 fibre laser — also supplied by Axe & Status — to replace a 4kW CO2 laser, the aim being to both diversify and expand the business.
Mr Kaler said: “We bought the CO2 laser — second-hand — 18 months ago to bring laser cutting in-house and to ‘test the water’ with regard to laser profiling attracting new business. It proved its worth, and recently we felt it was the right time to ‘push the boat out’ and invest in a new machine that offered the benefits of a fibre laser source.”
The HD-F 3015 features an IPG 6kW fibre laser source (with chiller), a 3,060 x 1,530mm table, axis speeds of 100m/min (with an acceleration of 20m/sec2), and high-precision rack-and-pinion drives that give an accuracy of ±0.3mm. The Precitec ProCutter cutting head has an auto-focus 6in lens with a bevelling capability, while a tub; the machine can also cut tube up to 400mm in diameter. The shuttle table provides automatic pallet changing, and there is a motorised transfer conveyor for removing ‘slugs’ from the machine. Control is via a Siemens SL840D that offers an automatic nesting facility (via Lantek Expert Cut 11 software).
Mr Kaler said: “We have had an excellent relationship with Axe & Status for a number of years, and we know first-hand the quality, reliability and accuracy of Durma machines. With the service and back-up provided by Axe & Status, we had no hesitation in becoming the first company in the UK to purchase a Durma fibre laser.”
The machine, now fully operational, was installed by Axe & Status engineers over a three-week period, with training on the Siemens control taking only two weeks. The 6kW version chosen by Kaler Engineering can cut mild steel up to 25mm thick, stainless steel up to 15mm thick and aluminium up to 12mm thick. The company chose a rack-and-pinion drive because it is considered to be more stable than a linear drive when cutting thicker materials.
Mr Kaler said: “The fibre laser will allow us to expand the business, as we can now offer a cost-effective and complete manufacturing package under the one roof. While the fibre laser accommodates sheet up to 3,000 x 1,500mm and 25mm thick, the level of detail it can produce is incredible; a 10mm-long bicycle that we cut from thin sheet even has tread on the tyres, and a magnifying glass is needed to fully appreciate the detail.”
Axe & Status sales director Steve Thomas said: “We have worked with Kaler Engineering for a number of years and are confident that the high level of specification the fibre laser offers will serve them well into the future. Durma fibre lasers are tried and tested —800 to date have been installed world-wide.”
In conclusion, Mr Kaler said: “We have been very impressed by the speed and accuracy of the machine, and we have already picked up a couple of new clients that we are in the early stages of developing. We are confident of attracting a lot more sub-contract work, because we have the fibre laser; and if expected business levels materialise, we will look to add another machine by the end of the year.”
Article reproduced with kind permission of Machinery Market 24/5/2018