May 2001 FAB Canada Magazine
Life was very safe and secure for Laser Cutting instructor Steven West. Why? Because he taught his class behind bars at the Joyceville correctional facility in Kingston, Ontario. "I was very satisfied teaching the trade at the prison. West is a machinist and millwright, a very rare commodity these days when qualified people are hard to find.
The correctional facility manufactured metal lockers and weapons cabinets for the Canadian Military. "As a manufacturing group we were very efficient but, with the high overhead of the facility, we were not competitive for other kinds of work," says West. I gained a great deal of experience during my nine year stint at the facility."
After considering starting his own shop, West went to consult his long time laser supplier and friend, Bob Watson of Advance Fabricating Machinery (AFM) of Mississauga, Ontario. As expected, AFM had the right solution for West to open the doors of his own shop - a used Trumatic 3003 - 3000 watt laser with a pallet changer. The timing was right for West because there were no laser shops in the immediate area.
"We started two years ago in a small 3,500 square foot facility and recently moved into a much larger, 26,000 square foot building," says West. Kingston Laser Cutting specializes in all flat sheet laser cutting across a broad range of markets including medical, railway, farming, etc., typical of laser job shop work. We also do sub contract work for some of the larger machine shops in the area.
In just two years, Kingston Laser Cutting Inc. has grown to a substantial size with 10 employees. They do some engineering work for their customers, including working closely with Queens University of some stainless steel fixtures to surgically re-attach toes at their medical facility. Kingston Laser also works with construction equipment manufacturers in the Ottawa area. They also produce muffler flanges for a local manufacturer of mufflers.
Future growth will continue in the prototype manufacturing market. "We have also manufactured discontinued parts for antique cars," says West. "Once you have successfully helped one collector, word gets around quite quickly. We have produced everything from brackets for the frame to cosmetic parts like grill components.
Kingston Laser Cutting has not only carved out their niche as the local laser cutting supply house, they have begun operating as a metal supplier to many companies in the area. "On average, we inventory up to $150,000 in metal stock at any given time." Says West.
"Another advantage of carrying such a large inventory of metal stock is it has enabled us to offer very quick turnaround times for laser-cutting. Chances are, we already have the material in stock." In addition to laser cutting they do plasma cutting and punch press work. For value-added processing they have a lathe for turning they currently do on muffler flanges or for O-ring grooves. They also have two cold saws and, in a pinch do have welding capabilities, but prefer to farm the welding out to the other fab shops they partner with on numerous larger contracts.
It is not that
West was as anxious to get away from Joyceville, like many of his
co-workers. They undoubtedly had a reason for being there. However,
the long-standing relationship Steve West had with Advanced Fabricating
Machinery helped him fulfill his dream - not to break out, but to
start his own successful business.