Laser power first: First Cut delivers first fibre laser ever imported to Zimbabwe for customer Sawpower
11 December 2018

The delivery of a Bystronic Bysprint 3015 by First Cut to its customer Sawpower in Zimbabwe, was a milestone moment for both the customer and the country. In a major technological advance, this was the first laser sheet-metal processor of any description to be delivered to Zimbabwe. What is more, the Bysprint was also delivered along with a NitraCut nitrogen generator – also a first for Zimbabwe – which Sawpower will be using to supply assist-gas to the new laser sheet steel processor. Apart from the benefit to Sawpower, the importation of this advanced steel processing technology is an encouraging sign that the economic and political dispensation in Zimbabwe is improving.

We have a strong relationship with Sawpower which extends back some 22 years, so we were delighted to be able to assist them in the acquisition of this new technology," says First Cut Managing Director Andrew Poole. First Cut is South Africa's foremost distributor of cutting consumables and capital equipment and the exclusive distributor of NitraCut nitrogen generators. Founded 24 years ago, Sawpower is owned by the Stead family, with Ralph as the Managing Director and his son, Greg, the Technical Director. The company are agents and distributors for world-leading lawnmower, chainsaw, brush cutter and related equipment brands. As Zimbabwe's foremost supplier of blading, which ranges from domestic hacksaws to large industrial bandsaws, the company runs a full service centre as well as a well-equipped saw shop where blades are refurbished. "We supply blades to cut meat, metal and timber; and serve industries such as agriculture, mining and general engineering," says Greg Stead. "Our meat cutting bandsaw blades are manufactured in-house," he adds.

Regarding their decision to purchase the Bysprint/NitraCut combination, Stead explains that the company has been considering retooling and becoming involved in manufacturing for about six years now. Both Greg and Ralph have manufacturing backgrounds, so when the opportunity to acquire a suitable fibre laser became available, they responded with alacrity. "First Cut and Bystronic played a cardinal role in realising this transaction," Stead explains. "At present, because of our history, much of Zimbabwe's manufacturing capability is outdated," says Stead. He adds that he would like to see Sawpower taking a vigorous role in the regrowth of the country's manufacturing industry.

If we can supply a value-added process for components to be manufactured and used locally, we will be helping alleviate the expenditure of scarce foreign currency on imports. With the purchase of the Bysprint, we will be able to make the standard of components at prices that are competitive in the export arena and thereby contribute to Zimbabwe's future prosperity. Poole explains that the Bysprint is a sound proposition for Sawpower as it enables the company to achieve high component output at very competitive prices. "In addition, the Bysprint is very suitable for use in areas where mains power is either unreliable or very expensive as – compared to earlier CO2 lasers – the Bysprint uses a fraction of the electricity," he says.

The addition of the NitraCut generator allows Sawpower to be independent of third-party suppliers, circumventing issues around local gas pricing and availability. "When we need to cut, we need to cut," asserts Stead. With foreign currency restraints as well as the parallel market rates, gas availability can be something of an issue, he explains. Asked about the installation and subsequent performance of the machine, Stead comments: "The installation of this type of equipment is not a straightforward process. However, the combined support of First Cut, Bystronic and NitraCut was absolutely exceptional to say the least. Their combined assistance, for example, where we required answers or other problem-solving, has been absolutely world-class.

To date, the performance of the BySprint has been great. It is a new investment of this type into Zimbabwe, and the quality and the performance of the Bysprint fibre and the Nitracut has been outstanding," he asserts Poole explains that, with the delivery of the Bysprint to the Harare-based company, Sawpower has now been appointed as the official representative of Bystronic in Zimbabwe. With the Bysprint now commissioned, Sawpower has become a working showroom for the Bystronic brand.

Our appointment as Bystronic representatives in Zimbabwe opens up some exciting possibilities for market penetration north of our borders," continues Stead. "However, we want to get our Zimbabwean operation running to its full potential before we investigate other possibilities." "From our side, particularly with the strength of our existing relationship, we are very happy to have Sawpower representing Bystronic in Zimbabwe," continues Poole. This is the first time that First Cut has supplied a Bystronic laser bundled with a NitraCut generator outside South Africa; and Poole is pleased with the performance of the combination as it opens up exciting possibilities in the broader African market.

The Bysprint and NitraCut supplied to Sawpower have demonstrated that this advanced technology can be operated successfully by laser cutting businesses, which may be located in areas of the continent where both power and gas availability are currently an issue," adds Poole. "There has been uncertainty around the availability, supply and pricing of both electrical power and gas in some regions of the African continent. These no longer have to be insurmountable hurdles to owning and operating the world's most advanced technology, to drive a successful and profitable laser cutting business in the future," he concludes.