Automation Package Lifts Laser Productivity
Best practices for laser cutting call for matching the right assist-gas nozzle diameter to the laser output power and assist-gas type and pressure, based on workpiece material type and thickness. Fail to do so and not only will cutting speed suffer, but—more importantly—so will cut quality and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Typical nozzle diameters range from 0.8 to 3 mm.
Nozzle Diameter for Laser Cutting Mild and Stainless Steels
From “Facts About Laser Cutting,” Linde AG
| Mild Steel--Oxygen Assist Gas|
| Thickness (mm)|| Laser Power (W)|| Nozzle Dia. (mm)|
|Stainless Steel--Nitrogen Assist Gas|
“We cut a lot of material 1⁄4 in. and thicker,” says engineering manager Noel Torres, explaining why, after careful consideration, the firm opted for CO2-laser-based cutting machines rather than fiber-laser-equipped machines.
“The two Trumpf cutting machines give us a competitive advantage as we look to grow our custom sheetmetal-fabrication business,” Torres says. Custom fabrication represents about 20 percent of the firm’s business, the remainder comprising fabrication and assembly of blowers and enclosures for the food and waste-processing industries, among others.
“Our strategic goal for the last several years,” says Torres, “has been to grow our custom-fabrication business. That’s why we’ve invested in more sophisticated fabrication equipment, including the two laser-cutting machines. They elevate our capabilities above many of the shops we’re competing with.”
Targeting Bigger Customers, Bigger Orders
“We typically process, in custom fabrication, a lot of really small orders,” Torres says. “We’re expecting that our expanded capacity with the new cutting machine will help attract larger orders from big OEM customers.”
The TruLaser 3030 represents what Trumpf called, when introduced a few years ago, a “new design concept—one cutting head for all sheet thicknesses.” The machine’s technology package features lens and nozzle automation, designed to optimize laser-beam-on time and cut edge quality. The technology package’s three key features: automatic nozzle changer, a beam-alignment unit and automatic lens-status inspection. Also helping to justify the new-laser purchase is Republic’s ability to operate the machine unattended, thanks to Trumpf’s LiftMaster automated load/unload system.
An Extra Hour of Cutting per Day
Nozzle size simply becomes one more process parameter in the cutting program downloaded to the machine control as part of a job number. “To cut the full range of material types and thicknesses, we use six different nozzle diameters,” says Torres, “from 0.8 to 2.7 mm. The automated nozzle changer gets the job done in less than a minute, while manual nozzle changes take 5 min. or more. That feature alone provides about an hour of added production time every day.”
“Inspecting and adjusting beam alignment can take 30 to 40 min. when done manually,” Torres says, referring to the firm’s 3-yr.-old cutting machine, which lacks automatic beam alignment. “If we performed that task multiple times per shift we’d never get any work done. So, we specify that our operators inspect and adjust beam alignment twice per shift, or every 4 hr. As a result, we have to deburr some parts coming off of the machine.”With the new cutting machine and its automated beam-alignment feature, Torres notes a significant improvement in cut quality and a corresponding reduction in cut-edge deburring. “We find that the machine’s alignment-inspection process very briefly interrupts production several times per shift, on average,” he says, “as it detects and corrects for minor beam misalignment. Each interruption lasts for just 2 or 3 min., and the resulting improvement in edge quality easily makes up for the lost beam-on time.” MF
See also: TRUMPF Inc.
Related Enterprise Zones: Fabrication
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