Page 41 - MetalForming March 2019
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  are sold online under the Metal Unlim- ited brand.
Lasers Get the Call
“We realized that we needed advanced technology that could handle the higher volume and provide clean edges,” says Tance. “Fiber lasers proved to be that technology with their faster speeds and cut quality. Tance says his company added a 4-kW fiber laser cut- ting machine in 2017, but wasn’t sat- isfied with the vendor’s technical sup- port and service.
So the brother duo attended FABTECH 2017 in Chicago, where Tance says they researched their options, eventually deciding on a Mazak 6-kW Optiplex Nexus fiber laser cutting system. “At first, I wasn’t sure we would be able to tackle such a large purchase, but once I saw its speed and quality, I knew we had to do it.”
combination for Southern Design. “We really liked the CNC control and the interface,” says Tance. “It’s easy to use and has more data that show what currently is being processed on the machine. We also like the material- handling features. The workpiece lifters (roller-ball transfer devices) make it easy to position material while the shuttle table (an automated two- pallet changer design) allows for easy in/out of material and cut pieces. While one sheet is being processed, finished parts are pulled off. This, and the increased speed of the laser— about 15 to 20 percent faster than our first laser—improves throughput.”
Other aspects of the system worth noting include its intelligent and setup and monitoring features:
• Automatic nozzle changing;
• Automatic nozzle cleaning;
• Automatic profiler calibration;
Fabrication: Laser Cutting
 An automated two-pallet-changer design allows for easy in/out of material and cut pieces.
The machine was ordered in December 2017 and installed in February 2018, when a Mazak service technician spent two weeks overseeing installation and startup. A senior installation techni- cian followed, spending an addi- tional week to ensure that the equipment ran smoothly.
This level of cus- tomer service and the system’s features proved a winning
• Focus detection;
• Automatic focus positioning;
• Pierce detection;
• Burn detection; and
• Plasma detection.
“The automated processes result in
less downtime and greater machine realiability, which means we’re able to get more products out the door faster,” says Tance.
Overcoming Challenges
While Southern Design wasn’t Mazak’s first home-décor customer, its volume of business and its products presented a challenge in terms of soft- ware programming, says David Wid- lund, Southwest regional sales manager for Mazak.
“With these parts, the CAD files are produced in a vector format and when coded, they’re large files and include small lines that, when read by the machine, result in choppy lines rather than smooth arcs,” explains Widlund. “So there was some work we had to do with the software-programming com- pany to change the vectors into arcs and to make the programs smaller. We’re not a software company, but we can, and do, work with any of the soft- ware providers. From this, we learned a great deal about converting files into their proper form.”
In addition to its features, the 37 by 20-ft. machine is designed for flexibility upon installation, according to Wid- lund. “When we had to move the chiller on the machine due to Southern Design’s space constraints and its building design, this wasn’t a problem because of our plug-and-play versatil- ity,” he says. “The periphery equip- ment—the generator, chiller and dust collector—all have extended cables so that they can be moved as far as 15 ft. to accommodate building require- ments. These items can be extended even further away if need be by pur- chasing extended cables.”
“With Southern Design’s volume continuing to rise, it’s likely that so, too, will its equipment needs,” says Tance. “We are considering adding a third laser in 2019.” MF
 Shown here are the operator control unit at
rear of machine and full-side sliding door to access the cutting area.
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