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Laser Cutting Machine Fundamentals

Laser cutters operate by focusing a beam of light, or laser, on a pinpointed site on an object in order to cut it rather than using a solid object, like a blade, to cut the object. A computer system with vector graphical software will also be needed. Instructions are given to the laser cutter through software which deciphers design geometry to numerical CNC machine code. A laser can also take in data from drawings made with the help of computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Configurations of Laser Cutting Machines

The configurations of the machine are characterized based on the way the laser beam will come in contact with the material that will be cut. There are three main setups that work on the X and Y axes. The first configuration is referred to as moving material. In this setup, the object that will be sliced is placed below the cutter head. The next setup is the hybrid laser. Both the table and the cutter head move in opposite axes, offering optimal stability of the beam’s path. The third configuration is the flying optic setup, used by Maloya, where the cutting head is the part of the machine that is in motion. The object being cut is static and this type of configuration produces very clean work. Its rate of motion is also the quickest among the three setups. The flying optic system helps in workflow speed since clamping of the material being cut is not necessary. There are also machines utilizing up to six axes.

Laser Cutting Workflow

Loading and unloading can take up valuable production time but the speed of cutting with a laser can make up for this. Not having to clamp down the materials to be cut in some instances also saves time. Another consideration is if the laser cutter can be left on. Workers may have to turn turn off the power to take materials out of the machine and interrupt the flow of cutting.

Lighting is another consideration in a manufacturing environment. Light emitting diode (LED) lighting is becoming more popular for saving energy. More green ways of lighting manufacturing environments are becoming available such as using motion sensors so lights are not used when no one is working.

Laser Cutting Equipment and Maintenance

With the money spent on laser cutting machines, sufficient upkeep can ensure that they keep running in a safe and reliable way. If the machine is not running optimally, bad cuts can be made. Process control such as checking cutting nozzles, lenses and other optics should be conducted regularly. Conducting frequent inspections on alignment can prevent many future problems. Air sources can affect focal lenses of the laser cutter. Lens clarity is extremely important. Operators can look at a focal lens and tell if it is dirty as well as by checking it with a polarizer. A lens can then be cleaned with alcohol and fine tissue or replaced. Laser optical components are considered consumables. Chiller units need to be maintained as well. They should be started prior to cutting. A laser cutter that has not been maintained will also run slower. Replaceable parts should also be kept available if they are needed. Keep exhaust systems up to par as well.

Laser Cutting and Training

Training of use of a laser cutting machine should include hands-on training as well as additional training in a classroom environment. It should involve basic operation of the laser cutter such as how to start and shut down the machine, operation and programming of the machine, upkeep and maintenance as well as safety. Oftentimes the purchaser of the machine will receive training from the supplier of the machine. Other training could include the creation and loading of drawings, scaling, and rotation. Other things to be learned are file usage, code, databases, laser tables and metrics. CAD and computers need to be comprehended to use a laser cutter. One should understand how to measure materials’ thicknesses in relation to whether the laser cutters can cut them effectively. Blueprint reading should also be a skill held by a laser cutter user. Users need to be educated in quality control and geometric tolerance to know the range of precision of a laser cutter. Material Requirements Planning (MRP) involves planning everything needed for a job as well as inventory taking. Software is used for these tasks. Proper training on these systems is key as the common problem with them is the data often is erroneous. Some of these errors can be taken care of through proper teaching.

One should be able to use measuring tools such as calipers or a vernier caliper which can offer more accurate measurements. Other basic tools someone should be skilled in the use of are a ruler, protractor, compass and basic mathematical tools.

Quality Control

In order to keep improving workflow processes, Corrective Action Requests (CARs) and Corrective Action Notifications (CANs) can be done. This involves problem reporting, the cause of the problem, and future problem preventions. Software can take care of these issues and is called workflow quality management software. For instance, if one event occurs, a notification in a certain form such as an email will go out to a person who handles that problem. The action will then be taken to correct the problem.

Much knowledge and skill is required in operating a laser cutter. Having the wherewithal to operate the machine properly in a proper environment will keep a machine working efficiently on many projects for a long time to come.

Summary:

Laser cutters operate by focusing a beam of light, or laser, on a pinpointed site on an object in order to cut it rather than using a solid object, like a blade, to cut the object. The configurations of the machine are characterized based on the way the laser beam will come in contact with the material that will be cut.

Signatures:

Roger Hug is the VP of Sales Engineering of Maloya Laser, leaders in contract manufacturing and turnkey manufacturing servicing aerospace, scientific, transportation, medical and machinery needs.

Reduce Costs through Design Optimization

Many points affect the design of a product such as what the product is being designed for; the complexity of the product; the time to get it to market; product design, engineering, and tools used; the experience level of the staff producing the final product; the environment the product is being manufactured in; product competition in the market; and of course the cost of the manufacturing of the product. Manufacturing design focuses on a team of people with various specialties working together to identify solutions to optimize designs and costs.

One way to keep costs down is to ensure that a design is not overly complicated. The more complexly a product is designed with and the more parts that it needs, the more expensive it gets to produce. There is a direct relationship between cost and having to produce more pieces for a product. Costs increase if a product must be kept in stock in case of a break down, for example. Using off the shelf or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) components in designs is allows for efficiency in the time it takes to design since the design of the off the shelf component has already been done and the suppliers are well-versed in the features of the product. Suppliers can be used as a resource and will continuously upgrade their product. Using off the shelf components allows manufacturer’s costs to be driven down because inventories do not become too large with many different parts. The bottom line is that engineers should keep designs as simple as possible to keep costs low.

Manufacturing is often outsourced to another location, thus causing a loss of cost control for the outsourcer. That is why it imperative for the design team and manufacturing to be collocated. The design team needs to have a firm grasp of how the manufacturing process works so that it can find ways to reduce costs. The main reason for outsourcing is cost savings but oftentimes this causes other problems such as slowing down the delivery of the product to the consumer.

Looking at customer needs may lead to finding ways to cut costs including finding an equivalent material for product manufacture that is less expensive. Another cost-cutting method is to work with another company to get a supply for both companies at a bulk discount. Communication with companies and customers is the only way to be able to take advantage of these cost-cutting opportunities.

Material compatibility with the design and manufacturing processes being used for a product should be taken into consideration and will also result in a cost saving opportunity.

3D CAD software such as SolidWorks® provides tools that allow for analyses to be conducted on designs to be able to tell if there are structural issues before the design is manufactured. This saves a significant amount of money as a designer or engineer can make the analyses and changes in the software before it goes to be manufactured and no money is lost. Another software tool for manufacturing is Autodesk® Inventor®, which allows for design simulation under real-world circumstances.

Cost savings is as important as the actual design and manufacturing of a product. Keeping costs low is essential to the success of a company and design optimization is one way that manufacturers can protect themselves from paying unnecessary costs in the product development process.

Summary:

Manufacturing design focuses on a team of people with various specialties working together to identify solutions to optimize designs and costs. Looking at customer needs may lead to finding ways to cut costs including finding an equivalent material for product manufacture that is less expensive.

Signatures:

Marc Anderes is the VP of Operations of Maloya Laser which specializes in Laser Cutting and Metal Manufacturing with advanced laser technologies, servicing aerospace, medical, machinery, scientific and transportation requirements.
For detailed information, visit us at: http://www.maloyalaser.com

 

Laser Cutting: The Fundamentals

When we imagine lasers, we may conjure up something seen in the movies. Lasers, however, are a part of our everyday world, making cutting and processing objects much simpler in industry. In laser material processing, a laser will make contact with a target and alterations to that object will happen, such as through the soaking up of photons, which are particles of light given off from the laser. These particles will be changed into heat energy.

How Lasers Actually Work

Lasers are the instruments that control how highly stimulated atoms emit photons to create a stream of light. There are only three things that can happen when a laser connects with a material. The laser light stream will either be reflected, sent, or it will be absorbed into the object. Sometimes two or three of these occurrences, such as transmission and absorption, may occur simultaneously. The beam will be one wavelength and one color as well as compact and concentrated, not like beams of light normally found in everyday life. If the majority of the beam is absorbed into an object, which is commonly the case in laser material processing, the main traits that have to be taken into account are the average power the laser light has, its intensity on the subject it hits, and its wavelength. Intensity on a basic level is the brightness of the laser beam. The wavelength is the series of waves the photons create. Think of a moving water wave, the particles of light are fluctuating in the same type of wave. The average strength of a laser beam is measured in watts (W). Lasers all contain an active medium that takes in energy. The medium can be made of either a solid crystal-like material, liquid, gas (such as in a CO2 laser), or a diode, and contains the atoms absorbing the energy. A laser also has to have a way to make the atoms become excited. This could be a light source, for example.

The optical resonator is a set of mirrors that are found inside the laser system. One of the functions of a laser is to pump up the atoms to get them in an excited state. This is done by pumping up what is referred to as a lasing medium inside the laser. At each extreme of the lasing medium is a mirror. light particles reflect off of both of the mirrors and energize other electrons to discharge even more photons. The mirror at one extreme lets some light escape, which is the laser beam. Getting the atoms excited takes getting their corresponding electrons at a advanced level of energy. The excited electrons that first absorbed energy to get excited can now emit energy as light energy, or a flow of photons.

Classifications

Lasers are rated according to the traits of average power, wavelength, and intensity. This implies they are either solid-state, liquid, gas, or semi conductor lasers. Solid-state are lasers with substance that is optically clear and the active medium is solid. Liquid, or dye lasers have a environment that is liquid and they can operate with pulsing or continuous wavelengths. Gaseous lasers have an environment of gas. Examples of gas lasers are carbon dioxide lasers and neon signs found in shop displays. And the fourth category is semi conductor or diode lasers that are the most common type of laser.

Laser Cutting

Using CO2 lasers as an illustration, carbon dioxide atoms in gaseous form become energized at a low pressure between two mirrors. One of the two reflective mirrors lets some of the beam leak through. They produce a large amount of heat. The light output is found in the infrared spectrum at the end. Having a beam of high quality is paramount, especially in cutting. Lasers cut via the beam of light produced by the laser. The beam starts by melting what is in its path or sometimes vaporizing the material. Slicing happens when the beam has cut through the subject. There are different types of lasers designed to slice various types of materials. CO2 lasers have high capacities for absorption, and are often used in the cutting of a plethora of materials such as metals, plastics, and wood. CO2 lasers have other materials in them besides carbon dioxide; they have a mixture of gases including helium (He) and nitrogen (N2). Nitrogen will slice up to ½ inch thick stainless steel in addition to aluminum. Oxygen is able to slice carbon steel. Laser cutting pros include no ill effects on machines, are faster than using other options for cutting, and can cut through thicker materials.

Lasers have applications from communications in data storage to the medical field. They have revolutionized surgery and cutting in industry. It is exciting to see what is in store for cutting applications with lasers in the future.

Summary: When we imagine lasers, we may conjure up something seen in the movies. Lasers, however, are a part of our everyday world, making cutting and processing objects much simpler in industry. Lasers are the instruments that control how highly stimulated atoms emit photons to create a stream of light.

Signatures:

Marc Anderes is the Vice President of Operations of Maloya Laser which specializes in Metal Manufacturing and Laser Cutting with advanced laser technologies, servicing aerospace, scientific, transportation, medical and machinery neefds.



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