How to choose the right fiber laser cutting device
Fiber laser technology has grown rapidly in the past few years, and it is difficult to distinguish what is important when choosing a high power fiber laser. In addition to the highest rated power or the fastest feed rate advertised, there are more factors to consider. To ensure success, there are many considerations that need to be addressed in many areas of evaluation. Some of these considerations may include rated power and feed rate, but should also include assisted gas cutting solutions, as well as single piece cost, automation, and the ability to scale for future growth.
For many years, industry standards have been based on the most common laser power sold throughout the late 1990s to the 2000s, that is, carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers with a power range of 4 kilowatts. There are indeed some higher machine grades, but the most common ones are in this range. The progress of CO2 technology has experienced nearly 30 years, and has stabilized for many of them, while the wattage has never grown to more than 6 kW. This is in sharp contrast to the development of fiber laser technology we have seen.
Advantages of high power fiber lasers
When the fiber laser was introduced in the mid-2000s, the market reaction was flat, and it was not until 2010 and 2011 that the fiber laser received the response. From this point on, the laser cutting industry began to notice that major machine manufacturers introduced their products, and believe that this technology can become a viable production tool with a lot of advantages (in the laser cutting industry, it has only begun to see major machine manufacturers full of Introduce their products with confidence: this technology has the ability to be an achievable production tool with many advantages.
In earlier versions, the power of the first lasers ranged from 2 to 4 kW. In just a few years, its rating has rapidly doubled or even tripled. With the rapid development of fiber laser technology, there are many factors to consider. What is the best for production needs? It is a great challenge to integrate all of them to best meet the needs of the manufacturing industry.
High-power lasers offer many advantages, including increased productivity and throughput, as well as lower operating costs and energy efficiency per hour. While enjoying these benefits, one problem may be overlooked, namely the consumption of nitrogen when cutting medium to thick materials that require large amounts of gas and pressure. In response to this problem, further research on the processing of parts by different cutting techniques can also help to reduce the processing cost of individual parts.
Good edge quality and low part cost benefits can be obtained by evaluating the nitrogen generation system, optimized nozzle technology, higher nitrogen purity levels, and assist gas pressure. Applying these techniques can result in a 20-30% increase in feed rate while reducing auxiliary gas consumption by 70% compared to conventional nitrogen cutting.
Nitrogen cutting is often the preferred method when the cutting material is within the processing range. Nitrogen is the preferred method for oxygenation that undergoes a thermotropic reaction that leaves the oxidized edges that must be removed in downstream processes because it reduces such secondary operations and allows the product to enter the powder coating directly or Welding process.
Figure 1: This N-generation system provides clean, dry nitrogen for laser cutting.
On-site nitrogen generation may be suitable for users who are looking for a simple solution to eliminate internal oxidation of thin materials and do not require high purity nitrogen. Amada's nitrogen generation system provides clean, dry cutting nitrogen, which can also be used with gas mixers to achieve more material processing options (Figure 1).
Auxiliary gas selection
Mixing these auxiliary gases has an advantage in creating the most suitable environment for different materials. This is accomplished by adding a gas mixer to the existing oxygen and nitrogen supply system and then supplying this mixed gas to the machine to form another solution that improves edge quality and scum free treatment.
For example, in laser aluminum cutting, the edge quality is unacceptable without secondary deburring. A small amount of oxygen is introduced into the cutting process to achieve aluminum cutting of the scum-free fiber laser. The mixed gas gives you the convenience of higher cutting quality, solderability and powder coating applications without any secondary process.
The addition of a gas mixer also facilitates the cutting of medium-thick mild steel. This range includes 11-gauge 7-gauges, 1/4-inch, and 3/8-inch materials, which were previously cut with oxygen using CO2 lasers. Now, with the advantages of high-power fiber lasers, nitrogen cutting can be used. It is better to use mixed gas cutting. As noted above, the feed rate can be increased by 20-30% compared to conventional fiber nitrogen cutting, while the assist gas consumption is reduced by more than 70%. This advanced cutting solution is achieved through nozzle technology, high gas purity levels and high flow rates.
How to choose an automation system
Choosing the automation system wisely is extremely important to make the entire solution more complete and to maximize smooth running times. High-speed cutting results in significantly shorter nesting cycle times, and the speed of automation is now more correlated with previous CO2 cycle times. When considering the automation that best suits your manufacturing needs, you should evaluate current and future needs. The best automation solution should be a flexible system. A flexible system helps to configure a system that leverages fiber lasers while expanding and enhancing the business.
In an early automation unit containing a laser, the cycle time was over 3-4 minutes and the automation speed was not as large as the current one. Fiber lasers can produce nested cycle times, which requires the automated system to supply the next plate to the laser for cutting within 1 minute. In order to achieve these fast automatic cycle times, the system is required to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.
Figure 2: Unloading previously cut, picking up the next one, allowing the laser to exchange the cutting tray and continue processing.
For example, the system picks up the next piece from the raw material stack while unloading the previously cut from the moving workbench to instantly replace the unloaded one. This allows the laser to simply exchange the cutting tray and continue processing without having to wait for the automated system to deliver the next sheet (Figure 2).
Another area of automation that can meet your needs is material storage. Can you accept a single material rack? Do you need to store multiple materials to pass the fiber laser as planned? It is often easier for a large OEM manufacturer who can predict future production needs to answer the above questions than a production shop that does not know when it is time to make the next processing order. These two different situations can be handled by the same flexible automation system. There may be a minimum of automation requirements in the production floor to maximize production during off-peak shifts and to provide only one pallet of raw material for the laser.
OEM manufacturers or larger production plants may need a storage system that can deliver multiple materials to the laser at any time. Starting with a flexible, ready-to-expand system, companies can be prepared to respond to any situation that may arise in the future.