Mobile Navigation

Part II of CO2 Lasers: Still in the Game

May/June, 2011

In last month’s issue, eFab Shop Magazine reviewed new developments in CO2 laser technology from five different companies – Amada America, Prima Finn-Power, Bystronic, TRUMPF and MC Machinery Systems. This month, we’ll bring you the latest from four more: Cincinnati, Ermak USA, LVD Strippit and Mazak Optonics Corp.

Cincinnati

Cincinnati Inc. is another company that has been improving its CO2 laser technology.

“We’ve been in business for over 100 years, and our laser cutting system is rugged and reliable,” says Ed Bosse, the company’s marketing
manager. “This distinguishes a Cincinnati laser cutting system from other
product offerings in the industry.”

The most notable improvements that Cincinnati has implemented on its C02 laser technology are the motion system, table design and software. The company uses linear motors on its motion system, which, according to Bosse, allows an accurately cut part to be produced “time after time, piece after piece and year after year.”

Though there are other drive systems such as a ball-screw or rack and pinion, Bosse underlines the fact that the linear motor is the best choice for Cincinnati’s products. It allows them to achieve positioning accuracies within 0.001 in. for the entire table, which can be up to 8 ft. by 20 ft.

The motion system controls the cutting head. The head has a useful breakaway feature that helps to ensure against damage by being able to snap away from cut parts protruding on the table. In addition, a rubber boot keeps the beam delivery from contamination if the head breaks away.

Cincinnati offers a dual-table design that offers quick shuttle times to maximize continued laser cutting. The company also offers an automatic loading and unloading system that makes the cutting system even more productive. Bosse adds that the load/unload system is engineered, manufactured and serviced by Cincinnati and can be expanded to serve multiple cutting systems as laser activity grows.

Cincinnati offers a software package that stands as a complete solution, making it easy for job shops or processors to operate their laser equipment. It comes standard with the laser cutting system and allows programming and nesting of laser cut parts.

The optional Cincinnati Scheduler Software identifies excess capacity on laser systems and automatically nests parts for optimum material usage and job turn-around. It uses a color-coding system to group jobs with similar lens/nozzle setups to facilitate unattended operation.
Bosse comments that because the software is so complete, job shops don’t have to look around for other third-party software. It’s “the latest cutting-edge technology” and “has been proven by our customers.”

Ermak USA

Ermak USA Inc., a brand of Turkish CO2 laser manufacturer Ermaksan, seeks to serve its customers by producing reliable equipment that increases productivity and is an affordable investment at the same time.

“We saw that traditional lasers could achieve only two, at most, out of the three factors of reliability, productivity and affordable investment cost,” says Emre Varisli, Ermak USA’s vice president. “And a linear motor-driven laser was the only [type of] equipment that could score three out of three.”

Trying to think from the customer’s perspective led Ermak USA to realize that these were the most important factors for laser equipment investment. It was this same thought process that led the company to develop its linear-drive motor system.

“Most laser builders tend to build and sell more traditional lasers with servo drives, either with mechanic rack and pinion or ball-screw systems,” Varisli explains. “This is because these systems are a sweet income source after the warranty period ends, as these mechanical systems are prone to backlash and need periodic resets that can be done by factory techs.

“Obviously, these preventative maintenances cost a lot of money for customers and increase their total investment cost.”

Ermak USA saw the linear-drive motor system as the solution to this. A linear-drive motor system, according to Varisli, has a lower maintenance cost compared to a servo axis.

In addition to this, Ermak USA’s linear-drive motor system has 3G acceleration coupled with a 6650 IPM cutting speed. This high acceleration allows for low hole-to-hole time, increasing the output of the laser and overall productivity.

LVD Strippit

LVD Strippit’s newest development for its CO2 products is centered on automation. With the company’s Compact Tower System, introduced in 2010, customers are able to operate their laser outside of traditional hours.

“We find that increasingly customers want to operate their laser systems unattended, after hours and on weekends,” says Stefan Colle, laser product sales manager, LVD Strippit. “But automation has historically been an expensive proposition.

“We’re engineering and building automation systems that are mid-range and more affordable so that more shops can take advantage of the flexibility and higher productivity that automation provides.”

The company’s Compact Tower system provides automation for loading and unloading, as well as storage space for raw materials and cut parts. This gives customers the ability to operate their laser in lights-out situations, thus adding countless hours of productivity.

The system comes in 4, 6 and 10-pallet storage configurations with a material capacity of 6000 lbs. per shelf. It can also handle workpieces up to 5 ft. by 10 ft. and as thick as 3/4 in.

Beyond the company’s improvements to automation with its Compact Tower System, LVD Strippit has made its laser system controls more user-friendly. The company has done this by using touch-screen controls.

“We’ve worked hard to simplify the laser cutting process and make it more accessible to a wider audience of users,” explains Colle. “The user interface is intuitive with easy-to-understand graphics and recognizable icons.

“There is no longer a restriction that the operator be highly experienced to run a sophisticated laser system.”

Mazak Optonics Corp.

Mazak Optonic’s newest development is an integrated machine called the STX Mark III RTC. It allows a job shop to perform many different functions on a single machine – flat work, pipe and tube cutting, tapping and chamfering.

“Part of our machine strategy is that, coming out of this downturn in the economy, job shops are looking for the ability to do different things and to serve their customers in a more complete way,” says Marc Lobit, marketing manager for Mazak Optonics. “We [created] this machine specifically to meet those needs.”

With the changing marketplace and customers trying to reduce the number of vendors they work with, Mazak Optonics saw it as a necessary change. The STX Mark III RTC is designed to help customers become more flexible and extend the range of services they offer.
As manufacturers increase laser cutting speeds and reduce maintenance to help job shops raise productivity, CO2 laser systems are still players in the fabricating industry.

“CO2 lasers are like the jack-of-all-trades in the industry,” remarks Varisli from Ermak. “While other cutting technologies, like fiber, excel in a single area, CO2 lasers give great cutting quality and productivity on a wide range of thicknesses and materials.

“I think, for this reason, the CO2 laser will be able to coexist peacefully with fiber over the years.”

Cincinnati
Ermak USA
LVD Strippit
Mazak Optonics