Reporting from FABTECH…
If you missed this year’s FABTECH in Atlanta, don’t despair. We’ve rounded up some of the key highlights for you in this report. With nearly 1,500 exhibitors, we can’t cover much more than highlights, but they’re enough to give you the flavor of new developments and technical trends.
But don’t assume that anything we missed wasn’t worth a report. There was just too much there to do it all at once. For those we missed, our apology, and a reminder that there is a whole year ahead to follow up on many more of the new developments.
It’s no exaggeration to say that lasers dominated the show. And laser cutting systems naturally dominated the category, but laser welding – though by no means a newcomer in the industry – was taking some of the spotlight.
Those who took the time to search the farther corners of the show floor may have also stumbled across a piece of the future, in the form of a direct-diode laser capable of cutting mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum in a range of thicknesses.
Here’s what we found:
Amada introduced the LC 2515 C1 AJ punch/fiber laser combination machine. The system features a 49-station Multi-Purpose Turret (MPT) that ensures “maximum productivity while reducing secondary operations,” says Amada, in addition to a 2kW fiber laser that “provides up to 70 percent electrical savings when compared to a CO2 system.” The laser can cut reflective materials, like copper and brass, while the punch includes four tapping tool stations and three die lift stations.
The company also showed another fiber laser, the LCG 3015 AJ. According to the company, the system is designed for high-speed operation with a high-speed cutting head that provides “increased sensing speed for faster cutting and plasma resistance in thin materials.”
Bystronic announced that it is extending the capabilities of its BySprint Fiber line of fiber lasers by adding a 6kW fiber laser source to its 3015 and 4020 BySprint Fiber models. The higher power laser source means that the BySprint Fiber now offers increased cutting speed in thin to medium thickness sheet metal. According to the company, as an example, “a 6kW fiber laser cuts 1/8-in. stainless steel up to 70 percent faster than a 4kW fiber laser.”
Bystronic stresses that, with the higher cutting speed, process reliability is even more important, which is why they equipped the 6kW BySprint Fiber with Cut Control. Says the company, “When a cutting tear occurs, Cut Control automatically stops the laser and the cut is repeated. This reduces the risk of miscuts.” Cut Control is also offered as an option on 2kW, 3kW and 4kW BySprint Fiber laser systems.
Bystronic also featured the ByAutonom autonomous laser cutting system and their BySprint Pro 3015 and 4020 CO2 lasers at the show.
TRUMPF debuted the TruLaser 2030 fiber laser to North America this year. The machine features a 59 in. by 118 in. working range and can process a variety of materials and thicknesses. According to the company, the TruLaser 2030 offers “cost-efficient productivity and flexibility of use” and is “suitable for job shops that run up to three shifts per day, as well as for first-time laser users looking to add laser cutting capabilities to their business.”
Another TRUMPF highlight was the TruLaser Robot 5020 welding cell, a system designed to allow welding of components of many different profiles. FAB Shop saw it weld a metal drinking mug – the finished product had near invisible welding seams with no distortion. It should also be noted that the TruLaser Robot 5020 can share a laser source with a laser cutting machine.
Other laser systems featured at TRUMPF’s booth this year included the TruLaser 5030 fiber laser and the TruLaser 3030 fiber laser.
MC Machinery Systems
MC Machinery Systems, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation, introduced the NXF-4000 fiber laser and the eX CO2 laser. According to the company, the NXF-4000, or the NXF40, offers 4kW of power, which is “almost double the wattage of its 2012 predecessor.” The eX CO2 laser provides 6kW of power “to meet the needs of demanding job shops and heavy 2-D cutting.”
MegaFab/Whitney will be introducing a 12kW fiber laser next year, with a stated goal of mid-2015. In the meantime, the company has a 3G line of fiber lasers that provide 3G acceleration/deceleration on the X and Y axes and 6G acceleration/deceleration on the Z-axis, with up to 6kW of cutting power.
In addition they offer the Whitney PlateLASER fiber laser cutting machine. According to the company, the PlateLASER is “designed for large plate laser cutting” and features a 120 in. by 240 in. plate that can accommodate up to four 5 ft. by 10 ft. sheets on the same pallet. It includes an IPG fiber laser providing up to 6kW of power and linear drive motors that provide a 4,667 IPM cutting speed with a positioning accuracy of ± 0.001 in.
Mazak introduced the OPTIPLEX NEXUS 3015 CO2 laser cutting system. According to the company, the machine is designed with new laser users in mind and thus features an affordable price point for small to mid-sized job shops. The system provides intelligent setup and monitoring functions “including auto nozzle changing, auto nozzle cleaning, auto profiler calibration, focus detection, auto focus positioning, pierce detection, burn detection and plasma detection.” Material handling systems from Mazak can also be added to the machine.
DURMA showed the HD-FL 3015 fiber laser. The HD-FL 3015 features a Siemens drive and an IPG source, providing up to 6kW of power and a cutting speed up to 1,000 IPM. The company aims to offer top-tier technology at an affordable price, thus enabling job shops to be more competitive.
Messer showed the MetalMaster Xcel plasma/fiber laser combination machine. According to the company, the machine features traverse speeds of 3,000 IPM, high acceleration drives and “multi-tool capability including plasma beveling and oxyfuel,” beyond the plasma and fiber laser cutting. The company notes that a plasma/fiber laser combination results for increased by productivity “by allowing critical internal features to be cut with the fiber laser and external features to be cut with the plasma torch, all without moving the part to another piece of equipment.” The machine also features 3-in. plate capacity and 8.4 and 4.7 HP brushless AC drives.
JMT, through a 2013 partnership with Nukon, offers the JMT Nukon Fiber Laser. According to the company, the JMT Nukon Fiber Laser “can cut materials that would be impossible or very difficult, even dangerous, with a plasma or CO2 laser, such as copper, brass and titanium materials.” JMT expects to see increased demand for fiber lasers “over the next two years as savvy shop owners replace high maintenance CO2 lasers and plasma machines with more cost effective fiber lasers.”
Finding TeraDiode’s booth was a bit like finding a hidden gem at the end of a treasure hunt – a metaphorical treasure hunt for the next generation of cutting lasers, that is. The booth was located in an area that was about a ten-minute walk from the main entrances of the convention center, but making that walk was worth it, as TeraDiode showed what is likely the Next Big Thing in lasers — a direct-diode laser capable of cutting mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum in a range of thicknesses.
The TeraBlade-2000, a 2kW direct-diode laser, “operates at 970nm and has a 100-micron output fiber,” and it can cut 1-2 mm stainless steel faster than a 2kW fiber laser, according to the company. TeraDiode “expects to ship beta-level systems to multiple customers in the first half of next year.”
TeraDiode has developed 2, 3 and 4kW direct-diode laser sources. Expect to read more about the company and its laser systems in our sister publication, Shop Floor Lasers, soon.
New pump technology ruled the week. Waterjet OEMs were eager to display the fruits of their endeavors, and here’s what we saw:
OMAX has developed a new 100 HP, 60,000 PSI EnduroMAX direct-drive waterjet pump. OMAX is also the only company to develop direct-drive pumps. According to the company, the new 100-hp EnduroMAX pump includes Variable Frequency Drive that “eliminates in-rush current peaks and maximizes operating flexibility” and the longest maintenance intervals in the industry. The pump also provides “30 percent more cutting power at the nozzle, comparable to today’s 135 HP intensifier design,” and uses “significantly less water than leading intensifier pump designs with the same JetPower.”
Techni Waterjet announced a new line of electric servo pumps, the Quantum VP 15/52 and VP 20/60. According to the company, the Quantum VP 15/52 boasts “one of the smallest footprints in the waterjet industry” at 51 in. by 21 in. by 42 in. and weighing 881 lbs. The pumps can deliver 52,000 and 60,000 PSI, “with an output volume of 0.5 and 0.6 GPM respectively.”
Techni points out that the pumps use a servo motor to “directly drive the plungers, resulting in up to 60 percent less power consumption than traditional intensifier pumps.” Water consumption is also reduced “as the high efficiency servo motor requires minimal cooling.”
The pumps are also 10 times quieter than standard hydraulic pumps, at less than 68 dBA, says Techni.
KMT introduced the KMT Streamline SL-VI Series Pump, available in 30, 40 and 50 HP versions at 60,000 PSI. According to the company, the pump offers an “increased intensifier flow rate through horsepower” and a modular design. Other features include power factor correction and a Siemens PLC-based electrical panel.
Hypertherm showcased its HyPrecision Waterjet. Hypertherm entered the waterjet space after its acquisition of AccuStream, which also resulted in the HyPrecision Waterjet line. The line includes “pumps ranging from 15 to 150 horsepower, precision cutting heads and abrasive delivery equipment.” In addition, “the systems feature Advanced Intensifier Technology to extend maintenance intervals, reduce maintenance time and maximize performance.”
“Hypertherm estimates the total cost of ownership for a HyPrecision system is up to 20 percent less than competitive systems, resulting in increased profitability for customers.”
Koike Aronson Inc./Ransome
The KoikeJet 5-axis bevel head is a new option for the KoikeJet waterjet cutting system. The 5-axis head can cut at a ±46º angle and is capable of A, V, K, X and Y bevels. It also has automatic height sensing and taper control. The head’s durable construction, says the company, features an anodized aluminum body, all stainless steel screws, stainless steel deep-groove ball bearings and double-lip shaft seals. The unit also features Spinea TS 50-63 bearing reducers, dual-axis swivel and timing belts and pulleys.
Press brakes, folding and panel-bending machines and tube benders were a close second to lasers, with automation innovations that set new standards for productivity. All-electric press brakes and optoelectronic productivity aids appeared in several forms.
LVD – Strippit
LVD showed two brand new products at FABETCH. One is a versatile multi-function machine, the Strippit-PX, built around a punch press and able to punch, form, tap and even bend all on one machine. The compact, electric-drive Dyna-Press, small enough to move with a fork lift, is targeted at cost-competitive bending of small workpieces.
For the first time also in North America, LVD Strippit showed their ToolCell, an automated tool changing press brake, which promises big improvements in throughput.
Bystronic showcased their servo-hydraulic Xpert press brake with dynamic press brake technology and their entry in the all-electric press brake field, the high speed, servo-electric Xcite press brake. It features ByVision Bending control for fast setups and simplified operations, says the company.
They also introduced their new XPT and RF-A tooling series. XPT tooling is compatible with existing Wila NSCL ll type hydraulic clamping and tooling systems. RF-A tooling is said to be a revolutionary new tooling system that maintains high quality tooling features, with the added benefit of increased open height and 100% compatibility with the Bystronic bending database at the machine control.
Unison demonstrated an interesting CNC/manual tube bending brake that uses the CNC for positioning, combined with manual bending. Compact, made for high accuracy, low-volume work, Unison says that it’s popular with the Formula 1 racing teams.
Salvangini’s P3 panel-bender, covered in the November issue of FAB Shop, was a major attention-getter, as the sheet bending machine’s production speed ran circles around any press brake.
The company also showed an advanced “hybrid” press brake, the B3, which combines electric drive, hydraulic actuation, and an energy-recovery system reminiscent of the systems used in advanced hybrid cars. Equipped with Salvangini’s latest productivity enhancements, it challenged the P3 panel bender for attention.
TRUMPF had its own entry in the electric press brake sweepstakes, the 40-in.-capacity TruBend 7036. With carbon-fiber elements in the backgage system and gearless drive, the small machine is made for high speeds and operator convenience.
The company’s TruBend 3100 also made an appearance, as part of a soup-to-nuts production cell. Parts were first cut on a laser; passed to the press brake for bending; and then, with no further processing, welded with a robot laser welding system.
Amada showed up with a tour-de-force of machines and systems. Among press brake introductions, their new HD-ATC features a hybrid drive system that is engineered for low energy consumption and requires less hydraulic fluid than conventional machines. It also maintains a very high level of repeatability, says the company.
To maintain bending accuracy while processing materials that vary in type, thickness and grain direction, Amada’s HD series is equipped with sensors that measure bend angles on the fly to ensure correct angles on the first bend and to monitor and adjust angles throughout the run.
An automatic tool changer on the HD-ATC stores more than 86 ft. of tooling. Locating and loading the appropriate tooling is performed quickly and efficiently, says the company. The system’s four-axis manipulator precisely selects and places punches and dies from the tool magazine.
Compact inverter welders comprised the largest number of new machines at the show, with new features appearing on many existing lines. “Automatic” settings, which pre-set standard groups of settings for common jobs, were evident. At the other end of that scale, more dials and buttons for fine-tuning settings were also common. The pre-sets seem to be a compensation for the bewildering variety of adjustments that are proliferating on inverter welders.
Also evident were multiple approaches to automation, mostly involving robotics. These have become smaller in scale and in off-the-shelf availability. At the higher end were advances in automatic operation, including monitoring and automatic process adjustments and failure detections. Any shop contemplating a way to boost welding productivity has a careful and extensive shopping job ahead of them.
We have confined this report to a few items that caught our eye. So many new items are showing up in welding that we’re starting another publication, Welding Productivity, which devotes itself to covering the field in detail. WP will be available in a couple of months. Stay tuned.
FANUC America Corp. demonstrated its intelligent, fixtureless live welding with its new ARC Mate 0iB robot and LR Mate 200iD/7L mini-robot. At the show, the LR Mate 200iD/7L robot picked up an auger tooth from an in-process rack, presented it to a fixed camera and used iRVision to determine the part’s orientation. Then it placed it in a regrip station and grabbed the part correctly. During the pick process, the ARC Mate 0iB ran through a torch maintenance station.
The two robots then performed dual-arm motion to simulate hardface welding. They performed live welding approximately every three minutes. After live welding, the LR Mate 200iD/7L performed post-process inspection to validate hardfacing. If the inspection failed, the robot applied additional weld material and inspected it again. If the inspection passed, it placed the finished part into a bin below the pick rack. Nonwelded parts failed post-inspection and were run through a simulated welding program.
The lightweight, compact, high-speed ARC Mate 0iB robot is for arc welding applications and can carry a standard welding torch and wire feeder on the arm. It is for a variety of applications and suited to smaller shops that typically weld manually. The ARC Mate 0iB incorporates the latest FANUC servo technology for high-speed and accurate welds.
The family of LR Mate 200iD robots is for a range of manufacturing operations that require access into small spaces. A slim arm about the size of a human arm and a bottom cable exit option minimize interference with peripheral devices. The LR Mate 200iD robots offer a work envelope for upright and invert mount installations.
The Lincoln Electric Co. showed its new solution for the first-time buyer in welding automation—Auto-Mate pre-engineered robotic welding cells. These affordable cells ($59,999) enable new buyers to implement automated welding says the company. The Auto-Mate 5 is a single-zone cell suitable for welding medium-sized to larger parts. Auto-Mate 10 is a two-zone cell, but with the same footprint as the Auto-Mate 5. If the process includes smaller parts, the robot can weld on one side while the operator handles parts on the other. Both cells enable MIG and flux-cored welding processes performed by a FANUC Arc Mate 0iB robot, driven by a Lincoln Electric Power Wave R350 power source.
Fronius USA LLC’ new TPS 600i manual welding product is for heavy steel construction, repair work and welding of thick wires. The 600A welding power source inverter is also a good choice for arc air gouging, the company says. System components include the Power Connector earth connection that provides an ideally defined current transfer and prevents the loosening of the connection socket. The associated welding torch has a duty cycle of 100 percent at 700A using CO2 and argon gas. And when the gas nozzle is connected, 100 percent of the water circulates through the gas nozzle; when it is disconnected, the integrated water stop prevents the water from escaping. The new cooling system features a wear-free, brushless motor without seals, meaning no cooling agent can enter the motor.
Abicor Binzel’s PPi inline push-pull MIG torch is for aluminum welding and the use of thin wires. It offers constant wire feed, even with longer cable assemblies. The contact pressure of the dual feeding rollers occurs automatically. The ergonomic handle provides multiple grip positions for low-fatigue handling, and the screw-on torch necks can be replaced quickly. A special interface between the handle and the neck makes it possible to rotate the necks up to 360°. The air-cooled torch is for capacities up to 300A and the water-cooled version up to 400A. Applications include shipbuilding, container and tank manufacture and construction of automobile and railway vehicles.
American Torch Tip
American Torch Tip (ATTC) showed its new PHDX Series of torches for automated plasma cutting systems up to 260A. The PHDX torch keeps consumables cooler through superior heat dissipation, making them last longer. Test results show PHDX torches and consumables result in a clean cut profile, negligible unintended bevel and easily removable dross, says the company. ATTC’s conversion kits make replacing a current high-amp plasma torch quick and easy.
BUG-O Systems featured four updated versions of circle welder systems at the show this year. The machines are capable of working with digitally controlled power sources. All digital control signals can be passed to a continuously turning wire feeder for high-efficiency submerged arc, thick-wall nozzle-to-vessel welds.Two of the machines are integrated with Lincoln power sources, one with a Miller power source and the fourth is integrated with OTC Daihen. One of the machines, the DCW-18-M subarc circle welder (with Miller power source), is for welding diameters from 10″ to 50″ OD. It features a wire feeder with one set of drive rolls. The meter kit is 0 to 50 DC volt meter and 0 to 600 DC amp meter. Other features include a torch angle adjustor, flux hopper with gate valve and a 50′ control cable.
Tools and tooling
New press brake tools, punching tools, forming tools, and other tooling and hand-held power tools were, as usual, dislayed in profusion. Angle-head grinders, grinding and polishing discs and tools, drills and fastener devices comprised a number of displays at the show. As with welding, we touch here on the highlights.
The company’s big wall display was full of old favorites and new additions, but it was the Slipper Joint System (SJS), a mechanical clutch on their angle-head grinders, which caught our attention. The clutch is designed to prevent damage if the wheel jams in the work or stops for any reason. It’s an obvious but often overlooked mechanical improvement that can make a difference in operating costs and repairs.
New grits and backings are always shown in proliferation at Norton’s trade-show displays, and this year’s FABTECH was no exception. This year’s highlights included Bear-Tex non-woven abrasive products. They’re designed to prevent smearing, to produce more-consistent finishes, to be conformal and thus easier to use, and to produce quality finishes with minimum stock removal.
The company also gave demonstrations of its Gemini RightCut thin cutoff wheels. The latest generation Norton Gemini RightCut wheels are 100% aluminum oxide abrasive, infused with a new bond technology and process, for a thinner wheel design and low kerf loss, says the company.
Mate showed a new line of press brake tooling, in production since July, for TRUMPH/Wila style, as well as Amada style tool holders. A clamp-clearing die and an insert-type die were other highlights. It gives almost 50% more life than a conventional die, says the company, because of superior die steel used in the insert.
Wila’s innovations included their E2M (Easy-to-move) system for handling heavy tools. It includes roller bearings that are released with a quick turn of a cam that bears against them.
They also showed their Smart Tool Locator, which includes a special “intelligent slide rule” with built-in LEDs, allowing the operator to see immediately where the tool and the workpiece are to be positioned.
A V-Lock bottom-tool alignment and clamping system, and their CRM 7 CNC crowning system, with a slotted drive for easy tool removal and replacement, were among their other innovative tools and devices.