Four in one

Software and hardware upgrades make a new laser machine a multi-threat


As manufacturers strive to gain efficiencies, investing in combination equipment that can provide multiple uses on the shop room floor is a smart approach. In addition to performing multiple functions all at one machine, modern combination equipment often includes the latest software for Industry 4.0 capabilities as well as tooling for high-speed, repeatably dependable outcomes on a variety of material types and sizes.

The new Prima Power Laserdyne 811 allows users to perform multiple laser processes, including welding, drilling, cutting and directed-energy deposition additive manufacturing.

To that end, Prima Power Laserdyne recently announced a next-generation laser processing machine, the Laserdyne 811, which employs the most current hardware and software components for flexible precision laser processing. The combination of workstation, controller and laser facilitates cost-effective, high-speed and reliable manufacturing for low and high throughput.

Multi-process productivity

The 811 has the flexibility and precision to perform optimized laser processing, including welding, drilling, cutting and directed-energy deposition (DED) additive manufacturing (AM) for small to medium-size workpieces. The working envelope is 1,100 mm by 800 mm by 600 mm (41.5 in. by 31.5 in. by 24 in.) for the X, Y and Z axes, respectively. Each axis has greater than 50 m per sec. velocity and acceleration of 1.2G and is optimized for floor space efficiency for the work envelope.

The laser processing machine is also designed to take full advantage of the BeamDirector, which is Laserdyne’s compact, rotary and tilt axes laser head. The additional two axes of motion (C and D) provide access to hard-to-reach places in the workpiece as well as precise beam placement. The BeamDirector has 90 rpm rotational speed and control repeatability of 15 arc seconds. In addition, it supports laser processing from 90 degrees (normal to the surface) to 10 degrees off the surface of a part all the way along the axis of travel.

With the BeamDirector and the variety of easy-to-use Laserdyne nozzles, the 811 transitions from welding to cutting to drilling and vice versa in a matter of seconds, providing ultimate flexibility.

To control the multiple processes in a precise manner, the laser machine relies on Laserdyne’s S94P CNC software, which provides control over the motion system and, perhaps most importantly, the processing parameters. This allows users to maximize process quality while providing highly efficient laser processing. The S94P controller has the ability to provide real-time pulse by pulse control, including, when required, a unique shape for each individual laser pulse.

The S94P controller also supports seven axes of simultaneous motion and an additional axis as required by automation. This means easy integration with a variety of automation solutions for workpiece handling, loading and unloading of components, and other created subassemblies. Software  includes the full suite of another Laserdyne offering, SmartTechniques, to optimize the laser process and shorten cycle times while improving the process quality and consistency.

As more and more fabricators look to machine data to streamline their operations, the 811 supports Industry 4.0 through the use of MTConnect real-time parameter and data streaming. MTConnect, which is a communication standard for reporting the current status of a machine tool, along with Prima Power Laserdyne, developed SPC process data reporting and storage capability.

The 811’s optimal fiber laser parameters allow users to tightly control the welding process while simplifying the process to handle previously difficult-to-weld materials.

Additionally, Laserdyne’s optional FastTrim and Fast Suite II CAD/CAM software supports full 6-axis interpolation. For DED AM, the CAD/CAM option is found within the machine’s AMExpress and CAM manufacturing software to produce part programs.

Welding applications

Welding has always been regarded as a highly skilled and labor-intensive activity and in many respects, it is. An experienced welder knows not to judge the quality of a weld by appearance. Weld quality is determined by material and gas interactions during the molten phase and the bonding of the materials during the cooling phase.

All Laserdyne machines help ensure the delivery of a highly controlled beam and, in turn, the delivery of energy to the workpiece. Gas management is critical to the end result, and Laserdyne provides a variety of nozzle designs, flow control hardware and software to enable complex geometries to be welded with and without filler material. This translates to repeatable welding processes and high-quality parts without critical labor skills.

With the growing use of specialty alloys (boron steel, high-strength nickel alloys, chromium alloys and titanium alloys), new challenges arise because the processing parameter window for these materials may be narrow. With optimal fiber laser parameters, the welding process can be very tightly controlled, and previously difficult-to-weld materials can now be routinely welded in any manufacturing setting.

The ability to control pulse characteristics and shape the beam has also made it possible to use welding in difficult to impossible applications. Examples include very thin aluminum, copper, cast iron, high carbon steels and many other alloys not considered weldable using traditional methods.

Drilling and cutting

With the inclusion of BeamDirector technology, a precise laser beam is delivered to the workpiece at angles previously not possible. This precision enables the laser, properly controlled, to quickly produce holes in a workpiece through percussion drilling or trepanning. Many Nd:YAG laser and EDM processes have been converted to fiber laser drilling with astonishing results in terms of throughput and quality. Example applications include effusion cooling holes, filtration components, diffusers and nozzles for land-based and aerospace turbine engines.

Transitioning from one process to another is quick and simple on the Prima Power Laserdyne 811.

Additionally, the 811 provides manufacturing and development engineers with increased design flexibility, often reducing the number of parts and improving the overall quality of the final product.

Product designers are familiar with traditional 2-D laser part cutting from sheet stock, but are not always familiar with 3-D laser processing. Designers are free to use tubes, metal spinning, and hydroformed and deep-drawn parts to create better and more cost-effective solutions when using a multi-axis system to trim the part or cut complex shapes that pose a challenge for conventional tooling.

Rather than having a complex assembly, designers can consider forming and trimming processes to provide a single, more cost-effective part and reduce secondary operations. Automotive and general manufacturing operations regularly use laser cutting processes to shorten process cycle times. The 811’s combination of reduced tooling costs and flexibility in materials leads to its desirability among manufacturers and fabricators.

AM applications

The DED AM systems are built based on the process capability and precision of the Laserdyne platform where precise and real-time control over the powder deposition, laser power and shield gas delivery is key. The setup enables the powder to be fused into a variety of custom parts or to rebuild metal surfaces, which are then machined to customer dimensions and specifications.

With AM capabilities, fabricators can now take on more jobs and can also rebuild worn tools and components to extend their service life. DED AM is typically employed for parts that are not easily made by conventional manufacturing processes or parts that are not cost-effectively built using conventional methods. Examples include shaft rebuilds, worn surface rebuilds, turbine blade repair and custom shaped housing/shields.

Fabricators can also rely on the AM process when prototyping new parts for customers. Having the ability to do so in-house speeds up turnaround times and, ultimately, helps to secure more work in the future.

Overall, the Laserdyne 811 serves as a replacement machine for the discontinued and obsolete Laserdyne 780. The new machine boasts improved dynamics, accuracy, process control, up-to-date operating systems and supports a variety of automation options.

Prima Power Laserdyne

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