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Optimizing Nests For A Fiber Laser

May 2013

Special Fiber Laser Q&A

Fiber lasers are fast. Fab shops know this. But what some of them might not realize is that they might not be getting the full effect of that speed.

FAB Shop talked to Dan Cokinos, regional sales manager for Metamation, to get the full story on how optimizing nests for a fiber laser can help fab shops get more speed out of their fiber lasers.

FAB Shop: What things should a fab shop keep in mind when optimizing a nest for a fiber laser?

Cokinos: The number one technique that you’ll hear about is stitch cutting. Stitch cutting is a sequenced cutting technique, as opposed to a nesting technique. But you would need to set up your nest to allow yourself to do the stitch cutting, and it’s going to work best with parts that are rectangular.

Picture a simple square. Let’s say it’s 10 by 10 in. and you want to make 100 of those. To do this in a stitch cut, you would copy the part out in an array that is evenly spaced, 10 parts high and 10 parts wide. It’s a big grid of parts, 10 by 10 equals 100. Once these are copied out, you would then cut completely across in one direction, and then cut across on each vertical and horizontal.

So you would be cutting all the horizontal lines, each part in a row at one time, then come down and cut the next one on a line and then repeat. You’re cutting out, in a line, all the parts with each cut, and then you come back and do the vertical.

The advantage is that it’s quick. It’s a fast process.

In a nutshell, you would want to have your algorithms and your etching parameters set up so that the parts are in orderly grids, as opposed to a jigsaw-style mess.

If you’re going to optimize a nest for a fiber laser, you might want to keep your nest simpler, so that you can use that type of technique. When a nest looks like a jigsaw puzzle put together, it’d be difficult to do that technique. It wouldn’t be fast, and you’d basically be cutting each part out individually, as opposed to all the verticals or horizontals in one swoop.

So generally speaking, you can do a tighter nest since the beam width isn’t as wide. You can set your parameters for the nest more closely than with a basic CO2 machine. But otherwise, the parameters are going to be pretty much the same. With the exception though if you’re going to do something like a stitch cut.

It’s a trade-off – a little less material utilization, but quicker processing.

FAB Shop: So, in a sense, the best way to optimize a nest for a fiber laser is to play to its speed?

Cokinos: It would depend on the situation. What are you looking for in the part? For parts with a complex contour, for instance, you really can’t use the stitch cut method at all. It lends itself more toward basic rectangular parts.

Therefore, with a more complex part, it might just be geared more toward a narrower beam width, since fiber lasers have the ability to get your parts closer together. That would be one of differences between a fiber laser and a CO2 laser – you can nest your parts tighter and your parameters can be set up accordingly.

FAB Shop: Is there specific software designed for this sort of nest optimization?

Cokinos: Metamation offers MetaCAM, and version 8 has features that are designed with fiber lasers in mind.

FAB Shop: What features does version 8 include to help optimize nests for a fiber laser?

Cokinos: The main feature we’ve added is the ability to do stitch cutting. It also includes different algorithms and the ability to control the gap between parts, but these have been part of the software for a while.

From what we can see, there’s not a drastic difference between the fiber laser and the CO2 laser. Depending on the material, the fiber can cut closer, faster and give a nicer edge. It seems that in lighter gauges fiber lasers do their best.

But there are still a lot of similarities between the two. There aren’t drastic differences between them, and what you need to do to handle them.