Despite what you may have heard, human beings are fairly adaptable. When the world went sideways as a result of the pandemic, folks changed their gait and did what they could to carry on. Interestingly, consumer buying behaviors changed, too, and it’s had a huge impact on metal fabricators.
When the workforce was forced to put in their hours remotely, workers upgraded their home offices, including their office chairs, which are 75 percent more popular as purchases now than prior to the pandemic. When planes were grounded, moms and dads loaded their kids into RVs and embarked on epic cross-country road trips. Those who suddenly found themselves in the market for an RV are now waiting two to six months as dealers say they’ve “never experienced a shortage like this.”
With social gatherings put on hold, exploring the great outdoors on ATVs became so popular that sales hit an eight-year high in 2020
and ATVs are still on back order. Gyms and fitness centers shut their doors, leading exercise enthusiasts to snatch up treadmills, creating a 135 percent sales hike. Stationary bicycle sales tripled, leading to depleted inventories.
All of these workarounds resulted in record-breaking sales for anyone that manufactures exercise equipment, office furniture, RVs and ATVs. Business was and is booming. Higher demand, however, requires a significant increase in small to medium-sized tube fabrication. Fortunately, Mazak Optonics is poised to help with its new FT-150 fiber laser machine, a tube laser cutter particularly well-suited to handle the materials that go into four wheelers and Pelotons alike.
The FT-150 is designed for high-speed cutting, which makes it a perfect solution for so many manufacturers that can’t currently produce parts fast enough. The machine is also designed for reduced non-cutting processes, which improves cycle times. Simply put, it’s a high-throughput machine that maximizes productivity.
The 3-kW machine can load materials measuring up to 255.9 in. long and unload materials up to 118.1 in. long. It can also handle material diameters up to 6 in. for round bar and 4.92 in. for square bar with material wall thicknesses up to 0.25 in.
The FT-150 is also unique in that it utilizes U-Axis, a proprietary and agile cutting technology that is the muscle behind the laser cutter’s high-throughput abilities. Tyler Van Wyhe, applications engineer at Mazak, says one of the benefits of U-Axis is that it allows users to cut features in materials without having to move the material.
“Traditional tube laser processing requires you to move the material any time you are cutting,” Van Wyhe says. “Now with U-Axis, the material can remain stationary while the head moves
around the material to cut the features. This allows for faster processing of items such as hole patterns, slot and tab features, and marking.”
Van Wyhe says the machine’s small to medium-sized tube cutting abilities fill a void in the company’s product line. For example, manufacturers cutting smaller tube materials while using Mazak’s FG-2200 tube laser cutter might feel that size of machine is “overkill.”
“The FT-150 can produce parts for multiple types of markets,” he explains. “From furniture to recreation vehicles, ATVs and beyond.”
The FT-150 utilizes a 2.5-D torch with focus detection. Combined with the programmable angle of the B-axis, bevel cutting is possible, which is a bonus on multi-tube parts that need to be welded, assembled, fitted and finished. Extrusion tapping is available as an option; this value-added process utilizes a rotary spindle and eight tool positions, which can be deployed for direct tapping or combined with extrusion, providing proper thread depth.
Another option is the spatter guard for protecting the internal tube surfaces from cutting debris. This also helps to reduce secondary operations. Thermal drilling and center measure correction are also featured. Finally, users also have the option to add on a weld seam detection camera for proper geometry orientation of the workpiece.
For manufacturers that need their laser to mark parts, the FT-150 has them covered.
“There are many advantages to marking on parts,” Van Wyhe says, “from simple part identification to help in assembly or other downstream processes. Most structural parts are used in some type of assembly and marking on parts can aid in proper assembly. The machine also offers the ability to make parts with slot and tab type features, which also aid in proper assembly.”
Material handling automation has also become a go-to solution for improved productivity. The FT-150 comes standard with the bundle loader in 6.5-m or 8-m lengths. Side unloading in 3-m or 4.5-m lengths, conveyor and sorting options are also available.