The hunt for better shop floor management and methods to improve production efficiencies never ends. Manufacturers continuously ask themselves the same question: How do we increase output while utilizing resources efficiently?
Automation is the obvious solution to this challenge, but the answer doesn’t have to be fully autonomous processing. By leveraging smart features and technology, fabricators can create more reliable processes, realize better systematic organization of their laser cut parts, and reduce the time spent sorting and stacking all while keeping production moving. Examples of these smart features and technologies can be seen in Trumpf Inc.’s portfolio of solutions, which includes active speed control, smart nozzle automation and its sorting guide, all that were designed to automate and streamline processes on the shop floor and improve manufacturing productivity.
During a single shift of production time, a precision system such as the Trumpf TruLaser 5030 fiber with a TruDisk 12001 laser source puts out a high volume of parts. Considered the most
industrious flatbed laser cutting machine in Trumpf’s current portfolio, the TruLaser 5030 fiber combines a rigid machine frame and motion unit that enables high dynamics and results in parts that are cut accurately and quickly. Not only is the machine optimized by its frame design, but it has also been fitted with an array of automated smart features, including active speed control (ASC).
The ASC system looks straight through the nozzle to the cutting zone of the material and monitors it in real time while autonomously controlling the feed rate of the machine. Whether users are flame cutting with oxygen or fusion cutting with nitrogen, ASC ensures a more reliable process and yields a reduction in scrapped parts, saves on rework and achieves the optimal cut speed for the material. This allows users to achieve measurable gains in productivity with their machines and lowers the manufacturing costs of the cut parts.
Another innovation designed to boost productivity is Trumpf’s smart nozzle automation (SNA) that comes standard on the TruLaser 5030 fiber. Comprised of a 21-station nozzle changer with an integrated camera system, SNA inspects the nozzle condition automatically and alerts the machine if a nozzle has become too damaged for use. This prevents any downtime in production cutting. The nozzle changer easily allows the operator to safely slide the nozzle bank out from the machine, manually inspect the nozzles and change out nozzles – all while the machine keeps cutting. Machine uptime is increased and ultimately reduces the cost of the part and improves part yields. Combined, such smart functions, along with high machine dynamics, result in a large output of production parts into the shop floor.
Sorting it out
As mentioned, highly efficient flatbed laser cutting machines can produce a large volume of parts in a short period of time. These parts then require quick de-nesting and accurate sorting to
keep the machine running and prevent it from sitting idle. After all, no shop floor manager wants a machine to sit idle due to inefficient sorting.
However, at the rate at which these machines produce parts, simple tasks can create bottlenecks. Problems related to organization and tracking of parts on the shop floor are a big concern for both operators and management. Keeping an accurate part count can be challenging, particularly if missing parts were scrapped, if the wrong number of parts was counted initially or if parts were placed in the incorrect spot for a subsequent operation.
To shorten the time spent sorting sheet metal parts from a laser cutting machine, thereby improving the overall workflow, Trumpf developed its sorting guide, which is comprised of a camera and an industrial PC equipped with intelligent image processing software. The camera sits above the pallet changer on the outside of the machine. Next to the camera is a monitor that displays all the relevant job details on the screen and color codes the parts.
The goal of the sorting guide is to assist the operator in identifying which part has been removed from the pallet and which are still present. It also depicts relevant job data such as the order information or the next step in the process chain. In doing this, the sorting guide improves operator efficiency in sorting parts, especially when handling sheets containing parts from multiple production jobs.
The sorting guide also aids the operator by highlighting all the parts from one order in the same color on screen. Color coding makes sorting the de-nested parts a simpler task with less room for error. As the operator de-nests the parts, the system automatically registers each part that is taken from the nest and records that it has been removed. This eliminates the need to re-check the number of parts and manually update the part count in the control system.
Data is automatically recorded in the control system, which creates historical information that can be reviewed at a later time. As data is recorded automatically, production status is also illustrated in real time. This information offers useful insight for shop floor management as well as the operator, providing an immediate awareness of any parts that need to be re-cut due to being scrapped while also reducing the time it takes to initiate the post-production of parts.
Not only does the operator have all the information related to the jobs on the screen, but they are also simultaneously able to view the machine’s status. The sorting guide’s visual input enables quick reactions to any issues, such as tipped parts, that may occur, and does not require the operator to check the control panel for error messages. In other words, an operator can spend less time reviewing parts and can dedicate more time to sorting parts. There is no more guessing where parts need to go next or how many still need to be re-cut. In turn, operators are more productive, keeping the laser cutting machine producing parts and facilitating a more organized and accountable shop floor.
So, what does this mean in the big picture? The bottom line is that features such as ASC and SNA and systems like the sorting guide are designed to aid or automate simple tasks and improve overall business profitability.
In terms of the sorting guide, it brings more accountability to the shop floor and a streamlined method for organizing cut parts. With ASC on the TruLaser 5030 fiber automatically adjusting feed rate, the operator does not have to spend time manipulating parameters for material composition changes or worry if the machine will cut the material.
By automating these processes, the operator has more time to do other tasks, fewer parts are scrapped and feed rate can be optimized for the material. When we eliminate non-productive time that would typically exist, parts cost less, and this is a key objective of automated functions found in modern machine tools.