New laser cutting systems address the inefficiencies of older systems and offer much higher competitive value and throughput than the older systems on the market today. That’s not all. Adding full automation can enable you to take advantage of off shifts and weekend operations to meet the demands of your customers. Here’s how.

Modern laser systems offer vastly different options to work with than years ago. Higher laser powers are introduced almost every year, along with consistent and vastly improving machine dynamics and features.

Applications that were once punch-only are now equally, if not more, economical to be processed on a laser because it can process at high accelerations while using increased laser wattage for high cutting speeds. High-speed lasers now process many hundreds of round holes per minute, negating the advantage that punch technology once held in the past. however, the laser still cannot make forms such as louvers, so punching systems remain a viable tool where internal forming is necessary.

Automation has vastly increased the throughput efficiencies of laser cutting systems by achieving increased capacities with unattended shift operations.

PROGRAMMING TECHNIQUESOperating high-speed lasers efficiently requires careful programming considerations. for example, at the speeds now being achieved, programming techniques must consider possible collisions from cut pieces, such as cut outs and other parts. when traveling from feature to feature, most systems employ a Z-axis down condition where the X and Y are the only moving axes. In such cases it is imperative to ensure that programming completely avoids the features that were previously cut. Effectively, the end of cut from one feature needs to be in the shortest path to the subsequent feature to be cut. This technique is called feature avoidance and requires that the lead-ins are aligned in the direction of the next feature to be processed.

Lead-ins are not always necessary depending on the thickness of the material, but the orientation of the start location will be the location of your end point as well. as the cut feature is released from the part it will either fall through the support grates or tip up. With feature avoidance programming, you completely avoid the tip ups by moving away from the previous features and never crossing over these features while positioning.

Another programming consideration is the cut direction of the feature itself, combined with the travel direction of the next feature. if, for instance, we are cutting a series of holes and transitioning from the left-to-right direction, the most efficient way to ensure a smooth transition without making sudden changes of direction is to program so that the feature’s direction of processing is counter-clockwise. if we change the transitioning from right-to-left in the second row of holes, we would program the direction of the holes to be clockwise. The smooth transition occurs because the motion from feature to feature is in the same orientation as the cut feature itself.

Another technique for high speed processing is called scanning technology, which is only available on high-speed machines with a fast switching laser power supply and very accurate positioning at high speeds. Scanning allows the high speed processing of square holes or any feature that consists of straight line segments. Scanning is achieved by moving across a series of square holes. as you travel, the laser beam cuts all of the straight lines in one direction that are in line with each other. In the case of the square holes, as we travel in the X direction all of the bottoms and the tops of the squares would be cut and, likewise, the left and right sides of the squares would be cut while traveling in the Y axis direction.

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