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Automated Laser Cutting: A Hit Or Miss?
Automation has been a common factor in all the industries now. And the metal fabrication industry is just one of them. The common goals of a fabrication company include increased production speed and boosted capacity to meet the growing demand.
Can automation help you meet these requirements? Let’s find out.
Is Automation Right for Your Business?
It solely depends on your short-term and long-term needs. By applying laser automation, you get:
Speed: With automation in place, material loading speed accelerates up to 35%.
Capacity: You can achieve the highest production results with your machine.
Consistency: With automated laser cutters, you can perform precisely and get everything (time between cycles, load and unload times) down.
Finding the Right Type
Loading/Unloading System: When you add such type of system with the existing machines, it enables them to function unattended for a longer period of time. You might see an increase in productivity by 2.8 times. It includes a single load and separates unload tables. It restricts you to one material type/thickness at a time, making it an ideal choice for batch productions where you require fewer changes.
Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS):
Such a system makes it possible to run a variety of material types and thicknesses without any assistance from an operator. FMS has multiple storage shelves that let you load materials into one or more laser cutting machines. These systems typically deliver a beam on-time of roughly 92% and 14.7 hours of cutting per day. They can be an ideal choice for small-batch productions and frequent material changes.
Your Initial Stage Configurations
The Types of Materials
With simple systems like the load/unload system, it uses a single table. With FMS systems, you can load a range of materials into different shelves.
The Number of Machines
A compact system can work well with the machines you already have. In the future, when you want to expand your business to a certain extent, a modular solution will be a more logical option.
The key here is designing your system to handle a bit overcapacity. And you would not want to go overboard, as it might tie up too much operating capital.
Most systems have a maximum capacity of 1” sheet of the mild steel. You can design systems to run single sheets without using any transceiver which will give more flexibility. In case if you need parts automatically sorted, you can build some systems to cut parts from a skeleton, depositing them on a specific offload table or you can deposit them in a bin.
How would you like to control your automation system?
Load/Unload systems are typically simpler. They use a basic cell controller to load the program sequence-wise on your machine. An FMS will need a more sophisticated system which prioritizes tasks, manage inventories, provide data about the cuts, when, and more.
What type of material unloading system will you need?
There are so many options available which you can consider. It could be any of the following: fixed tables, scissor-lift tables, multiple offload tables, rail systems, and conveyors. Also, make sure you are using either Prima spare parts or Mitsubishi laser spare parts when converting to automated lasers.
Here are some of the challenges to keep an eye on:
Labor: You will need highly skilled operators to monitor production if you want superior quality results.
Morale: When your team supports the transition of production from manual to automation, it will help you become a greater success in the long run.
Effects on Other Machines: If laser cutting is a bottleneck, it is important to make sure that operators and machines downstream are prepared to handle the increased production time, when your automated laser cutter is fully functional.
Laser Parts: There are some medium quality parts available in the market which could seem like an economical choice but will hurt you in the long run. So, whenever doing the transition from manual to automation, make sure you are using Prima spare parts or Mitsubishi laser spare parts.
If you as a fabricator wish to accelerate the overall flow from automated laser cutting, it is important to choose the right laser machine with the right partner by your side to make this implementation a success for your business.
Steve M Glassner is the General Manager of Alternative Parts Inc, the leading manufacturer and distributor of Amada machinery replacement parts. Steve is a Machine Tools industry enthusiast and frequently writes about various aspects of the industry.
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