Tech Front: Robotic Laser Software Trims Auto Steel
Laser cutting has emerged as the best way to cut and trim hot-stamped steel, the light-weight, high-strength materials increasingly used in the automotive industry to reduce the overall cost and weight of cars while improving both passenger safety and fuel economy. The technology is also increasingly used to cut many hydro-formed, electronic and plastic parts in a variety of industries.
Laser cutting is a noncontact process, so the laser equipment does not wear and no trim presses or trim dies are required. The process is highly precise, and trim lines and feature sizes and locations can be easily adjusted to handle a wide variety of parts. Robotic laser-cutting offers several advantages over traditional five-axis laser cutting machines, including up to a 35% lower initial investment, reduced operational costs, and a smaller footprint that allows easier integration into existing manufacturing systems.
New from ABB are robotic laser-cutting software tools that are designed to satisfy the need to greatly increase path accuracy and programming flexibility. The two new, seamlessly integrated laser-cutting software products make laser cutting with ABB robots more accurate, highly flexible, and easier to program and operate.
The RobotStudio Cutting PowerPac is an add-on to RobotStudio, ABB’s 3-D off-line simulation programming tool, which allows operators to generate and modify program cutting paths based on part geometry and CAD models. The second new software, RobotWare Cutting, is a robot controller add-on that features sophisticated tools for the integration of peripheral equipment, robot tuning and calibration, and the programming of complex paths and shapes.
“The Cutting PowerPac takes robotic laser cutting to the next level, greatly simplifying the programming of parts of all shapes, even those requiring the most complex paths,” said Erwin DiMalanta, senior manager, ABB Robotics. “And users can create and test advanced cutting programs offline, in an office environment, maximizing production uptime and resource efficiency.”
The Cutting PowerPac supports the optimization of cutting programs, setup of interface signals, and management of cutting process data. RobotWare Cutting is compatible with most common laser-cutting equipment brands, and its intuitive graphical user interface makes it easy to use. The interface provides the flexibility to switch automatically and quickly between different product series, allowing even the shortest cutting runs to be efficient and of the highest quality.
“RobotWare Cutting also features an advanced Iterative Learning Control [ILC] algorithm that allows the robot to essentially learn by doing, where it continually improves its cutting performance and accuracy over time,” said DiMalanta.
Users of ABB Robotics’ laser-cutting systems also have all the benefits of ABB’s Remote Service, a system which provides remote access to the system for production monitoring, fast diagnostics, and predictive maintenance. ME
For more information from ABB Inc., go to www.abb.com, or phone 248-391-8400.
Plastic Optics Made
with 3-D Printing Process
Additive manufacturing (AM) in the Printoptical 3-D printing process developed by LUXeXceL Group BV (Goes, Netherlands) using Photopia software from LTI Optics LLC (Westminster, CO) is shaping the future design of plastic optics. Plastic optics for lighting fixtures for any number of traditional and innovative uses can be custom manufactured with an economic order quantity of one (EOQ1). The Printoptical 3-D printing service for on-demand manufacturing of optics directly from a CAD model eliminates the need for expensive molds or tooling.
With the combination of Photopia as a tool for parametric optics design and LUXeXceL’s Printoptical technology for mass customized manufacturing, lighting fixture manufacturers can accelerate getting new products to market and offer a broader range of products while cutting both their initial product development costs and their working capital requirements. In fact, product designers are freed from a limited range of round or oval beam angles in their optics designs. Fixtures can be customized for each project or application so that ideal lighting distribution can be achieved. Square lighting distribution or lighting designed to save energy and reduce light pollution are possible.
“We originally developed Photopia to enable simulation study of alternative designs prior to incurring the high expense of tooling for an optic to be physically produced,” said Mark Jongewaard, president, LTI Optics. “Now as a partner for LUXeXceL’s zero-tooling Printoptical manufacturing services, Photopia has a second value proposition to enable rapid custom variations of a proven design for immediate manufacture, yielding fast times to market for new products, rapid adaptation to changed requirements, and low-cost innovation of niche and mass-customized lighting products."
“The combination of Photopia software and Printoptical manufacturing produces the digitization of plastic optics design and fabrication,” said Richard van de Vrie, CEO, LUXeXceL Group. “A Photopia design becomes a digital mold, enabling any correction or change to be implemented immediately. The Printoptical manufacturing service is on-demand with an economic order quantity of one [EOQ1] so inventory is also digital, requiring minimal working capital and eliminating write-offs of obsolete stock.”
Photopia’s Parametric Optical Design Tools module enables creation of optical designs to achieve a prescribed distribution of light. All of the key aspects of the design that affect the light control are parameterized in ways meaningful to optical design. This capability is in direct contrast to standard parametric CAD software, which only allows designers to parameterize mechanical features which have indirect and unknown optical effects.
The net result is that optics for lighting purposes can now be custom manufactured by the new AM one-step process with flexibility and freedom of design at prices competitive with injection molding. ME
For more information from LTI Optics LLC, go to www.ltioptics.com, or phone 720-891-0030; for information from LUXeXceL Group, go to www.luxexcel.com, or phone +31 (0)113 224400.
Talking Points in the
Factory of the Future
We are very confident that in the Factory of the Future all devices will talk to one another. MT Connect has already shown us the way. For individual machine tool builders, the way to that future is being traveled increasingly with more powerful, highly automated machines driven by powerful software. At Fabtech, Bob St. Aubin, president, Bystronic Inc. (Elgin, IL), said that BySoft 7, the company’s new robust CAD/CAM software package that supports both 2-D and 3-D CAD is “a completely new generation of design and manufacturing software with a wide range of new functions that offer a host of possibilities.”
BySoft 7 incorporates the latest version of SolidWorks, one of the industry’s most popular and respected 2-D and 3-D CAD packages. Users can quickly and easily design custom parts and input existing drawings and models for editing and processing. On the CAM side, BySoft 7 gives operators the ability to choose either spread or compressed nesting, the former for improved process reliability, the latter for increased parts yield per sheet and minimized waste material. Within the factory, BySoft 7 simplifies processes with advanced capabilities for nesting parts, creating cutting plans, generating bending programs, simulating bending sequences, and more.
In laser-cutting technology, St. Aubin said the BySprint Fiber 3015 fiber laser-cutting system can now process sheet metal in the thickness range previously reserved for CO2 laser-cutting systems. “When used with the ByTrans Extended automation solution for loading and unloading, the system creates the ideal entry into lightly-manned parts production,” said St. Aubin. “Benefits include fast job processing and much higher machine utilization for a slightly higher investment. In addition, ByTrans Extended isn’t just for storage/return transfer but also for large parts removal.”
“Something never seen before from Bystronic” is the Xcite 80E electrically driven press brake, which is 2.5 times faster than a hydraulic press brake in completing a comparable bend. Using the Fast Bend+ safety system, the tool can be quickly positioned close to the metal sheet without placing the operator in any danger. Only when ready to process does the machine switch over to bending speed. The Xcite’s accuracy is ensured by Bystronic’s proprietary Force Dynamic Drive, which provides speed, power, and constant pressure along the entire bending length. This ensures that minimal deflections occur in both the upper and lower beam, enabling Xcite to bend within tolerance of ±25 arc minutes and with repeatability of ±0.0025 mm. ME
For more information from Bystronic Inc., go to www.bystronicusa.com, or phone 800-247-3332.
Mobile Unit Cleans Sumps
of Running Machines
SumpDoc mobile unit from Eriez Hydroflow (Erie, PA) cleans machine tool coolants without stopping production. Machines can continue to run while their coolant systems are treated. SumpDoc is a portable, in-line fluid reclamation machine that provides all of the technology necessary to complete coolant restoration and rejuvenation treatment of metalworking fluids in the machine tool sump. There is no interruption in the production cycle or need to transport fluids, and operator interface is minimal.
The portable SumpDoc can be wheeled next to a machine tool, parts washer, or rinse tank to provide full-service fluid reclamation. The main features of the SumpDoc include: sump cleaner (sump vac) for removal of all sludge and solids 50 µm and larger, pleated bag filter and housing for removal of solids down to 10 µm, continuous-flow tramp oil coalesce, high-speed centrifuge for removal of emulsified tramp oil and fines down to 3–5 µm, and ozone generator for microbiological treatment of coolants and coolant makeup system with proportioner and electrical controls with touch screen dashboard. All components are housed on a mobile platform for ease of transportation.
The SumpDoc operates in three easy steps. After locating the SumpDoc unit next to an operating machine tool sump and connecting to the plant source of compressed air, water, and electric, the unit is ready to begin metalworking fluid rejuvenation while the machine tool remains in full production. The operator turns the unit on and follows the steps illustrated on the control panel touch screen dashboard.
In step one, the operator selects the Sump Vac Mode from the dashboard controls. The sump vac portion of the portable unit is equipped with a long 2" (51-mm) diameter hose and aluminum angled crevice tool for sucking up the bulk of the chips in the sump. Solids are trapped in a 50-µm polyester bag and the coolant returns to the sump for continuous operation of the machine tool.
In step two, the operator selects Filtration Mode from the dashboard controls. The suction hose of the air-operated diaphragm pump is positioned in the machine tool sump while the discharge hose from high-speed centrifuge and/or tramp oil coalescer is directed back to the machine tool sump. The recommended positioning of the hoses maximizes the turbulence and sump “scrubbing” action to re-suspend settled solids for suction collection. The coolant continuously recirculates to the sump during the filtration mode to provide uninterrupted machine tool operation. Once the filtration mode is in operation, the operator is free to conduct other activities until the filtration mode is complete.
Step three is the Coolant Makeup Mode. After running the filtration mode for a predetermined amount of time, the operator will check the coolant concentration level with the on-board digital refractometer. The operator then selects Coolant Makeup Mode from the dashboard controls and selects lean, standard, or rich settings for topping up the sump with the proper coolant concentrate mix.
Once the sump tank reaches the desired concentration level, the process is complete. The operator disconnects the SumpDoc and moves on to the next machine tool sump or parts washer to be cleaned. Onboard storage containers include a coolant concentrate/chemical tank, tramp oil and centrifuge backwash tanks. All tanks include discharge or cleanout pumps for ease of dispensing or removing content through simple touch screen controls on the SumpDoc dashboard. ME
For more information from Eriez, go to www.eriez.com/hydroflow, or phone 888-300-3743.
This article was first published in the January 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.