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2016 Was a Good Year for Lasers; 2017 Looks Even Better

Strong 2016 earnings among top industrial laser providers, continued brisk adoption of fiber lasers, cheaper ultrafast lasers, and a host of novel applications and notable corporate acquisitions signal a big year ahead for photonics-based manufacturing.

Maybe it’s Time to Try Some ‘Swiss Cheese’

These days the most important theme in superabrasive grinding wheel development isn’t the abrasive, it’s the bond. The diamond or CBN grains do the cutting, but the bond plays a decisive role in exposing the grains to the workpiece and enabling coolant to remove heat.

Lasers on the Cutting Edge

In the last seven to eight years, solid-state lasers have come to dominate laser welding and cutting,” said Tom Bailey, product specialist for Trumpf Inc. (Farmington, CT). While Trumpf still produces CO2 lasers, for most applications solid-state lasers literally outshine them.

Tooling and Workholding Systems

“We are developing solutions for power workholding such as hydraulic swing clamps and block clamps, because the real estate on a fixture is so valuable,” says Jason Betz, product specialist for Carr Lane Roemheld (St. Louis). “This pushes the use of smaller workholding components as much as possible because the more parts on the fixture the greater the productivity.”

Tooling to Match Composite Production

It’s getting harder to imagine any market that isn’t benefiting from the latest developments in parts manufactured from advanced composites. “Advanced composites will arguably dominate consumer and production products, especially in the near future,” says Bert Erdel, industry consultant and executive technology advisor, Morris Group Inc. (Windsor, CT), “as they have begun to gain wide acceptance in solving energy-related issues.”

Solutions for Difficult Machining

The machining challenges for two of the most advanced concepts in cutting tool materials are pretty well known. Cubic boron nitride (CBN) tools of varying designs are being used to cut hardened ferrous metals with or without interrupted cuts, as well as welded and clad metals.

What’s the Connection?

A lot of attention is paid to the “business end” of CNC toolholders–the part that actually holds the tool.

Tooling and Workholding

Overall, there are two overriding customer needs: reducing cycle time and machine downtime. They want higher feed rates and depth of cut for greater metal removal.