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Laser Genius Elevates Productivity to New Heights

By Advanced Manufacturing Media
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Prima Power fiber cutting head’s single lens strategy and the machine’s advanced features make the Laser Genius a versatile machine capable of 24/7 lights-out production.

Like its products, technology demands for thyssenkrupp Elevator Corp. are “going up.” A business unit of ThyssenKrupp Elevator AG, the company oversees all business operations in the US, Canada, and Central and South America, and says it is the largest producer of elevators in the Americas, with 13,500 employees, more than 200 branches and service locations, and sales of $2.7 billion.

The US manufacturing facility for thyssenkrupp Elevator is located in Middleton, TN. This location features a 695,000 ft2 (64,566 m2) shop for over 200 employees with a wide array of sheet metal fabrication and machining equipment including: punch/shear combinations, turret punch presses, panel benders, plasma cutters, shears, press brakes, CNC milling machines, and lathes. The company manufactures the majority of components for traction and hydraulic elevators used in commercial buildings.

Several years ago, thyssenkrupp Elevator decided to upgrade some older sheet metal fabrication equipment. “Because of the older equipment we were having problems maintaining tolerances,” said Kevin Perkins, manufacturing engineering manager. “Members of our purchasing team evaluated three different machine tool builders, which included interviewing their customers. We ultimately purchased two Laser Genius machines from Prima Power.”

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Kevin Perkins (left), manufacturing engineering manager, and Robert Weaver, production manager, inspect an elevator part cut on the Prima Power Laser Genius at thyssenkrupp Elevator’s US manufacturing facility in Middleton, TN.

The first unit, the Laser Genius 1530 4 kW, was installed in December 2015. The second unit, the larger bed Laser Genius 2040 4 kW, came in April 2016. Laser Genius, from Prima Power North America Inc. (Arlington Heights, IL), is a high-range 2D laser cutting machine with linear motors and is designed for very high productivity, quality, and flexibility.

Laser Genius can be used to cut a wide range of materials. Fiber lasers are more effective than other laser sources for cutting highly-reflective materials (e.g. aluminum alloys, copper, and brass). The productivity of Laser Genius increases particularly with thin and medium-gage sheetmetal, according to the manufacturer. Because of its wide range of automation modules, the Laser Genius can be used for both small batches and large-scale production.

High-dynamic linear motors ensure a 15% increase in productivity compared with conventional drive systems, according to Prima Power North America. The Laser Genius has a range of automation modules and its proprietary CNC guarantees accuracy in cutting and head positioning.

The machine offers low operating costs, high energy efficiency, no laser gases, and reduced maintenance, according to Prima Power. Nearly 2000 flat laser machines have been installed worldwide.

The Laser Genius is available in 4-, 5-, and 6-kW models, linear motors on X and Y axes, carbon fiber carriage, and a synthetic granite frame. The fiber cutting head features a single lens strategy, safe impact protection system, high dynamic focal axis with 35-mm stroke, lens drawer with OPC quick alignment system, and a protection glass drawer for easy inspection. The machine is capable of 24/7 lights-out production.

“The lasers are part of an overall strategy to replace older equipment,” said Perkins. “With the Laser Genius we were able to replace three older pieces of equipment to streamline a total of five operations and eliminate the fork-lift travel between those operations—shear, debur, turret punch, re-shear, and debur. This allowed us to increase our productivity by 33%. What used to take us two to three weeks on the older equipment now takes us two to three hours on the Laser Genius.”

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Laser Genius can be programmed to cut a wide range of materials in both small batches and large-scale production. Its fiber laser is especially effective for cutting highly-reflective materials like aluminum alloys, copper, and brass.

Another Laser Genius feature that thyssenkrupp likes is the Prima Power NC Express Software. NC Express e³ is a scalable CAD/CAM application that can be used for single part processing or as fully automatic batch processing software. NC Express e³ offers support for any programming need for Prima Power lasers and turrets, from importing and unfolding 3D models to processing daily ERP data.

“The NC Express Software is phenomenal,” said Robert Weaver, production manager. “It’s the easiest programming software we use in the plant. Manual programming is now a thing of the past. With the NC Express Software, we simply download a DXF file and the software will generate the program for us to nest.”

Laser Genius offers a series of optional suites dedicated to different production needs. For fast cutting of thin sheets (up to 5 mm), the Smart Cut suite allows cycle time reductions up to 30%. For fast cutting of medium-thick gage sheet, the Max Cut suite makes it possible to reduce processing times up to 40%. And for intensive production, the Night Cut suite delivers higher piercing and cutting process safety.

Among its main options, Laser Genius features an automatic nozzle changer for unmanned production, a single lens (so all materials and thicknesses can be cut with a single standard lens during unmanned production), sheetmetal position detection through a capacitive sensor and automatic program skewing, software for advanced programming, and a wide range of modules for automated material handling and storage. Also, Prima Power’s Green Means concept delivers higher laser wall plug efficiency, less demand for cooling capacity, less heat generation, less waste of material, and no laser gases.

“From our previous experience with other lasers on our shop floor, we were very interested in the automatic nozzle changer feature,” explained Perkins. “It eliminates the guess work and saves us setup time. The operator just loads the plate, selects the desired program, and the Laser Genius does the rest.”

Perkins noted that the new laser enables rapid design and processing of special parts. “We have already programmed more than 1000 parts affecting every part of an elevator,” he said. “With the larger 2040 table size on the Laser Genius 2040, we now have the capability of running larger plate sizes that are industry standard and reduce the need to purchase custom blank sizes. Also, with the larger table size and the better nesting capabilities, we can nest multiple jobs instead of producing the same part across shear, punch, and re-shear operations. In the past 10 months, we have sustained a 99% success rate on our first article inspection reports.”

For more information from Prima Power North America Inc., go to www.primapower.com, or phone 763-433-3700.

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