Improving laser plate cutting

Collegno, Italy—Laser cutting thick metal plate (>12 mm) should, in theory, have significant advantages over traditional cutting methods: high cutting speed, no tool wear, and a reduction in the transfer of energy to the metal being cut. And yet, despite the fact that laser systems have been sold into the plate market, their use has not become widespread.

The problem lies with the sensitivity of the process to external disturbances (the metal's chemistry) and difficulties in controlling and tuning the variables of the laser cutting process, which make it difficult to predict and model the cutting trajectory that the laser beam should follow. Even slight changes in the metal's chemistry can halt the laser cutting process, consequently calling for monitoring and adjustment by the operators.

A commercial solution to this problem has been devised under a Eureka project, E-1784 Eurolaser Publics, that employs a high-power laser cutting robot capable of cutting metals to 20mm thick in two and three dimensions. A key innovation in the process is to simulate the cut first, to guarantee accuracy. Sensors automatically recognize and correct any anomalies in the cutting process. This expands the use of lasers into highly automated high-volume production at much the same price as traditional laser cutting systems, while guaranteeing high cut quality and uninterrupted production.

Lead partner, Prima Industrie S.P.A. (www.primaindustrie.com) will market the laser system worldwide.

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