Something’s in the air

Farmington, CT-The first Intech North America was held in May at the TRUMPF Incorporated campus here. The Intech concept is a regular event at the parent company’s Ditzingen, Germany, facility. Intech stands for Innovative Technology, and the company combined informative product demonstrations with tutorial presentations geared to an audience of current and prospective customers for its line of press brakes, punches, and laser cutters. This event featured, among other equipment, four of TRUMPF’s laser systems: the TC L 3050 with a 6kW laser, the TC L 3040, a TC L 2520 with automated material handing, and a laser welding cell.

The guest speaker for this year was Connecticut Congresswoman Nancy Johnson, in whose district TRUMPF is located. A very vocal advocate for innovative technology, Ms. Johnson elaborated on the knowledge explosion and its effect on inventiveness. Although a strong advocate for bilateral free trade, she chastised the Chinese government for laxity in protecting intellectual property rights. Politically she adheres to the current administration’s polices related to business, specifically manufacturing, a position that resonated with an audience that was obviously in tune with this thinking, but left this writer questioning what “invisible” manufacturing polices she abstractly referred to.


High-pressure compressed or shop air can cut carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum as fast as high-presure nitrogen for less money.
Click here to enlarge image

The highlight of Intech and the product demonstrations was the highly effective compressed air cutting, a process that TRUMPF has focused on that may revolutionize and expand the laser cutting market. High-pressure compressed or shop air can cut carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum as fast as high-pressure nitrogen, but at a $4- to $8/hour savings.

Using the new 2kW TC L 2510 cutting system with a 5 bar air pressure, 1/8-inch stainless and carbon steel were cut at 100 IPM compared to 110 IPM using 14 bar of N2. For aluminum, the cutting rates are the same, 100 IPM using 5 bar air, but 110 IPM, 14 bar N2.

These results have been previously publicized for thin gauge cutting so the most dramatic demonstration was the impact of air cutting using a 4kW TC L 3040 to cut ¼-inch aluminum at 40 IPM with 7 bar air and 12 bar N2.

It was pointed out that to attain high-quality edges when cutting with O2 and N2, cut speed is usually reduced, but with high-pressure air a faster cut speed may be necessary to improve bottom edge results.

TRUMPF is continuing to push the thickness capability for this new technology. It cautions that the best results are attained at the thinner thicknesses, however cutting with air will reduce assist gas costs. - DAB


Building on pioneering spirit

Hanover, PA-Hanover, Pennsylvania, founded in 1730, has a history much richer in agriculture and Civil War lore than in manufacturing. That didn’t stop tool and die maker Fred Wilke from starting his own shop there in 1987. It didn’t keep him from investing in lasers in 1988 when virtually no one else within a 100-mile radius had one. It also hasn’t prevented his company, Wilke Enginuity, from continuing to invest in the latest laser technology as the business continues to expand.

Wilke Enginuity made its latest capital equipment investment, a Mitsubishi 4kW 3015 LVPLUS-40CFX laser with a pallet shuttle system, about six months ago to add flexible capacity for its diverse array of customers. “Being a job shop, we do most anything that comes in the door,” Wilke says. “Our customers include several Fortune 500 companies, lots of small to mid-size manufacturers, down to the mom-and-pop shops. We have several hundred regular accounts, plus those we may only hear from once a year.”


Mitsubishi’s power-piercing technology greatly reduces part cycle time.
Click here to enlarge image

Fred Wilke says that on the same day, the 18-person shop might cut a ¾-inch-thick plate and then a piece of 0.020-inch blue tempered spring steel. At the same time, another machine might see steel, then aluminum, then wood, then plastic. Most of it is short runs, so total automation isn’t a fit right now. But the company wanted a machine that could also handle the volume jobs unattended when they do come in. So far, the lights-out capabilities of the 3015 LVPLUS have pleased the company.

“[It] has given us the reliability to actually run unattended on those volume jobs,” Wilke says. “It sure was exciting to turn the lights out and go home. The machine actually turns itself off when it is done.”

Wilke has used the laser technology to branch into an entirely new market-decorative equine art. The lasers achieve great contours in the equestrian statues and sculptures Wilke designs. He can tell you this is the easiest-to-use laser he has ever owned, and it has helped his employees become more efficient in the process. “In reviewing finished jobs, profitability is at its best,” Wilke says of his recent results. “Without a doubt, it shows up on the bottom line.”

Since this news item was written, Wilke ordered another 3015 LVPLUS unit.


Contract welding

Perrysburg, OH-The newspaper ad read: “Wanted-laser welder; will train. Be your own boss in no time.” Eva Coch answered that ad in August 2004 and has operated DSI Laser here since August 2005. A licensed electrician since 1990, Coch was out of work due to a herniated disk in her back and was reevaluating her options. The newspaper ad was from DSI Laser Service, a German company that had recently opened its first location in the U.S. “They had decided on me before they met me,” says Coch, “because I had already been an electrician and have several licenses but I also speak German.”

Coch, now head of sales and service at DSI Laser, had not worked with a laser prior to taking this position. “The whole thing was new to me, but I’m a quick learner,” she reports. “I have a lot of qualifications and laser was a natural progression.” The primary focus of her facility is tool and die and mold welding applications using a Nd:YAG laser and 16X microscope. Coch has adapted the workstation to make it portable so that it can be taken to the client for on-site welding. “This seems to be my edge,” she says. “I have a Michigan and Toledo electrician’s license so that when I go to a customer’s premises I can get in their electrical panel and they’re not worried that I’m going to shut the whole place down.”

Coch has one other full-time employee and five part-time employees. “It’s an all-women shop, but that’s just by coincidence,” Coch says. She explains that the part-timers all work other jobs but see a future in laser welding as a trade. “There are people who don’t appreciate women in ‘non-traditional’ roles,” she notes, “but I’m treated very well by people in the industry.”

More important than being a women-run shop, Coch wants customers to focus on her service: “We strive for 100 percent customer satisfaction. We have a very high standard and that’s expected in this industry. Anything less is unacceptable.”

For more information, visit www.dsilaser.com. - LJB


ALAC 2006 emphasizes lasers as tools

Novi, Michigan-Advanced Laser Applications Conference (ALAC 2006) continues its annual meetings, with this year’s conference and exposition being held at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, Michigan, on September 18-21.

The emphasis is on the laser as a practical and economically viable tool, whether for high-volume industrial manufacturing or specialized applications in fields such as medicine. The main conference is preceded by a day of tutorials that deal with laser safety, the fundamentals of lasers and laser systems, and the significance of processing parameters.

One challenge facing anyone contemplating using a laser for materials processing is to determine just which laser is “right.” Some lasers, like the CO2 gas laser, have a long history of reliable operation in the field. However, while there have been impressive improvements in the overall performance of CO2 lasers over the years, there have also been significant developments in Nd:YAG lasers and the emergence of newer lasers. Some did not even exist a decade or two ago but are now commercial products.

A major portion of the plenary session-“Macro, Micro, and Nano - Transition to the Future”-is devoted to reviews of where these technologies are now and where they might be in the future. These include a discussion on advances in fiber lasers, an update on high-powered diode lasers, and a description of the technology of disk lasers, typical applications, and future trends.

The afternoon plenary session also includes several talks on high-power lasers, from the established CO2 to novel fiber lasers.

The technical papers at ALAC 2006 cover applications from 15 or more different industries. Although at least one session is devoted to automotive applications, such as welding, cutting, and brazing, there are also sessions on micromaching and microfabrication, and on industries as diverse as aerospace and medicine.

This conference is truly international in scope, with more than 20 different countries represented. The accompanying exposition has more than 50 exhibits from leading manufacturers of lasers, laser systems, and their components.

For further details, contact info@alac-iluc.org, phone 734-944-5850, or visit the website at www.alac-iluc.org.

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