Micro-machining with UV light, Cutting thin to thick, Photomachining expands, Don't blow a gasket, The shape of the future, Convergent Prima to build new facility, MORE...

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Micro-machining with UV light
Dortmund, Germany—Excimer lasers are an industrial tool for the fast and precise micro-machining of micro-components because they achieve high precision in the sub-micron range and, in addition, work forceless and without mechanical stress on the substrate. Their fast repetition rate (1 kHz) permits serial mass production. Excimer lasers can easily handle common plastics such as PEEK, PC, POM, polyimide or PMMA and, with a few restrictions, metals, glass or ceramics.

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Excimer laser-drilled nozzles.
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Bartels Mikrotechnik, a leading company in micro-systems technology, uses the ExciStar S from TuiLaser AG (Gemering, Germany) for some product applications. For example, accurate stripping of micro-wires (25 µm to 100 µm) is achieved with the excimer laser. In this application a major advantage is the non-thermal ablation of the isolating material (such as polyurethane, polyimide and others), because the plastic material does not melt materials used for isolation.

In medical device technology the CryoPen freezes tissue for cryo therapy without destroying the fiber structure. The decisive part of the CryoPen is a micro-nozzle made of PEEK. The excimer laser drills a hole of 30 µm in diameter into the tip. Compressed laughing gas (N2O) cools down to -89° C. Bartels Mikrotechnik manufactures the CryoPen for H&O Equipments.

Capillary electophoresis is a strong separation tool for biotechnical applications. A "lab-on-a-chip" is made of polycarbonate with channels of 50 µm width and depths ranging from 20 to 50 µm created with an excimer laser.

For more information on these applications contact TuiLaser AG at Tel. +49 (0) 89-89407-170 or www.tuilaser.com.

Cutting thin to thick
Sunrise, FL—Lasertron is typical of a growing number of laser job shops that know how to operate in a very competitive marketplace. To remain successful in an environment that demands first-class facilities, rapid turnaround capabilities and responsiveness to the diverse cutting requirements of it's customers, Lasertron has been a progressive user of the latest in laser and system technology.

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Lasertron installs the first W.A.Whitney PlateLASER.
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Recently, company President Gary Geller was looking for a new cutting system that would meet the above criteria for both production and prototype orders. Customers often ask the company to laser cut a variety of metals and thicknesses from 22-gauge carbon steel to 11/4 inch stainless steel. So laser power, cutting bed size and cutting speed were factors in his buying decision.

Geller purchased a PlateLASER from W.A.Whitney (Rockford, IL), a new cutting system that features a 6 kW CO2 laser (PRC), a cutting capacity to 80 inches by 160 inches, dual shuttle tables and Siemens Sinumerik 840D control package.

As Geller says, "When you're piercing such a wide variety of material and thicknesses, you encounter myriad pierce point speeds and cutting conditions. The adjustments we need to make on the fly are pretty incredible sometimes and the PlateLASER control handles these easily. We'll often go at 400 ipm on a straight cut, then ramp down to 75 ipm for a 0.050-inch diameter hole with no problem. Likewise the holes in thick and especially stainless materials were always problematic for our older laser, which had less power and motion control."

Geller adds, "We added the PlateLASER to our shop floor specifically to cut thick plate and large parts, which it does quite well. But, it also consistently cuts thin-gauge parts we formerly processed on lower-powered lasers. Today we use this machine for everything thicker than 1/4-inch carbon or 3/16-inch stainless. Everything."

Whitney says that new doors are opening for them every day because of this machine. Geller agrees, saying he had the same idea and has been most satisfied.

Photomachining expands
Pelham, NH—Nobody will accuse CEO Ron Schaeffer of lack of vision. His five-year-old company, Photomachining Inc., provides micro-machining services and delivers laser-based manufacturing systems. Schaefer tells ILS that he expects the market to turn around shortly and consequently he wants Photomachining to be positioned to respond to business expansion.

Therefore the company has added 50 percent more floor space, which will be dedicated to systems integration, assembly and test. Additionally the company has expanded the job shop area, allowing it to bring in new laser tools. An analytical center will include a high-resolution SEM and z-axis interferometric microscope in addition to the current optical tools. —DAB

Don't blow a gasket
Sun Valley, CA—The J. Miller company specializes in die cutting and gasket fabricating using the first Haas ZM-100 laser cutting system, which is said to be faster and more accurate than other lasers on the shop floor. This system is based on the Haas Automation Inc. Mini Mill and uses a 100-watt Diamond, sealed CO2 laser from Coherent Inc. (Santa Clara, CA).

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"Anything that can be die-cut can be done on the laser," says Dennis Miller, Haas president. He added that this system saves hours of production time by eliminating the need to make a tool to cut a complicated gasket. For example die-cutting caused a Teflon ring to stretch while trying to get it out of the die. With the laser the ring is cut in a minute, to specification and to the tolerance wanted.

Prior to obtaining the machine, Miller laser cut only non-metal gasket materials. Now the company can also cut metals, up to 1/16 in. thick. This leads to the ability to produce shims and spacers.

While it is still experimenting with the Haas system, Dennis Miller says that the user-friendly control provides advantages such as single block feed and programming of sub-routines at the control. This allows, for example, the option to stop and change something to maximize material yield.

Another process the Haas laser has improved is engraving. The company is using it to show its clients how the laser can replace silk screening by laser marking anodized aluminum. Miller's only concern, machine capacity, has been answered by Haas who has already designed a new 500-watt unit with 40 in. X 20 in. X 25 in. travel.

Learn more about the Haas laser cutters by accessing www.haascnc.com. —DAB

The shape of the future
Hamilton, OH—Say what you will, the Italians know how to do things with flair. Case in point the new L2 Lightning laser cutting system, introduced into North America at a June open house. The L2, which ILS reported on when it was introduced art Euro Blech in 2000, is what can best be described as Italian modern.

Company CEO Vicente Undurraga makes no apologies for his company's emphasis on design. Prior to bringing the laser cutter to the U.S. market (the company has been selling punching and bending systems here for several years) he spent time meeting with key customers and manufacturing industry leaders, asking them what trends they saw developing in metal fabrication. He got the expected answers; increased outsourcing, productivity improvement and increased use of stainless steel. And he learned that prospective customers were showing more interest in equipment design.

Hence the L2, designed in Italy by the highly respected design firm Pininfarina, known for its work with automobiles. But the L2 is more than just a pretty face. It is a high-dynamic system that offers exceptional productivity and precision. Linear motor drives produce the high cutting speeds and a choice of Rofin Sinar (Plymouth, MI) slab CO2 lasers at 2.5 or 3 kW pushes sheet metal through the machine at a clip that challenges the company's robot load/unload capability.

Salvagnini prides itself on engineering and automation and the L2 is a good example of the company's forward thinking. Salvagnini America President Eugenio Bassan says the target market for this system is the job shop or manufacturers that want to automate their metal cutting processes. The company can offer a tailored solution to most customer cutting needs.

The heart of the L2 is the Salvagnini-developed control system, which offers all the functions of other controls plus special capability, developed by the company to specifically meet laser cutting requirements.

For information on the L2 Lightning contact the company at Tel. (513) 874-8284 or access its Website www.salvagnini.com. —DAB

Convergent Prima to build new facility
Sturbridge, MA—The start of a new year will find Convergent Prima housed in a new 68,000-square-foot facility in Chicopee, MA. The company is ending a 30-year history in Sturbridge, where it had its roots as an American Optical spin-off named Laser Inc.

Over the intervening years, through a succession of name changes, from Coherent General to the current Convergent Prima, the company was a fixture in this Central Massachusetts town.

Now with the consolidation of all its North American operation under one roof, Prima Industries has agreed to be the first occupant of a new industrial park in Chicopee, which is located about 25 miles further up the Massachusetts turnpike. This location brings the company within 25 miles of the Hartford/Springfield airport.

At the new facility will be the Convergent Prima operation, which is now in Sturbridge, and the advanced sheet metal processing business of Prima, which is now located in Minnesota.—DAB

Rapid prototyping services
Atlanta, GA—Engineers who need accurate and professionally refined prototype parts can avail themselves of a new service provided by Motorola Product Testing Services. Using stereolithography, a process that employs a laser to solidify powdered polymers to build a model from a CAD program, designers may be able to shorten overall product development cycle time.

Motorola Product Testing Service, part of Motorola Energy Systems Group (ESG), was formed to provide third-party product testing and technical services to designers and global manufacturers of consumer electronics, industrial and information technology equipment. In addition to the rapid prototyping services, it offers environmental stress and reliability, and performance testing as well as consulting and research services.

Access the company Website, www.motorola.com/ies/esg, for more information on these services.

More efficiency in solar technology
Starnberg, Germany—The precision and speed of laser ablation is key to its use in the production of solar cells. Diode-pumped solid-state lasers are used to produce the thin conductor strips on the front and rear side of polycrystalline silicon solar cells.

Laserscan scribes trenches to isolate the doped front and back surfaces of the cell. They are also used to selectively ablate integrated circuitry on the thin layers of vapor deposited material. And finally the finished hard and brittle silicon material can be laser cut.

Because of the absorption characteristics of silicon, frequency-shifted Nd:Vanadate lasers with output powers from 1 to 100 watts, pulse rates up to 100 Hz and pulsewidths between six and several hundred nanoseconds are used. Lasers such as the StarShape and PowerLine from Rofin/Baasel Laseretech are popular for the above applications. Learn more about them at www.rofin.com. —DAB

Largest laser cutting system order
Kitchener, Ontario—Budd Canada has completed the second phase of a hydroforming operation here. Rumble Laser Systems (Mississauga, Ont.) assumed system integration responsibility for commissioning of a system that utilized 12 laser cells to cut various critical, functional and paint drain holes in the hydroformed tubes that are used to make up the front and rear rails of a stiff frame that General Motors has developed for the 350 and 360 line of SUV vehicles. The 350 standard frame line was started more than two years ago. The latest installation, completed in January was for the 360-stretched frame program, which includes the Trailblazer, Bravada and Envoy vehicles.

The total installation, set up to serve four Schuler (Canton, MI) hydroforming presses, involves 48, 1kW Nd:YAG lasers, supplied by Trumpf (Plymouth, MI), integrated into 12 laser cells each served by four Fanuc Robotics (Rochester Hills, MI) robots and Ferris wheel positioners. These cells also accomplish an end trimming operation to remove the development end of each tube. Lasers are located in a remote air-conditioned cleanroom with power delivered via fibers to Precitec (Hudson, MI) cutting heads.

This program produced several firsts for Budd, which has culminated in the industry's first fully hydroformed frame, which has established a benchmark for structural rigidity and strength. For this project Rumble pioneered unique welding and process solutions that will meet the forthcoming manufacturing requirements in the automotive sector.

For more information on these developments contact Randy Paura at Rumble at Tel. (905) 567-2000 or visit the company website at www.rumble.com.

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