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Aerospace fabrication company upgrades to solid-state laser technology

Middleton Sheet Metal (MSM), an aerospace fabrication company based near Manchester, UK, has installed a Trumpf TruLaser Cell 7040 six-axis laser processing system to boost productivity. Featuring the latest solid-state Trumpf TruDisk 2kW laser, the cell has replaced a previous CO2-based Trumpf system. The investment has not only boosted productivity and quality at MSM, but introduced the potential for laser welding (as well as laser cutting) using the same system.

‘Many of the aerospace parts we produce are niche, value-added components made from high temperature alloys such as Inconel and titanium,’ said Tony Daniels, general manager of MSM. ‘These are difficult, time consuming materials to fabricate using conventional techniques, but the new TruLaser Cell 7040 cuts through them for fun. Furthermore, the multi-axis configuration means that the complex shapes which we produce on our hydroforming process are easy to accommodate.’

MSM specialises in many different aerospace parts, a number of which are safety critical, such as pipes, ducts, bleed air components, ozone converters, piccolo tubes, heat exchanger parts, exhausts and metallic tanks, as well as engine, nacelle and auxiliary power unit fabrications.

‘Besides improved speed and component integrity, the new TruLaser Cell 7040 provides bigger capacity with its 4 x 1.5 x 0.75m working area,’ said Daniels. ‘Because our batch sizes are small, typically 50-off or less, we also like the twin tables. This means we can either set-up the next job while one table is running, or maybe undertake some R&D. It means machine utilisation is much higher.’

Housed in a purpose-built extension at MSM, the TruLaser Cell 7040 offers high speed laser cutting at up to 40m/min along with <0.1mm positional accuracy and <0.03mm repeatability. The system also offers laser welding using Trumpf’s WeldLine functionality.

A key feature of the machine is the fact that the solid state laser beam is guided through a fibre cable, meaning it is faster and more efficient than the CO2 equivalent. The high power density laser beam combined with the high dynamics of the machine, results in minimal distortion and a very small heat affected zone of typically less than 0.01mm. This results in profiled components needing minimal cleaning of the edges. The machine also has the benefit of twin tables, which allows dual setup of different jobs, and a turntable for ease-of-profiling tube and exhaust components. The system’s laser welding head is quickly interchangeable with the cutting head.

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