Trumpf has launched a 2D laser cutting machine that it says ‘takes care of production largely autonomously’. The TruLaser Center 7030 was premiered at the sheet metal working trade fair Euroblech in Hanover at the end of October.
The machine – the result of two and a half years of development, with 100 employees working on the project – is able to speed throughput by 53 per cent and reduce processing costs by 30 per cent compared to standard 2D laser cutting systems, according to the company.
One of the big innovations is the machine’s hybrid drive system that moves the sheet and the cutting head simultaneously.
The list of automation built into the machine includes its ability to eject and sort small parts; dispose of residue and slag; sort and stack larger parts during machining; load itself with blank sheets; stack scrap skeletons; and the programming is also largely automatic.
Heinz-Jürgen Prokop, head of development and procurement in the Trumpf Machine Tools division, commented in a recent article for Laser Systems Europe: ‘More of our customers say it’s not necessary to cut faster; instead they say help us, for example, to get the parts out of the machine faster.’
He added in a statement: ‘We were gradually having to face more and more calls for help from our customers, asking us for solutions that would create a secure overall process. It turned out that this wasn’t possible with the machine concepts we already had, so a complete re-think was required.’
The laser technology in the TruLaser Center 7030 is fairly standard – a 6kW TruDisk solid-state laser. It is as productive as other high-end machines with flying optics, according to Trumpf, even though the sheet (maximum format of 3 x 1.5 metres), with its relatively high mass, is moved over a brush table in the Y direction. The sheet is moved across the short side of the table, while the cutting optic, which moves mainly in the X direction, has an additional axis in the Y direction with travel of ±55mm. This means that with smaller contours, only small masses need to be accelerated, enabling high dynamics.
On a hybrid machine, the support table for the sheet has to be divided beneath the path taken by the cutting head. This creates a gap through which the laser beam can escape downwards, but through which slag, slugs and cutting gas are also extracted.
To prevent any sheet contours from getting caught there and to enable a far more efficient exhaust system, the Trumpf developers invented the SmartGate: two slides that move synchronously with the cutting head. They can also change their distance from each other, to create different-sized gaps. This results in two major benefits: the sheet is securely supported during the cutting process, and small parts measuring up to 160 x 160mm can be simultaneously ejected downward.
Since the slides below form a counter-bearing parallel to the sheet, the workpieces cannot tilt over, meaning the machine doesn’t get jammed by tilting metal. Scrap and slag fall directly into the scrap cart, or are transported out of the machine on a conveyor belt. Good parts are intercepted by a retractable sorting flap, and the SortMaster Box Linear distributes them into a maximum of eight containers.
The machine has a total of 180 pins that can lift parts from the scrap skeleton from below. Each pin can lift a weight of up to 10kg, making the process far more powerful than today's suction solutions. At the same time, suction plates hold the part from above, ensuring precise linear guidance during lifting. As a result, there is little risk of parts tilting over into the kerf.
Even highly complex or very filigree geometries can be lifted safely from the sheet, without the need for any additional programming, Trumpf says. The strategies for removing and cutting the parts are coordinated in such a way that the machine continues to cut even while the parts are being transported away.
Programming the system is also straightforward, the company stated, with simulations running in the background taking into account the component geometry and material characteristics to optimise the processing job.
Trumpf has designed its TruLaser Center 7030 to address sheet metal fabricators from all sectors that cut sheets from 1-12mm thick at high capacity.
Lothar Weber, operations manager at H.P. Kaysser, one of the test customers for the TruLaser Center 7030, commented: ‘When you’ve been in the business for 30 years, you realise that the machines are getting faster all the time, but that not much has changed where autonomy and processing are concerned. With thin sheet, the machines are so fast that sometimes you need three employees to get the parts out of them quickly enough.’
As machines become ever faster, the focus shifts to interruptions and costly follow-up activities, all of which negatively impact overall productivity. These include having to wait until parts and skeletons have been sorted from the pallet, shutdowns caused by collisions involving parts tilting over, refinishing work on micro-joints, splashes on the undersides of parts caused by backlash from the support slats, and excessive programming work.
Weber added: ‘The work has changed enormously. We’re producing far smaller quantities per batch than we used to, we’re nesting the tiniest of parts, and we have far more production orders each day where we have to sort the parts from ergonomically impractical pallet changers.
‘Batch sizes have been getting smaller for years now, and this highly flexible system is just what we need.’