Brian Gibson Brian Gibson
Applications Engineer

Autonomous Features and Advancements in Laser Cutting

August 30, 2022

1. Can you discuss some of the advancements in autonomous features developed for laser-beam cutting?

Recent enhancements to laser cutting machines include auto-focusing cutting heads that feature automatic nozzle changing and centering, and video monitoring—using a camera mounted inside the enclosure—not only during cutting but also after cutting. The camera projects an image of the remnant onto the table, allowing the operator to nest individual parts, as needed, directly onto the remnant. This can prove useful, say, if press brake operators turn one or more cut blanks into scrap and the laser operator needs to cut a few extra parts.

High-end laser cutting machines also can be outfitted with optics and cameras to inspect nozzle condition, and to check the condition of the lens and protective window.  And, metal formers can equip the machines with crash-recovery and avoidance mechanisms, along with sensors for cut and pierce monitoring.

2. What benefits do these features offer?

Running LBC machines with these features allows metal formers to no longer require an operator to perform simple maintenance tasks such as focusing or nozzle centering.  Issues with part tip-up also are automatically addressed using crash-recovery technology that allows the user, in the event of a crash, to program the machine to either reinitiate cutting from the point of the crash; move to the next part feature; or to just skip that part in the nest altogether and cut the next part.  This proves particularly useful in shops where an operator tends multiple machines or performs additional tasks away from the machine and may not immediately notice a crash and shutdown.

3. Where can these features benefit the end user? 

The benefits of these advancements are simple: They keep the machines running optimally without the need for operator intervention and enable the machine to continue cutting even if a problem arises, even when running lights out and unattended.

With automated nozzle inspection, for example, prior to starting the cutting sequence the machine moves the nozzle to a visual inspection station to check if the hole is round and look for any scuffs, scratches or gouges. If it sees any out-of-tolerance flaws it will change the nozzle out.   

We have machines with as many as 16 nozzle stations, so I tell the operators, if you’re using one particular nozzle, put two or three of them in the changer to ensure that the machine will start cutting even if a nozzle fails inspection.

Then, once the machine has a nozzle, it performs its automatic centering operation. What would normally require perhaps 15 to 20 min. of operator intervention now can occur automatically, avoiding unnecessary downtime.

4. Can these advancements make my company more productive?

When you can run your machine unattended, then the possibility of becoming more productive and profitable certainly is possible.  Limiting downtime is paramount, and these systems do a great job of increasing green-light on time. 

5. Describe new advancements in laser automation.

Laser-automation technology has advanced into the world of part picking and sorting, using robots or overhead gantry-style setups. These systems can remove parts efficiently and safely from the skeleton and sort them onto various pallets and bins without operator intervention, and allow shops to set up part kits and improve the efficiency of downstream manufacturing processes.

Industry-Related Terms: LASER, Point, Run, Scrap
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Amada North America, Inc

Technologies: Cutting


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