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Laser blanking system enables mass production without dies

Prestige SM Director

Remarkable progress has been seen in lightweighting of automotive parts because of expanded use of high-tensile-strength steel and aluminum. However, most of the cost for lightweighted parts is the raw material—especially for press-blanked parts, where a large amount of material is wasted because of scrap produced during the cutting-out process from sheets or coil. Also, for press blanking, a die is required for each part—therefore, die manufacturing, die change, and die storage are inevitable.

Minimizing waste and die-related cost not only leads to part-cost reduction, but also reduced energy and CO2 produced during material production—a challenge for the automotive industry, which uses a large amount of materials. Honda’s solution was to develop a die-less Intelligent Laser Blanking System (ILBS) for mass production.

Aim of ILBS

Press blanking with a die is a process that has been widely used for mass production in the automotive industry. Contrary to its high productivity, the drawback of using a die is its expensive manufacturing cost and the need for long-term storage space. Also, material yield rate of the blanked part is not optimal because of the restrictions of tool edge design caused by minimum curvature.

By applying laser blanking to automotive sheet metal production, no die is required and press hardening could be avoided, leading to higher design freedom, lower cost, and higher formability, which are the advantages to conventional press blanking. However, laser blanking is mostly used in low-volume prototyping because of its overwhelmingly slow process speed compared to press blanking.
Increasing laser blanking process speed is essential to maximize its advantage over press blanking. Honda utilizes ILBS for mass production by developing three key technologies: high-speed laser cutting, a high-acceleration H-gantry system, and a continuous-feed conveying system

Read more: Laser blanking system enables mass production without dies 

Sheet Metal Fabrication Machines Market Production, consumption and Quality overview 2017 to 2022

Prestige SM Director

Global Sheet Metal Fabrication Machines Market Research Report 2017 to 2022 presents an in-depth assessment of the Sheet Metal Fabrication Machines including enabling technologies, key trends, market drivers, challenges, standardization, regulatory landscape, deployment models, operator case studies, opportunities, future roadmap, value chain, ecosystem player profiles and strategies. The report also presents forecasts for Sheet Metal Fabrication Machines investments from 2017 till 2022.

This study answers several questions for stakeholders, primarily which market segments they should focus upon during the next five years to prioritize their efforts and investments. These stakeholders include Sheet Metal Fabrication Machines manufacturers such as Amada, TRUMPF, Dalian Machine Tool Group, DMG Mori, U.S. Industrial Machinery, Allied Machine & Engineering, Fair Friend Group, Doosan Infracore, FANUC, Haas Automation, Hardinge, Sandvik , etc.

Primary sources are mainly industry experts from core and related industries, and suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, service providers, and organizations related to all segments of the industry’s supply chain. The bottom-up approach was used to estimate the global market size of Sheet Metal Fabrication Machines based on end-use industry and region, in terms of value. With the data triangulation procedure and validation of data through primary interviews, the exact values of the overall parent market, and individual market sizes were determined and confirmed in this study.

Read more: Sheet Metal Fabrication Machines Market Production, consumption and Quality overview 2017 to 2022

US Laser Cutting Machine Market 2017-2021: Research Report with detailed analysis

Prestige SM Director

Laser Cutting Machine Market report provides an in-depth analysis with current and future trends to clarify the forthcoming investment in the market. US Laser Cutting Machine market report shares information regarding key drivers, challenges and trends with impact analysis. Quantitative analysis of the current market and estimations through 2017–2021 are provided to showcase the financial appetency of the Laser Cutting Machine industry.

Experts forecast US Laser Cutting Machine Market is expected to grow at 5.50% CAGR during the period 2017-2021.

Laser cutting machines have high-power lasers that can vaporize a range of materials from steel to plastics with high levels of precision. The versatility of these machines enables manufacturers to cut various types of materials to develop products and components that have complex geometry. Therefore, laser cutting machines provide an efficient and effective process in the industrial manufacturing sector

Laser Cutting Machine Market Report Covered:

  • Opportunity of the Laser Cutting Machine market
  • Market research methodology
  • Market landscape
  • Market segmentation by type
  • Geographical segmentation
  • Market Challenges
  • Market Trends
  • Laser Cutting Machine Market Vendors landscape
  • List of Exhibits

Read more: US Laser Cutting Machine Market 2017-2021: Research Report with detailed analysis

Laser Welding for Sheetmetal Fabricators

Prestige SM Director

Although laser welding is a well-established manufacturing solution, many sheetmetal fabricators have been hesitant to implement the process at their shop.

For many years they have missed out on the advantages laser welding has to offer and focused on improving other bottlenecks, for example, in laser cutting or bending. With these solutions in place and laser welding emerging as a more viable solution, many fabricators are beginning to recognize the laser welding process as the next logical step in enhancing their production capabilities.

Manufacturers benefit from any process that reduces cost per part—and laser welding has many advantages in this regard. Due to the low heat input of this process, distortion and discoloration can be avoided to completely eliminate the need for refinishing. As these postprocesses are extremely time consuming and expensive, the costs per part are significantly reduced.

Furthermore, laser welding speeds are considerably higher than conventional processes, which often greatly reduces processing times. This leads to free capacity on the machine, allowing the manufacturer to serve more customers.

Laser welding is not only about reducing costs, but also increasing functionality. A smooth surface with an extremely narrow welding geometry is beneficial for kitchen, furniture and other industries where visible weld seams are common. Due to the low heat input, manufacturers can avoid discoloration and achieve highly aesthetic parts directly from the machine. One can also achieve very strong seams for parts that require strength. The characteristic seam geometry of laser welding leads to full penetration of the parts while reducing the influence on the grain structure. Tensile strength tests show conventionally welded seams break in the welding seam, while laser welded parts break in the base material.

After the welding program is implemented and the parameters are set, a laser welding robot achieves consistent quality every time. It is also a very stable process and can generate watertight seams to eliminate the need for leak tests. Laser welding also offers unique seam geometries enabling the part designer to reduce weight, material and costs, such as replacing spot welds with overlap joints that are not only stronger, but also invisible from the other side.

Despite all the benefits of laser welding, including cost reduction in the long term, manufacturers are often discouraged by the initial investment costs. The LaserNetwork can drastically reduce this cost while increasing the laser source utilization by using a single laser for up to four machines. This lowers the entry barrier of implementing laser welding into production. Once the company has enough orders and high machine utilization, a second laser source can be retrofitted.

Read more: Laser Welding for Sheetmetal Fabricators 

The cutting edge of laser cladding technology

Prestige SM Director

Since its establishment in 1993 (initially as HVOF Australia Pty Ltd), LaserBond has concentrated on research, development, and implementation of advanced surface-engineering techniques to dramatically reduce the wear rates, maintenance, and operating costs of production-vital components. It manufactures, repairs, reclaims, and enhances the performance of high-wear-critical metal components in a range of capital-intensive industries—particularly mining, where equipment constantly operates in a variety of highly abrasive and uncommon wear conditions.

With a staff of 60, the company serves a variety of industries in addition to mining, including metal refining and smelting; power generation; road and rail transport; aerospace and gas turbines; shipping; valves and fluid handling; and oilfield drilling and exploration.

Laser deposition development

A precursor to LaserBond’s recent growth was its development of a patented laser deposition process. This research work, led by founder and executive director Greg Hooper, was directed towards enabling high deposition rates of typically hard-phase metallurgy, with minimal debilitating impact on the substrate and overlay.

“Our method enables the laser deposition of metallic or metal matrix composite (MMC) layers with a full metallurgical bond by utilizing an accurately focused, infinitely controllable, high-power laser beam supported in a multi-axis robot and integrated with a separate multi-axis workpiece platform that enables precise control of heat transfer into base material and the deposited layer,” Hooper explains. “Our integration enables the repair of temperature-sensitive components and materials, such as hardened shafts and gears, with minimal risk of distortion or other undesirable heat effects that undermine the integrity of the component or in-service performance. This method enables the deposition of MMC overlays with significantly smaller hard-phase particles, with minimal heat effects. The concentration of hard phases can be significantly increased and dramatically improved distribution achieved with the new method. Therefore, the mean free path between the WC (tungsten carbide) particles is smaller and wear resistance is considerably improved.”

Read more: The cutting edge of laser cladding technology

Dynamic Beam Shaping Improves Laser Cutting of Thick Steel Plates

Prestige SM Director

Even though thick plate cutting has a subsidiary market share in laser material processing, it is still a necessary feature for state-of-the-art machines. In recent years, research has concentrated on various quality issues, especially dross attachment and surface appearance, that compromise productivity. This has resulted in notable improvements.

About $1.1 billion was allotted to research and development of macro laser metal cutting in 20161. Roughly 20 percent of this research addressed sheet thicknesses above 4 mm. Ongoing market monitoring points to a persistent industrial interest in this sector, because thick plate performance is a benchmark of laser cutting machines. CO2 laser cutting remains the established method for industry; every laser cut is compared with CO2

However, in recent years the market share of solid-state laser cutting devices has increased by a compounded annual growth rate of more than 10 percent2. Solid-state lasers offer various advantages, such as higher efficiency, easier handling and faster feed rate for thin sheets. However, in the case of thick plates, they have not achieved acceptable cut quality, nor even a higher feed rate in comparison to CO2 cutting.

A basic approach to achieve optimal results for solid-state laser cutting is to adjust the cut kerf dimensions for each application. (Of course, these must take into account influencing factors such as energy deposition and heat conduction.) In the case of thick plates, an appropriate kerf width is required to maintain melt ejection.

Static beam shaping is one common method for adjusting cut kerf dimensions, but the result is not always sufficient. With this technique, various optical elements can be utilized to modify the laser beam for spot size, beam geometry, amount of foci, polarization state and other factors. The result is an optical setup that suits a specific cutting task. This is advantageous for specialized tasks such as serial production. But static beam shaping cannot adequately accomplish the frequently varying operations that constitute the daily business of industry.

In addition, with solid-state laser cutting of thick plates, mechanical post-treatment typically is needed to remove dross. Thus, an additional production step is necessary that requires manpower and machinery. Static beam shaping can overcome this challenge by using laser sources with higher output power. Although this increases productivity, it also increases investment and running charges.

Innovative laser cutting

Fraunhofer IWS is pursuing dynamic beam shaping (DBS) as a solution to the challenge of laser beam cutting of thick metal plates. It addresses high productivity, improved quality and efficiency in combination with standard equipment. The technology is considered an add-on to the conventional process.

Read more: Dynamic Beam Shaping Improves Laser Cutting of Thick Steel Plates 

Jenoptik Automotive Opens New Michigan Technology Campus

Prestige SM Director

In May, Jenoptik Automotive in Rochester Hills, Michigan, moved across the street from its former U.S. headquarters to a new 100,000-square-foot facility on a 16-acre campus that offers room for expected future expansion to 150,000 square feet. This operation will be devoted to production, testing and customer training for laser cutting systems and automated gaging solutions for North American automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier suppliers.

The company says North America is one of Jenoptik’s strategic target markets in which it envisions above-average growth in the coming years. In 2016, Jenoptik generated approximately 20 percent of group revenue, or 135 million euros in the Americas. In total, Jenoptik employs about 270 staff in the United States.

Its metrology offerings include precision contact and non-contact production metrology for a wide range of measurement tasks, including the pneumatic, tactile and optical testing of workpiece roughness, contour and form, as well as workpiece dimensional measurement integrated both into the production process and in the metrology lab.

Its 3D-laser-processing systems and machines can be integrated into production lines for processing plastics, metals and leather. In fact, a large portion of the facility will be dedicated to customer testing and training of application-specific, automated laser machining projects. According to Andreas Blind, vice president of sales, services and marketing, “In our expanded laser application center, we will be able to demonstrate and perform feasibility studies, application-specific competencies, as well as cutting and welding services directly on-site.” Common applications include the cutting of plastic bumper facia and scoring of the back of dashboards to ensure proper airbag deployment. Mr. Blind says laser-machining testing capability and capacity are important due to the number of new automotive OEM brands and new materials being used.

Read more:  Jenoptik Automotive Opens New Michigan Technology Campus 

Laser Welding for Sheetmetal Fabricators

Prestige SM Director

Although laser welding is a well-established manufacturing solution, many sheetmetal fabricators have been hesitant to implement the process at their shop.

For many years they have missed out on the advantages laser welding has to offer and focused on improving other bottlenecks, for example, in laser cutting or bending. With these solutions in place and laser welding emerging as a more viable solution, many fabricators are beginning to recognize the laser welding process as the next logical step in enhancing their production capabilities.

Manufacturers benefit from any process that reduces cost per part—and laser welding has many advantages in this regard. Due to the low heat input of this process, distortion and discoloration can be avoided to completely eliminate the need for refinishing. As these postprocesses are extremely time consuming and expensive, the costs per part are significantly reduced. Furthermore, laser welding speeds are considerably higher than conventional processes, which often greatly reduces processing times. This leads to free capacity on the machine, allowing the manufacturer to serve more customers.

Laser welding is not only about reducing costs, but also increasing functionality. A smooth surface with an extremely narrow welding geometry is beneficial for kitchen, furniture and other industries where visible weld seams are common. Due to the low heat input, manufacturers can avoid discoloration and achieve highly aesthetic parts directly from the machine. One can also achieve very strong seams for parts that require strength. The characteristic seam geometry of laser welding leads to full penetration of the parts while reducing the influence on the grain structure. Tensile strength tests show conventionally welded seams break in the welding seam, while laser welded parts break in the base material.

After the welding program is implemented and the parameters are set, a laser welding robot achieves consistent quality every time. It is also a very stable process and can generate watertight seams to eliminate the need for leak tests. Laser welding also offers unique seam geometries enabling the part designer to reduce weight, material and costs, such as replacing spot welds with overlap joints that are not only stronger, but also invisible from the other side.

Read more: Laser Welding for Sheetmetal Fabricators 

Following DFM Guidelines for Working with Sheet Metal

Prestige SM Director

Engineers designing sheet-metal enclosures and assemblies often end up redesigning them so they can be manufactured. In fact, research suggests that manufacturers spend 30% to 50% of their time fixing errors and almost 24% of those errors are related to manufacturability. The reason behind these preventable engineering errors is usually the wide gap between how sheet-metal parts are designed in CAD systems and how they are actually fabricated on the shop floor. Many engineers developing 3D models for sheet-metal products are unaware of the fabrication tools used to form the part or product, and instead design models for an “ideal” world.

In the ideal world, everything is perfect Tolerances and allowances are exact, and there’s no need to add any feature or change the design to accommodate the shop floor or real-world material behavior. But the truth is, numerous factors including chamfers at the edges, collars near hole, and spaces between drilled holes matter in the sheet metal world.

This gap between the ideal and real-world sheet-metal design usually proves costly. The overflowing engineering change orders (ECOs), fixing the design errors, and sending revisions back to the shop floor turns into a vicious cycle, one that is often difficult to break.

Read more: Following DFM Guidelines for Working with Sheet Metal 

Freedom Machine Tool Announces New CNC Machine Design

Prestige SM Director

Diversified Machine Systems (DMS), headquartered in Colorado, manufactures the highest quality 5 axis and 3 axis CNC machines in the industry. DMS has recently created a new design in their Freedom Machine Tool product line. This new machine, the FMT Plus, provides a greater degree of versatility without sacrificing rigidity. This FMT Plus machine offers a Z axis of up to 15 inches, an increase from its previous top-line FMT router by eight inches. This enables customers to route materials having greater levels of height and thicknesses such as plastic, dense wood and foam composites.

The FMT Plus is comprised of a fully stress-relieved, laser-calibrated steel frame. The frame is then outfitted with 30mm motion rails on both the X and Y axis’s. These are driven by 30mm and 40mm ball-screw assemblies, respectively. This precision engineering ensures a durable, long-lasting, high-quality routing machine.

Read more: Freedom Machine Tool Announces New CNC Machine Design 

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2017 Prestige Metal Products, Inc.