The latest 3-D fiber laser systems offer fabricators new flexibility and capability for profitably growing their business. In the past, the available laser sources for materials processing were capable of cutting and welding or cutting and drilling, but not all three.
Pulsed fiber laser technology, however, has rapidly emerged as a component of a laser system that enables a 3-D laser system to do all three and much more. In fact, with a growing understanding of laser processes, the applications are extending beyond cutting, welding and drilling. With this flexibility, manufacturers can develop new processes on a laser system with the ability to quickly move these processes into production.
Until recently, multi-axis laser systems had capabilities and pricing that were beyond the reach of many fabricating shops. The Laserdyne 430 Versa, however, provides a balance of cost, flexibility and precision for laser cutting, welding, drilling, texturing and marking a range of materials. Most important to fabricators looking to expand their use of laser, the 430 Versa provides a cost-effective path into volume production. This is made possible by the inherent benefits of fiber lasers coupled with its effectively priced workstation.
Multi-axis laser processing
Designed for the laser processing needs of a variety of manufacturers, the Versa 430 provides an easy path to expanded production. Its air-cooled 3,000-W peak power fiber laser with third-generation BeamDirector answers fabricators’ need for production scenarios that currently involve a mix of low and high volume with the potential for higher volumes in the future.
The BeamDirector provides two axes of laser beam motion without part movement – especially important for the production of high-precision parts. New to the market, the 430 Versa provides precision through the use of the same system design and technology as Laserdyne systems now used in aerospace and medical device production around the world.
Precision comes not only from the performance and accuracy of the 430 Versa motion system, but also from advanced features that allow the system to effectively perform a full range of tasks. This is the result of integrated control of the laser, motion and process sensors. Precision is not only measured by the system’s accuracy and repeatability but also by the parts produced on the system.
Precision as well as high productivity result from tight integration and control of the laser, motion and process sensors. This is extremely important as evidenced by performance features built into the system, including the speed of the linear axes, its bi-directional accuracy and the rpms of the BeamDirector.
The system’s linear axes operate at speeds up to 800 ipm in the X, Y and Z axes (0 to 20 m per min.) with bi-directional accuracy of 0.0005 in. (12.7 micrometers). The BeamDirector operates at 0 to 90 rpm with bi-directional accuracy of 6 arc-seconds. The rotary axes accuracy translates to precision at the focal point of the laser beam of 0.0003 in. (7.6 micrometers) when processing with a 200-mm focal length lens. This accuracy is throughout the system’s 585-mm-by-408-mm-by-508-mm work envelope, making it ideal for laser processing a range of workpiece sizes as well as thick and thin metals and non-metals.
Another important feature is the 430 Versa’s small footprint. Despite its compact design, it has Laserdyne’s latest and most powerful system controller, the S94P. It includes the full complement of Laserdyne hardware and software features for integrated control of the laser, motion and process sensors. While the laser source is an important component of a 3-D laser system, the full capability of laser processing is only realized when the laser, motion and process sensors are fully integrated, a key feature of the 430 Versa.
Laserdyne’s SmartPierce feature creates a clean pierce point that is the same diameter as the cut width (right). Note the entry point diameter is controlled so that it is the same as the width of the cut. The area around the pierce point is also clean with no debris. By comparison, standard piercing (left) produces a starting hole that is significantly larger than the cut width with significant debris surrounding the start point. Both examples show piercing operations on 10.5-mm-thick (0.41-in.-thick) Haynes 617 material.
A circular welding process that has no start and end point (left) is preferable to older, standard methods. This standard welding practice (upper right) produces an indentation at the end of the weld (at the one o’clock position). This depression is a potential failure point in the weld. With Laserdyne’s SmartRamp, laser parameters are controlled in real time to produce welds without any such end point defects (lower right). Most important, SmartRamp works with any weld shape, including circular, rectangular or linear.
Smart processing features
Integral to the 430 Versa are Laserdyne’s latest advancements in processing based on high-speed, real-time control of the fiber laser. The SmartPierce and SmartRamp are two of several new advancements built into the system.
SmartPierce provides capability to drill small-diameter holes and produce clean pierce points for cutting with minimal spatter. Because the pierce point for cutting is the same diameter as the kerf in cutting, cuts can be produced on the edge of a fine feature.
SmartRamp avoids the depression in a closed laser weld that is typically observed at the end of the weld. Whereas the conventional approach has been to ramp laser power once the overlap has occurred, SmartRamp involves integrated control of a number of process parameters to produce a smoother transition of the weld surface.
In addition to cutting, pulsed fiber laser technology enables 3-D laser systems to also handle welding, drilling and much more.
Adding to the 430 Versa’s flexibility are the proven features of the Laserdyne S94P control, with a full complement of standard hardware and software features. These include Automatic Focus Control for capacitive part sensing, and as an option, the patented Optical Focus Control for sensing of non-conductive surfaces.
Both capacitive and optical methods of focus control precisely guide the motion system, maintaining critical focus position and following the contour of the part regardless of surface irregularities. The linear axes of the system react to sensing of the part surface, creating unlimited correction along the axis of the beam. The combination of part sensing and crash protection gives the system operator confidence to use the maximum processing speed possible without fear of damaging the system or the workpiece.
The crash protection feature is especially important to developers of new part designs with laser-based manufacturing processes. The 430 Versa features collision protection backed by a five-year, unlimited-hours warranty covering crash-related damage to the head.
The 430 Versa provides a cost-effective path into high-volume production.
Prototyping in volume production
The 430 Versa provides an ideal path to progressively higher production quantities, especially noticeable as new product designs are tested, modified where necessary, re-tested and produced in increasing quantities. The 430 Versa is based on a system platform that can be adapted to volume production using additional axes, focusing lens assemblies, process sensors, fixturing, automated work handling and laser sources as required to optimize production processes.
Overall, the 430 Versa provides new capability and versatility for new and established laser system users. Older, less capable equipment can be replaced with more flexible, more precise and more productive systems with the confidence that there is an economical path from prototype and low-volume to high-volume production.