Will a robotic laser cutting system cut it? Find out what it can do before you decide
Although robotic laser cutting systems have advanced over the years, you should know exactly what one can do before you decide if it’s right for you. To find out whether you should choose robotics to laser-cut your parts, you first must consider several factors. Let us start it with what it is in a system.
Applications for Robotic Laser Cutting
Not all applications are suitable for robotic laser cutting. Some key factors to consider are:
- Some parts, such as draw stampings, have complex shapes that require the cutting head to achieve many different attitudes to cut specified features. These parts may have ideal robotic applications, provided enough access space exists for the cutting head.
High-volume flat-sheet cutting can be done more cost effectively by a dedicated 2D laser cutting machine. However, if both 2D and 3D cutting are required, a robotic laser cutting system can be suitable.
Access. Parts such as hydroformed tube sections used in automotive frames that have closed sections where holes can’t be punched because of limited access to the back of the material are another candidate for a robotic system.
Volume. Part volume should justify the cost of robotic laser cutting equipment and fixtures. Because a robot is flexible, it can cut a family of parts in the cell. Typically, part volumes should be 50,000 to 100,000 or more, depending on the number of features.
Thickness. For most robotic laser cutting applications, aluminum and steel parts should be 0.02 to 0.2 inch (0.5 to 5 millimeters) thick.
Cutting thickness capacity depends on laser performance and power; for example, aluminum requires more power than steel to cut the same thickness. As the power of the laser increases, so does the cost of the laser generator.
Material coatings also play a role in cutting. For instance, zinc-coated steel can reduce cutting speed, while anodized aluminum can improve cutting speed.
Fixtures. Part location must be repeatable and allow access to all areas which need cut. Some parts are difficult to locate because they lack defined features or gauge holes. Also, fixturing must not interfere with the cutting process, which often is an engineering challenge.