Once the virtual prototype has been enhanced and the improvements
implemented, a tangible prototype can be produced to verify the design intent and to get to grips with the reality of the sheet metal product.
Laser Cutting Machine BasicsAuthor: Marc Anderes
Anyone who's ever watched an old science fiction B-movie will know that laser technology presents us with incredible technological possibilities. However, since the days of Hollywood doom rays and laser pistols lasers have been employed in more incredible ways than we ever thought possible. For example, we use them in a large number of devices such as scanners in the supermarket and many modern security systems. We also use them during boardroom presentations as "pointers", and we use them in the operating room as well. In fact, it is laser cutting that is one of the most common purposes for which lasers are now used. Materials that were once difficult to work with can now easily be cut - or in many cases burned - using lasers.
There are many different forms of laser cutting machine, with some running on gases and others using diodes to function. Some laser cutters have been developed specifically to cut non-melting materials (wood for example), and most are used for cutting plastics and metals. They can be categorized based solely on the power and wavelength of the beam produced. For instance, they can have names such as "fluid" lasers, and "semi conductor" lasers, yet they all depend on the same mechanical principals.
How exactly does laser cutting work? Because lasers are predominantly used in the cutting of heavy metals like aluminum and steel, the majority of laser cutting machines tend to melt rather than cut the metal that intersects with the beams path. This beam is created inside the machine where atoms are manipulated in an incredibly controlled way to produce a powerful light stream that can be absorbed into the metal. The result of this process is that there is an intense amount of heat at the end of that beam that will melt the metal.
Interestingly, most laser cutters can make very clean cuts with neat edges, but they might also make less refined cuts so as to allow other machinery to complete the required modifications. For example, if a laser cut metal component needs some sort of threading worked into its design, the software can actually program the laser to avoid hardening the edges of the cut.
Laser cutting outfits, like most other businesses, are continuously searching for ways to increase efficiency. For example, many companies will "nest" parts on their laser cutting machines, allowing them to produce several objects with just one use of the laser. Some companies even choose to automate the entire production process. This has numerous names, like ERP, MRP or CAM, but these are all separate systems that combine to make the manufacturing process more efficient and cost-effective. These programs could receive specifications on three or four different jobs using pieces that will be made from the same kind of metal. Rather than scheduling the cuts to be done one at a time, they can schedule all of the parts to be cut from just one sheet of metal and in one single procedure. This ensures that all of the metal is used saving time and reducing waste, thus refining business functions and reducing wear and tear on machinery.
Marc Anderes is the VP of Operations of Maloya Laser which specializes in Metal Manufacturing and Laser Cutting with state-of-the-art laser technologies, for aerospace, scientific, transportation, medical and machinery requirements.
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