Comparing Oxyfuel and Laser Robotic Cutting
Oxyfuel cutting and laser cutting are both thermal material removal processes that can be automated by industrial robots. Oxyfuel and laser robotic cutting are two of the most common cutting applications used in manufacturing. Deciding which robotic cutting method to use will depend upon the specifics of your operation as each has its own strengths. Automating either of these applications with robots will guarantee improved quality, productivity, and efficiency.
Oxyfuel is one of the oldest cutting methods in manufacturing. It uses a combination of fuel and oxygen to create cuts and can be automated with welding robots. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic and the ABB IRB 4400/L30 would each be ideal selections for oxyfuel automation. In addition to the industrial robot, a torch, fuel tank, and oxygen tank will be required. During this process the articulated robot will apply its torch to the workpiece, in which a flame generated from the fuel heats the surface. As the workpiece heats up, slag develops. At this point the six axis robot will apply a jet of oxygen to push away the slag, creating a cut.
Laser cutting can be automated with laser welding robots using the same EOAT that is used for welding. The FANUC M-710ic/20L and the Motoman HP20D are two of the most well-known laser cutting robots. Instead of using a flame to heat workpieces, laser cutting robots use a powerful beam of optical light. For this process, a robot does not need to directly apply a laser cutter to a workpiece. This cutting method is a non-contact application, meaning laser cutting robots can separate materials from a distance by simply focusing the laser beam onto the cut location. As the robot projects the laser onto the workpiece, its surface will heat and melt. Gas is then applied to blow away the melted material, leaving behind a cut.
QualitySince both are thermal cutting applications, they each produce a heat affected zone which can impact quality. Laser cutting robots produce a smaller HAZ than oxyfuel robots, resulting in a higher quality cut edge. Edges cut from oxyfuel robot tend to be rougher and may require additional smoothing. Laser cutting robots also produce cut edges with less deviation than oxyfuel robots.
MaterialsOxyfuel cutting robots are limited when it comes to what materials they can cut. Oxyfuel robots can only be used to cut through metals, mainly carbon steels. One advantage of oxyfuel robots is they can cut through thick metal plates up to 2 inches.
Robotic laser cutting more flexible when it comes to materials. They can cut through a wide variety including metals, plastics, and wood. The caveats are material surfaces need to be in good condition and cannot exceed 1 inch in thickness. Thin materials of a ¼ inch in thickness are ideal for laser cutting robots.