Differences Between Laser and Ultrasonic Robotic Cutting
When it comes to cutting automation, robotic laser cutting has been the top choice for manufacturers. However, Ultrasonic cutting is a new robotic cutting application that has been gaining ground on traditional cutting automation methods. Understanding the differences between robotic laser cutting and robotic ultrasonic cutting will help you determine the best use cases for each and why the ultrasonic method is beginning to replace other processes.
MethodologyRobotic laser cutting involves integrating an industrial robot with a laser cutting head end-effector. Welding robots used for laser welding can also serve as laser cutting robots. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic can laser weld and then move directly to laser cutting using the same EOAT for complete efficiency. Cuts are made when the robot manipulator arm directs its laser cutter towards the workpiece. A laser beam is emitted from the robot’s EOAT onto the surface of the workpiece, melting and separating the material. A jet of gas is then directed onto the cut to blow away the melted material and to smooth the cut edges.
The methodology behind robotic ultrasonic cutting is much different than laser cutting applications. For this method industrial robots are integrated with an ultrasonic blade for the end-effector. Ultrasonic blades are different from regular blades since they use ultrasonic energy to generate cuts. As the articulated robot places the cutter onto the surface of the workpiece, an electric pulse sends microscopic vibrations through the blade. These vibrations create a powerful force that allows the six axis robot to make precise cuts with very little force. The ABB 2400-16 is ideal for ultrasonic cutting automation.
MaterialsLaser cutting robots are best for working with thin materials with an ideal thickness between 0.5 mm up to 5 mm. One advantage of robotic laser cutting is that it can be used to cut through a variety of material types, which is why it is so common in manufacturing. A Motoman HP20D can laser cut metal, plastic, PVC, textiles, and rubber.
Ultrasonic cutting robots can cut through a wide range of materials, making them comparable to the versatility of laser cutting robots. Common materials for ultrasonic cutting include thermoplastic resins, foam, food, paper, plastic, rubber, and textiles. Material thickness will depend upon the exact material type, but ultrasonic cutting robots can typically cut through materials up to 20 mm thick. This gives them a slight advantage over laser cutting robots.
CostsCosts to implement robotic laser cutting are higher than for robotic ultrasonic cutting. The equipment needed for laser cutting can be expensive and result in more costs upfront. However, the increased productivity, higher precision, and reduced material waste all result in operational savings over time.
Robotic ultrasonic cutting is more budget friendly as the equipment required is not as expensive. In addition, the blades used can be re-sharpened and reused several times, keeping maintenance and consumable costs low as well.
QualityBoth robotic cutting methods produce high-quality cuts that leave the original workpiece in its purist form. Laser cutting robots can cut through materials without making contact using low heat, preventing damage to the workpieces. However, smoke, noise, and fumes are common during the cutting process. A FANUC M710ic/20L can be used in extended reach scenarios needed for large workpieces.
Robotic ultrasonic cutting produces accurate cuts with no deformation since little pressure is applied. It is especially beneficial for creating high-quality cuts of softer materials. In addition, it is a cleaner cutting method as no fumes, noise, or debris is produced. The FANUC M10ia can provide the repeatability needed to produce high quality ultrasonic cuts.