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Oxyfuel vs Ultrasonic Robotic Cutting Applications

Industrial robots have become commonplace in today’s manufacturing world. Their high repeatability, controlled movements, and intelligent operation make them ideal for automating most production related tasks. Cutting automation through articulated robots has seen increased growth with the advancements in robotic technology. Cutting robots improve accuracy, product quality, and worker safety. Oxyfuel and ultrasonic applications are two cutting processes that can be automated with industrial robots.

Oxyfuel Cutting

Oxyfuel cutting is one of the oldest cutting methods. It is a thermal material removal process that combines the use of fuel and oxygen. The ABB 4400/L30 and the FANUC Arcmate 120ic are two examples of industrial robots that can automate oxyfuel cutting. A cutting robot will be integrated with a torch for the EOAT. During this application the robot applies the torch to the cut location on the workpiece. The fuel generates a flame from the torch which heats and melts the cut location, creating slag. Once slag forms, the robot applies an oxygen jet to push the slag away revealing a cut.

Robotic oxyfuel cutting is mainly limited to metal workpieces. Carbon steels cut the best with oxyfuel robots. Oxyfuel robots are able to cut through thick metal plates that are up to two inches thick.

Ultrasonic Cutting

While oxyfuel cutting is one of the older robotic cutting applications, ultrasonic cutting is the newest. Even though it is new, it is gaining the attention of many robot users as it is quickly becoming the preferred method over traditional cutting applications. For robotic ultrasonic cutting, industrial robots are integrated with knife blades as their end-effector. Ultrasonic energy is used to generate enough power to cut cleanly through a variety of materials. As a six axis robot applies the blade to a workpiece, microscopic vibrations travel through the blade, creating a powerful force of electricity that allows for smooth cuts with very little effort. The Motoman HP20 is ideal for ultrasonic cutting automation.

Ultrasonic robots can cut through a variety of material types, which is one reason why they have become popular. Materials that are softer or have less resistance will have the best results with this method as vibrations prevent materials from sticking to the blade.

Key Differences

There are some key differences between these two robotic cutting methods that will determine their use. The first major difference is the type of materials they can cut. For those looking to cut thick metals, oxyfuel cutting with a FANUC M710ic/20L would be an option to go with. For those cutting soft materials such as foam or food, ultrasonic cutting with a Motoman HP20D would be best.

Another key difference between these applications is the cutting method itself. Oxyfuel robots use heat to separate materials. This will result in a heat affected zone which could distort workpieces. In addition, cycle times may be longer since workpieces need to be pre-heated before cutting can begin. Ultrasonic cutting uses blades with no pre-heating required or heat affected zone. With ultrasonic cutting there is less of a chance parts become distorted or that cycle times are delayed.

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