Laser cutting is a thermal material removal process that utilizes a light beam. Materials are separated through the application of a laser beam onto the material surface. The laser beam causes the material to melt and separate. Gas flow then blows the melted material downwards and away from the kerf, resulting in a smooth and precise cut.
Laser cutting applications can be automated through the use of industrial robots. Most robotic laser cutting applications will involve integrating a six-axis robot with a laser cutting head to the robot wrist. The cutting head will use focusing optics to produce the light beam. Gas is supplied to the cutting head in order to remove the molten material that is produced during the cutting process. The most common cutting gases used in robotic laser cutting are oxygen and nitrogen. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic and the FANUC Arcmate 120ib are two industrial robots that are ideal for laser cutting applications.
There are few different types of laser cutting heads that can be integrated with industrial robots, but the most common laser generators are the Nd: YAG and the CO2 generators. The Nd: YAG generator supplies laser light to the cutting head through a fiber optic cable. The Nd: YAG laser is best for processes requiring very high power for boring or engraving. This laser type can be used on metals and ceramics.
The CO2 laser generates a light beam to the cutting head through a mechanical arrangement that consists of mirrors at each joint. These lasers require either a gas mix or a radio frequency to produce a current. CO2 lasers can be used for cutting, boring, and engraving. These laser heads can cut many industrial materials including titanium, stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum, plastic, wood, fabrics, and paper.
Laser cutting robots may be deployed in-line or as part of a robotic workcell. Robotic laser cutting workcells may feature one or more laser cutting robots, such as the Motoman MA2010, to fully optimize the material removal process for maximum efficiency, productivity, and safety. In addition to laser cutting, these robots can also be deployed for laser welding using the same laser and cutting head. Laser cutting robots can be used for simple shapes to more complex contours.
Laser cutting robots are used in many different industries including automotive, aerospace, appliance, and renewable energy industries. In the automotive industry manufacturers have deployed laser cutting robots for shaping car body panels. A ABB IRB 2400-16 is able to make the precise and consistent cuts needed for these panels with every cycle run. Its reliability and accuracy ensure all panels are cut uniformly and smoothly. In addition to body panels, laser cutting robots may be used for trimming interior panels, bumpers, and dashboard fabric.
Since robotic laser cutting is a non-contact material removal method it prevents the distortion of workpieces during the cutting process. Workpieces are further preserved since it requires only low heat. The prevention of part distortion and damage saves manufacturers from costly material waste and improves product quality. Laser cutting robots, such as the ABB IRB 2600 are able to cut complex shapes as well as 3D pieces with fast processing speeds, greatly reducing cycle times. These robots are a smart investment as they can significantly improve productivity and efficiency.
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