Laser cuts time and costs for welders

15th September 2017 By: Nica Schreuder - Journalist

The link between welding, cutting and grinding is an intricate one, as refining and perfecting one aspect of these three processes will greatly enhance the proficiency of all of them, says cutting consumables and capital equipment supplier First Cut.

Thus, First Cut has optimised the link between cutting and welding by providing consumers with the automated ByStar fibre 10 kW laser, manufactured by Swiss-based sheet processing systems provider Bystronic.

“Welders greatly benefit from the ByStar laser, owing to its precision. The better and cleaner you can cut something, the closer you get to an ideal welding preparation. Welders are able to eliminate processes in their projects due to proper material cutting,” says First Cut MD Andrew Poole.

He adds that eliminating processes such as time-consuming rework results in efficient and cost-effective welding.

Poole explains that Bystronic’s main objectives when creating the ByStar laser were to lower costs per part (CPP) and costs per cut, reduce lead times and downtime, as well as increase overall productivity, which will inevitably lead to increased profitability.

The ByStar is up to five times faster than a 4 kW carbon dioxide laser. A job that typically takes 45 min, such as cutting a 6 mm sheet of metal, can reportedly be reduced to ten minutes, with the CPP of the laser reduced by 70%.

This speed is achieved using Bystronic’s combined linear motors, which enable the cutting head to move exceptionally fast, with a new triangular bridge frame design that positions the laser accurately at high speed. In addition, the bridge frame weighs 25% less than earlier designs, allowing it to travel significantly faster than expected. The frame also has 60% more torsional rigidity, resulting in greater accuracy and better edge quality, owing to almost no frame distortion.

Bystronic’s eye detection technology identifies the edge of a metal sheet in six seconds, allowing the laser to cut right up to the edge of the sheet with great accuracy. The ByStar also has a redesigned pallet shuttle, ensuring enhanced operation. The pallet and eye detection technology enables the customer to add about one hour of productivity to every eight-hour shift, significantly increasing productivity.

Moreover, Poole notes that two factors that fabricators often struggle with are speed and quality, as faster cutting often compromises the quality of the cut. He explains that the advantages of fibre laser technology are its high tolerances, speed and accuracy. This is essential for a fabricator who welds.

He adds that another benefit of the ByStar fibre laser is the significant downstream value, owing to the accuracy of the laser’s cutting.

To harness ByStar’s power, Bystronic emphasises enhanced support automation as essential. The company offers standardised and customised automation of materials handling and sorting to fully support increased productivity.

In July, Engineering News reported that the ByStar fibre laser could also communicate with other automated machines and manufacturers through its smartphone-type interface. This is one of many aspects of the laser that can be controlled, which leads to efficient workflow. The laser’s ByVision cutting screen enables fabricators to see everything inside the machine, which, coupled with the laser’s ability to collect operational data, gives the customer a macro picture of the laser’s workflow.

“Welding, cutting and grinding need to move through automation together, as they are so interconnected. If one part of these three becomes automated, it motivates the others to follow suit.”

Poole says that, despite some initial resistance in local industry to the adoption or uptake of automation, since First Cut began stocking the ByStar laser, repeat sales have occurred at a “rapid pace”.

He adds that, although the initial capital investment is significant, the return in investment is “too good to pass up for many businesses”. First Cut’s customers have also come to rely on the automation of the laser, resulting in their sometimes buying a second ByStar fibre laser, which means an increase in productivity and, therefore, profitability.

Poole says it is encouraging that many companies in South Africa are willing to risk investing in an automated machine.

“Automation will create other employment opportunities for welders and artisans, owing to the direct result of automation increasing productivity, which, in turn, increases sustainable job creation. “More people will be required to keep up with increased productivity, whether you need more people in driving, packaging or logistics,” he concludes.