Advances in process automation

May 19, 2021
The May 2021 issue has process automation for laser processing applications as its theme.
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It seems like only yesterday when, while attending a German fabrication machinery show, we were introduced to multikilowatt fiber laser sheet metal cutting. If I recall, this system exhibitor had a large sign stating the effect of what high-power fiber cutting can do and a video display showing nested, 3-in.-diameter holes in 6 mm mild steel being cut at almost blinding speed. At the time, I remember questioning how potential users were going to handle the large quantities of cut pieces and skeleton scrap, not to mention the continuous feeding of new sheets, all to match the very rapid cutting rates (time has clouded my memory on the exact speed of cut).

Over the succeeding years, fiber laser power quickly ramped up and today, 10 kW units are common and the ever-faster cut part, scrap, and sheet feed problem has also led to more and better process automation. Kinney Manufacturing, described in one of our features this month, has enjoyed the benefits of today’s high power high-speed laser cutting systems, theirs from Bystronic. Randy Kinney, company president, sums it up noting that process equipment automation allows them to pass on savings to customers and, better yet, to reinvest in additional automated solutions (see article).

Frequent Industrial Laser Solutions contributor Geoff Shannon (Coherent) states that over the years, laser technology has enabled product innovation and typical 5%+ annual growth in medical device processing, and is paying off for laser vendors. He selects welding, marking, cutting, and micromachining as driving laser technology growth. This doesn’t come free, as there is growing interest in systems that run and control the process, support hardware, and process data and analytics, providing automation, a “smartphone”-like software user interface, and ultimately more cost-effective solutions (see article). Perhaps you have noted the theme, process automation, in this month’s issue.

In the June issue, we will turn our interest to the industrial lasers market in India, as well as how laser powder-bed fusion systems are dominating the laser additive manufacturing landscape.

About the Author

David Belforte | Contributing Editor

David Belforte (1932-2023) was an internationally recognized authority on industrial laser materials processing and had been actively involved in this technology for more than 50 years. His consulting business, Belforte Associates, served clients interested in advanced manufacturing applications. David held degrees in Chemistry and Production Technology from Northeastern University (Boston, MA). As a researcher, he conducted basic studies in material synthesis for high-temperature applications and held increasingly important positions with companies involved with high-technology materials processing. He co-founded a company that introduced several firsts in advanced welding technology and equipment. David's career in lasers started with the commercialization of the first industrial solid-state laser and a compact CO2 laser for sheet-metal cutting. For several years, he led the development of very high power CO2 lasers for welding and surface treating applications. In addition to consulting, David was the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Industrial Laser Solutions magazine (1986-2022) and contributed to other laser publications, including Laser Focus World. He retired from Laser Focus World in late June 2022.

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