5 January 2015

New flexibility in laser cutting

New flexibility in laser cutting
Precitec exhibited at EuroBLECH 2014, the International Sheet Metal Working Technology Exhibition, Precitec presented its latest generation of cutting heads. The new compact "ProCutter" was developed specifically for laser-based fusion cutting of thin and medium material thicknesses in the 1 µm wavelength range. With an integrated sensor system, three different designs and individual configuration options, this new development offers optimized flexibility.

"Anyone using dynamic laser cutting machines will today need cutting heads that combine a lightweight, compact construction with flexibility and intelligent sensor technology. These are precisely the requirements Precitec has met with its ProCutter range. And enormous interest was shown at last year's EuroBLECH. Thanks to its flexibility, the ProCutter can be adapted incredibly well to various process, laser and machine requirements" explains Alexander Gatej, Product Manager at Precitec at the company's headquarters in Gaggenau.

Three versions with individual options
The ProCutter owes its high flexibility to a perfected concept which combines three different product versions with individually adjustable configurations. The cutting head is available as a straight or offset version (90° exit to the left or right-hand side) and can be optimally adapted to the machine concept concerned. In addition, users can choose between the ProCutter version with motorized focal position adjustment or the manual version which adjusts the focal position manually. The ProCutter Zoom version offers manufacturers who want to machine a broad range of sheet thicknesses the option of varying the focal position and the focal diameter independently of one another, and hence optimizing them for numerous materials. With an adjustable zoom of between 1.25x and 2.5x, the laser spot size directed at the workpiece can be adjusted by up to a factor of 2. As an additional option, Precitec offers a further configuration with the CutMonitor version. This allows users to monitor the piercing process and then start the cutting process precisely when the material has been completely penetrated. This way, cut interuptions are clearly detected and permit controlled fault management.

Performance confirmed in field tests
According to Alexander Gatej, the new generation of cutting heads performed very well when used in flat bed and pipe cutting machines for material thicknesses in the 1 µm wavelength range. In flame cutting, the ProCutter has been shown to machine greater material thicknesses without a problem and without compromising quality. "We have carried out extensive field tests with the ProCutter under industrial conditions", explains Gatej: "The results show that our combination of tried and proven concepts, innovative technologies and an optimized design offer precisely the performance and reliability that our customers worldwide need for their systems." When it comes to the production and assembly of the new cutting heads, Precitec sees high-quality optics and consistent quality control as paramount. "As a result, our customers benefit from an exceptional guiding of the laser beam and extremely high focal position stability, even in the areas of high laser power", emphasizes Alexander Gatej.

Efficient, controlled cutting operation
The product design of the ProCutter range permits material machining with laser power of up to 6 kW in the near-infrared range, with small installation space and low weight at the same time. The housings of the ProCutter are set apart by a lightweight, slender design and are optimized for high external axis accelerations of up to 4.5 g. The motorized focal position adjustment allows a high degree of automation, through unattenended, automatic retooling and piercing, for example. At the same time, the integrated distance sensors ensure accurate and drift-free distance measurements even at high accelerations and at all operating temperatures. The robust and dust-tight housing promotes a long service life and permits short maintenance cycles through the integrated safety glass cartridge.

Modern sensor systems and safety equipment
To make the ProCutter safe and easy to use and to detect malfunctions before a possible loss event, the machining head is provided with comprehensive protection and control elements. The beam path, for example, is protected completely dust and pressure tight by protective windows. Temperature and diffused light sensors check the state of the entire cutting head, as well as the condition of the individual components. In the cutting gas nozzle area, and also in the head of each ProCutter, pressure is automatically monitored. This allows possible leaks, such as after a safety glass change, to be registered and resolved without delay. All relevant operating states, including pressure, temperature, drive and contamination, are shown by the ProCutter via a highly-visible LED display on the outside of the housing.

Decentralized control via Bluetooth
Via an integrated Bluetooth interface, the current system state of the Precitec ProCutter can be controlled decentrally using a smartphone or tablet. At the same time, the sensor information can be individually visualized and the state of all monitored components in the cutting head is shown. The displays include the temperature of the focal or collimator lens, the cutting gas and purge air pressures, as well as information for the lens, the current configuration or the target and actual focal positions. Depending on user rights, either the sensor values can be read off or the threshold values can be set. This way, users are able to detect early possible fault sources remotely in good time and take the appropriate measures.

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