Installed at the Burgess Hill facility of Cirrus Laser in July 2014, the UK’s first Trumpf TruLaser Cell 3000 five-axis laser welding and cutting system is already offering important market advantages to this progressive subcontract supplier of sheet metal and plate processing services.
Capable of both cutting and welding on the same platform, the TruLaser Cell 3000 is run alongside the company’s existing TruLaser 5030 fiber flatbed laser. In fact, the same 3kW laser source is used to supply both machines and switching between the two could not be easier. There is no configuration or unplugging of leads – everything is software driven and can be activated at the push of a button.
“At present, finding new flatbed laser work in the market is quite tough, hence the move into five-axis cutting and welding,” explains the company’s Managing Director, David Connaway. “Ultimately the plan is to run the 5030 fiber during the day, and the Cell 3000 overnight. This will help us move towards 24 hour operations, 52 weeks of the year, whereas currently we only run 24 hours for around 30 weeks.”
The new TruLaser Cell 3000 combines the best features of its predecessors in terms of versatility, quality, productivity and dynamics in a single, highly practical solution. Trumpf’s 2 in 1 fiber comprises one core inside another, which means one core is optimised for cutting and the other for welding. Therefore there is no compromise to either process and the customer receives the best possible part in each case.
“The first job we welded was aluminium, which was a real success, and that job is coming around again in the next few weeks,” says Mr Connaway. “We have also welded steel and cut logos and text into aluminium buttons for an aerospace customer. We are now planning to fit a tailstock within the next few weeks that will enable us to complete rotary work.”
Mounted to the bottom of the Z-axis on the TruLaser Cell 3000 is a tilting process head that can rotate through an angle of ±135°. The head is synchronised with a rotary axis to give full 3D process capability. Furthermore, the rotary axis can be orientated horizontally or vertically to suit customer requirements.
Cirrus laser has fitted a Vac-Magic vacuum chuck system to the TruLaser Cell 3000 which had a base plate water jet cut and then machined on the Dugard ECO1000 vertical machining centre (VMC) in-house. The VMC also has the same vacuum chuck fitted and will manufacture jigs for the TruLaser Cell 3000 for welding applications; typically one jig in use welding and one jig being unloaded/loaded for the next welding operation.
“In the base of the TruLaser Cell 3000 there are accurately machined bars, and special pins supplied by Trumpf are used to locate jigs, manufactured on the VMC, into these bars,” explains Mr Connaway. “Using our co-ordinate measuring machine we’ve measured parts from one side of a jig to the other and found a maximum discrepancy of 40 microns, which is excellent. It means the jigs are clearly very repeatable and we can put them straight on the machine.”
Among the forthcoming jobs planned for the TruLaser Cell 3000 is the welding of diamond core drills used for producing holes in concrete. Cirrus Laser has produced a quarter million of these drills in the past and the acquisition of the TruLaser Cell 3000 will introduce new efficiencies to the process.
Another benefit for Cirrus Laser concerns parts which are presently TIG welded off-site and subsequently require cleaning-up before painting. Establishing a laser welding resource in-house not only saves on subcontract costs, but produces welded assemblies that can go straight to painting with minimal or no clean-up.
“The new machine adds value to components that were previously cut by Cirrus Laser but welded by third party suppliers,” says Mr Connaway. “In the future we hope to attract many new customers – the machine is ideal for trimming flash from automotive and aerospace parts, as well as adding apertures to existing pressings or assemblies.”
The high performance of the TruLaser Cell 3000 is attributable to the sophisticated laser control system and its adjustable beam forming optics, which enable the focus position and diameter to be modified as easily as the shutter speed and aperture on a digital camera. The focus position is adapted automatically to the thickness of the material being processed.
Furthermore, the focus diameter can be widened by up to four times the diameter of a fibre in the fibre optic cable. This reduces non-productive time significantly, especially during welding operations.
“There’s no doubt that the machine will be a strong business asset as we move forwards,” concludes Mr Connaway. “We are still finding our way with the transition from 2D to 3D programming and are learning more every day. Trumpf have provided good support. In fact, they are even sending a TruLaser Cell 3000 applications expert over from Germany who will be able to provide even more advice on how to maximise the opportunities available.”