The world’s largest machine tool manufacturer, Amada, will preview its brand new 4kW fibre optic laser cutter at the EuroBLECH 2010 sheet metalworking technology exhibition taking place in Hanover on 26-30 October. This eagerly anticipated, next-generation machine claims to be the first fibre laser oscillator with output as high as 4kW.
Named FOL-F, the machine also offers linear drives and high speed cutting head to provide the world’s fastest processing speeds, along with new levels of energy saving features and machine intelligence. The first models are expected to be available for delivery in June 2011.
Light work of tough materials
Among a host of additional benefits, the FOL-F fibre laser has design features that allow it to process materials that are seen as difficult to work using conventional CO2 laser technology, such as copper, brass, titanium and non-metals. The machine’s innovative software will even automatically configure the optimum processing conditions for these and all other materials.
Speed is the key attribute of Amada’s FOL-F laser. A high grade laser beam with long focal depth at a wavelength of 1µm allows ultra high processing speeds – up to three times faster on stainless steel and aluminium sheet in comparison with CO2. Stainless steel sheet of 1mm thickness can be cut at an impressive 60m/min, for example.
The 4kW milestone has been achieved using an innovative method of amplifying light in a fibre. Light generated by laser diodes is conducted into a fibre with an outer diameter of just 200µm. A total of 90, 10W laser diodes are grouped together into a module, with seven modules stacked together to generate 4kW of power. This gives the FOL-F the ability to process thicker materials at high quality than other non CO2 Lasers. The machine has been developed with the use of telecommunications-grade diode and fibre laser technology supplied by JDSU, a US-based specialist in optical networking products for high-tech applications.
An intensive development programme has preceded the release of the FOL-F. In fact, Amada has been evaluating laser cutting technology based on commercially produced fibre laser oscillators since 2005, investing some ¥1.5 billion in the process...and the results are clear to see. For example, the machine’s ‘green’ credentials are eye-catching to say the least, and include: the elimination of machine warm-up operations; no requirement for laser gas; no requirement for consumables such as reflecting mirrors; 70 per cent less running costs compared to CO2; and significant reduction in carbon footprint.
Amada is estimating first year sales of 50 FOL-F Fibre Laser machines in line with industry growth figures. Metal processing is one of the largest industrial markets for lasers, with fibre lasers gaining significant traction in recent years. Industry analyst firm Strategies Unlimited estimates that the laser market for kilowatt materials processing will grow to more than $1 billion by 2013.