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Laser Technology

Pinpoint positioning

By Gretchen Salois

DDL technology allows for CO2-quality edges with fiber laser speed

December 2017 - Stronger, faster, smoother—direct diode technology (DDL) has yet to break through all facets of the laser cutting market but its presence is destined to reach across applications.

The next step in laser cutting advancement for Mazak Optonics Corp. in Elgin, Illinois, has resulted in a laser machine that can produce a beam structure similar to CO2. “DDL is technology that has allowed us to combine the speed and process capabilities of fiber technology with the edge quality of CO2,” affirms Tim Tapper, applications manager at Mazak Optonics. “It is also more efficient and has lower run cost over CO2 and fiber.”

FFJ 1217 laser image1

Optiplex 3015 DDL can process heavy-gauge applications.

The premium investment required to purchase a DDL laser is offset by increased productivity and part quality, says Al Bohlen, Mazak Optonics president.

In its fifth year of development, DDL technology allows CO2 cut quality with laser speed. “DDL is also more efficient because we have eliminated the doped fiber system,” Tapper says.

Customers who need pristine edge quality from CO2, but want the speed of a fiber laser cutter, will find DDL technology a good fit, he continues. DDL uses diodes directly through eliminating the doped fiber system used in fiber laser technology. Because the middle process is eliminated, the DDL course is more efficient, smaller and has a high-quality beam.

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3⁄8-in.-thick mild carbon steel

Cutting range

Unveiled in late 2016, the latest enhancements to the Optiplex 3015 DDL include cutting head technology that has allowed Mazak Optonics to increase the cut range in both material type and thickness while increasing edge quality, says Bohlen. Customers have reported back with productivity gains that have eliminated secondary processes to the cut material.

“The DDL platform also incorporates a new control architecture providing real time machine monitoring, which allows our customers to actively maintain machine maintenance and performance,” Bohlen adds.

The technology can be used for all market sectors which require a large variety of gauges from thin to thick and in a wide range of material types.

“We see these capabilities as being beneficial to all industries,” Bohlen says. “While many CO2 customers have been interested in purchasing fiber lasers, often thicker material applications have not seen the overall advantages. “However, DDL captures this thicker range of material to which CO2 customers have been accustomed.”

FFJ 1217 laser image3

1-in.-thick mild carbon steel

Whereas before, DDL was available at power levels of less than 2,000 watts, Mazak Optonics’ Optiplex 3015 DDL platform can accommodate more than 4,000 watts of power, making it useful for heavy-gauge applications.

The DDL laser is more efficient and has improved wall plug efficiency compared to other laser sources because diodes are used directly instead of going through a doped fiber system, says Bohlen.

Cutting speed is estimated about 15 percent faster for all material types and thicknesses, according to Mazak Optonics—but is faster most notably when cutting aluminum—where as much as 30 percent faster cut speeds have been recorded compared to fiber or disc cutting methods.

Constructive characteristics

The resounding benefit is the cut quality compared to fiber or disc technology. With flying optics, two pallet changer designs and helical rack-and-pinion positioning systems, the Optiplex DDL can cut faster without leaving rough edges.

FFJ 1217 laser image4

5⁄8-in.-thick stainless steel, each cut using DDL.

DDL wavelength and beam shape differ from other laser sources. Mazak Optonics offers two laser cutting machines using DDL technology—the VCL-T100, which the manufacturer unveiled in late 2015, and the Optiplex 3015.

The wavelength determines how much a laser penetrates the metal. Better absorption means faster cutting. DDL’s laser wavelength is fine tuned to absorb well into the metal so the material is cut faster and more cleanly than with other methods.

The latter has made the most emphatic impact with customers, the machinery builder reports. With PreviewG control and drive system, which has integrated tech tables to simplify operation, this model incorporates the new Intelligent Multi-Control Torch and Nozzle Changer technology that automatically sets up the torch. Cutting speed increases and requires less operator input, resulting in more consistent, repeatable results run after run.

FFJ 1217 laser image5

The Optiplex DDL series machine’s Intelligent setup functions include beam diameter control, focus detection, auto focus positioning, auto nozzle cleaning, auto nozzle changing, and auto profiler calibration.

Intelligent monitoring functions include pierce, burn, and plasma detection. Intelligent cutting functions include fine power ramping and flash cut.

While DDL is proprietary technology exclusive to Mazak Optonics, Bohlen expects the technology to expand throughout the industry. “DDL has already rapidly expanded in the market,” he says. “The increased speed, better efficiency, and higher edge quality clearly indicated that DDL is going to be a major game changer for laser cutting technology,” he predicts. FFJ

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