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Laser Technology

Fabricators avoid hidden production costs with Amada fiber laser advances

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Amada’s ENSIS-3015AJ performs stable, high-speed cutting of thin and thick material.

Close monitoring of recent industry changes led sheet metal fabricating equipment manufacturer Amada to introduce a new model

October 2018 - Astute machinery makers have their finger on the pulse of their customers and their eye trained on the big picture to help manufacturers avoid the pitfalls of hidden production costs. Close monitoring of recent industry changes led sheet metal fabricating equipment manufacturer Amada to introduce a new model to its 3kW ENSIS series of its fiber laser line in August 2018. The ENSIS-3015AJ bridges the gap for job shops that want the advantages of a high speed fiber laser but are reluctant to let go of their CO2 equipment when it comes to cutting heavy gauge material.

Amada expanded the ENSIS-3015AJ’s oscillator output from 3kW to 6kW or 9kW for stable, high-speed cutting of thin and thick material. Improved original beam control technology allows the fiber laser to automatically adjust its beam to match any material thickness, eliminating the need to manually change lenses. The combination reduces dross and bevel by as much as 83 percent with surface roughness showing a 54 percent improvement.

FFJ 1018 laser image1

The ENSIS-3015AJ’s oscillator output has been expanded from 3kW to 6kW or 9kW, and original beam control technology improved for reduced dross and bevel.

“Ninety-five to 97 percent of our sales are now fiber laser in the United States,” says Dustin Diehl, laser product manager for Amada America Inc. “The goal of manufacturers is to keep cutting thicker and thicker materials with nitrogen because it allows them to minimize secondary cleanup processes. You can also increase throughput and reduce downstream consumables costs related to powder coating, grinding or welding.”

But part cleanup and consumables aren’t the only expenses fabricators need to think about. Another dynamic is at work, racking up dollars and cents.

High wattage

“In the last two or three years, higher wattage fiber lasers have dominated the marketplace,” Diehl says. “Once wattage ratings topped 6kW, we started seeing a higher demand for nitrogen to support the speed rates of these machines. Higher nitrogen consumption adds cost per part. It’s easy to throw a lot of power and nitrogen at a job but we asked ourselves, is that really the best solution?”

Amada has developed products like the EZ Fast Cut system to help manufacturers lower their cost per part by reducing nitrogen consumption without losing feed rates or edge quality. The company introduced the EZ Fast Cut at Fabtech 2017 for use with its line of membrane nitrogen generators.

Amada lines have long been equipped to generate nitrogen on site but the capability “has never been more relevant then it is today due to the growth of high wattage lasers,” says Diehl.

The system provides clean, dry, high-pressure air for shop air cutting. Amada’s nitrogen generators are also designed for customers who are looking for a simple solution to eliminate oxidation in thin material and do not require high purity nitrogen. Return on investment for the equipment and annual maintenance can be realized in less than two years.

FFJ 1018 laser image2

Amada's Los Angeles Technical Center focuses on development of new manufacturing methods and the exploration of technical trends.

“Fabricators can enjoy the advantages of a high wattage fiber laser and the cutting quality it delivers without increasing part costs,” Diehl says. “And we’re looking at ways to develop even faster feed rates.”

EZ Fast Cut targets middle range material thicknesses—from 7- to 11-gauge, and ¼ in. mild steel. Results include a 20 to 30 percent faster feed rate and 70 to 90 percent reduction in assist gas cost compared with conventional nitrogen assist gas. “It’s a popular choice for markets like light agriculture [equipment] and the zero-turn lawn mower industry,” says Diehl. “For end users running high-volume jobs from aluminum with the goal to lower gas consumption but maintain a higher cut quality, we can tailor an application for that.”

Digging deep

Ferreting out hidden costs and helping manufacturers find the right machine setup is a key driver for Amada. Its Los Angeles Technical Center and Solutions Center in Schaumburg, Illinois, focuses on development of new manufacturing methods and the ongoing exploration of technical trends.

The fruits of that labor lie with customers who report increased machine use up to 85 percent, lower cost per part, reduced scrap and material handling, process range expansion and print-to-product digitization and moving setup off the shop floor.

The Schaumburg location also offers manufacturers a campus that supports research and training, access to engineering advances, and the ability to see a range of automation and sheet metal cutting, bending and punching machines operate.

To complement its Brea, California, laser machine manufacturing facility, Amada broke ground in June 2018 on an $87 million technical and manufacturing center in High Point, North Carolina. The facility will manufacture press brakes and blanking automation.

“We dig deeper to determine a customer’s end goal,” says Diehl. “We look past the numbers on a spreadsheet. We evaluate material, desired edge quality, cost per part, gas volume and the customer’s budget needs. We’re able to offer a solution that meets a fabricator’s needs. Sometimes we find out we can do more with less.”

FFJ 1018 laser image3

Amada N2 nitrogen generator coupled with its EZ Fast Cut system lowers cost per part by reducing gas consumption.

Big picture

Once processes are analyzed, Amada technicians perform an official part run-off. The approach allows Amada to offer options. “We help customers see the big picture,” continues Diehl. “Because we run the part a couple of different ways, we might suggest the customer add automation. It may be something they had not thought of when they walked through the door. Just by adding automation to a stand-alone machine, we can show a profit increase of $8,000 to $17,000 a week.”

Amada can also configure equipment for future needs with modular add-ons that can provide a manufacturer with multiple lasers.

“You aren’t just buying something off the shelf,” Diehl says. “When that first part is run, we make sure it looks and feels the way the customer wants. And we make sure the machine can keep up with demand.” FFJ

Sources

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Camfil APC - Equipment Beckwood Press Co. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
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