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Laser Technology

EMS Industrial & Service Co. goes the extra mile with LVD Strippit high-production fiber laser

By Stefan Colle

Above: The Electra FL-3015 features a steel monoframe construction and weighs 33,000 lbs. so it can handle the 2g gantry acceleration rate without resonance issues.

December 2018 - The machine shop heartland of America begins in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Here, mostly family-owned fabricators stamp, punch, bend, drill, tap and cut the metal components that feed U.S. industry. “There are thousands of shops that fabricate sheet metal steel and aluminum. I wanted a highly specialized niche, so I focused on copper bus bar,” says Tim Ellison, president of EMS Industrial & Service Co.

Located in Richmond, Illinois, not far from the Wisconsin border, EMS started up in 1961 when Ellison’s grandfather invented and then began manufacturing price markers for the grocery industry. A holder of half a dozen patents, Ellison’s grandfather would invent items while his father, a tool and die maker, designed the stamping equipment. Ellison himself began working in the shop during the summer at a young age.

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EMS operator Rodrigo Benitez and President Tim Ellison.

“I like to joke that my dad violated child labor laws because he started me sweeping the floors when I was nine,” he continues. Ellison soon assembled price markers and starting playing with the drill press. By the end of high school, he had learned how to program the CAD/CAM software for turret punch presses and ultimately became president of the company at age 22.

Until he took the reins in 1993, EMS “made money by accident” because the company had little business structure or direction, Ellison says. With the telecom and internet industries just taking off, his focus on copper bus bar coincided perfectly with growing market demand.

Cutting copper

At first, EMS used a single station punch, an old milling machine and a stamping machine to fabricate copper. A CNC turret punch press and multi-axis CNC press brake greatly enhanced productivity, but the company still sought a cutting solution. In the early 2000s, EMS outsourced cutting to a precision waterjet fabricator and then acquired its own system in 2012.

While Ellison will work 24/7 to meet customer needs—he vows that no one will beat his lead time—cutting speed remained a bottleneck. Then Joe Dalo, an LVD Strippit sales representative, knocked on EMS’ door in early 2014.

“EMS’ website showcases their excellence in copper, and I knew that fiber laser technology —represented by a 4kW Electra at the time—could help EMS achieve greater productivity,” says Dalo. “I explained that, unlike a CO2 laser, fiber laser could cut highly reflective material like copper. Fiber laser eliminates mirrors and optics. It better withstands a manufacturing environment and eliminates the maintenance hassles associated with CO2, making it well suited for a 20- to 25-person shop such as EMS.”

His interest piqued, Ellison visited LVD’s U.S. headquarters in Akron, New York, for a demonstration. “After seeing the Electra cut copper, I couldn’t believe such cutting speeds were possible.”

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“After seeing the Electra cut copper, I couldn't believe such cutting speeds were possible,” says Tim Ellison, president of EMS Industrial & Service Co.

Purpose built

“The primary challenge associated with ultra-high-speed cutting is managing the possible resonance of moving the gantry at high acceleration,” says Stefan Colle, laser product sales manager at LVD Strippit. Most large machines are inherently unstable, which means that they shake at very low frequencies. These machines are particularly difficult to stabilize sufficiently to achieve commercial production rates. Without setting small jerk values (“jerk” is the time rate of change of acceleration) and other filtering methods, such a fiber laser might not be practical in the context of desired short cycle times, tight accuracy and surface finishes.

“To overcome this, we designed Electra fiber lasers with a welded steel monoframe construction that provides exceptional stiffness and weighs a massive 33,000 lbs. to absorb resonance,” Colle says.

As a result, the Electra can achieve an acceleration of 2g (20m/s2) and can cut a 50mm circle with a tolerance of ± 0.0171mm. When LVD launched the 4kW Electra at EuroBLECH 2014, it could cut 600 holes per minute on 20-gauge mild steel. Comparatively, CO2 laser systems can cut 150 to 200 holes per minute.

“To achieve the full potential of high-dynamic acceleration, Electra fiber lasers also feature a lightweight yet rigid cast aluminum gantry controlled by specially tuned servo drives,” says Colle. “Some competitors may have comparable gantry speeds, but they cannot accelerate as quickly. When cutting a part nest with many moves, Electra delivers a distinct productivity advantage.”

Reflective

Fiber laser technology is a perfect match for EMS because it cuts highly reflective material. The IPG YLS (Ytterbium) resonator within Electra fiber lasers has an emission wavelength of around 1µm, where a typical CO2 laser has a wavelength of about 10.6µm. The shorter wavelength of fiber laser light reflects less and is therefore absorbed more. A shorter wavelength enables focusing the beam on a spot approximately 1/10th the diameter of a CO2 beam. A narrower beam creates higher power density, which means penetrating the metal more swiftly.

EMS purchased the 4kW Electra in September 2015. “The speed of fiber laser will open your eyes. It is so much faster than a typical waterjet to do special contour cuttings, and the cut quality is very good,” Ellison says. “Moving to fiber laser increased my capacity, so now I have more machine time that I can sell.”

However, if a 4kW laser was eye-opening, the cutting speeds from an 8kW laser are mind-blowing (see Table 1). A self-confessed “equipment junkie” who wants the highest production equipment possible, Ellison visited Fabtech 2017 to evaluate 8kW fiber lasers from multiple vendors.

After Ellison visited LVD Strippit reps at their booth, the machinery builder agreed to buy back EMS’ 4kW laser and deliver the Electra FL-3015 8kW from the trade show floor and install it between Christmas and New Year’s.

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EMS Industrial & Service Co. specializes in cutting copper bus bar. Using fiber laser technology helps EMS go the extra mile to provide customers with superior speed, quality and service.

Trade-up

“Moving from the 4kW to the Electra FL-3015 8 kW provided a massive increase in speed. It’s like buying time,” says Ellison. He estimates that, on average, “the 8kW laser cuts three times faster on thinner material. On thicker material, some of the parts are up to five times faster.” Now that EMS can cut copper from 1mm to 12mm, Ellison plans to sell his waterjet system.

The Electra FL-3015 8kW features a more powerful IPG YLS resonator, while its cutting head incorporates “zoom focus,” a technology that adjusts the focal diameter of the beam from 120µm to 320µm and enables independent setting of focus diameter and magnification.

“Cutting thicker plate requires a wider kerf to evacuate the molten material,” explains Colle. “Zoom focus optimizes the kerf width for any given thickness.” Zoom focus also provides the ability to focus the beam at different plate-to-nozzle distances. When piercing thicker plate, the Electra uses a higher standoff during the initial portion of the pierce to minimize the effect of spatter and extend consumables life.

“We set the focal point so that it creates a crater with sufficient diameter for material removal,” says Colle. “After penetrating about halfway, the nozzle approaches the material and the resonator then pulses the output until the beam penetrates the plate. The combination of zoom focus and pulse pierce reliably produces holes time after time on thicker material, helping EMS deliver parts with consistently high quality.”

Zoom focus technology can pierce 12mm copper or 20mm steel in less than three seconds.

Other productivity-enhancing features of the Electra FL-3015 8kW include an automatic nozzle changer that selects the correct nozzle diameter for the material being cut, cleans the nozzle on a wire brush and optically inspects the nozzle for prior to cutting. If worn, the system selects a fresh nozzle from the 10-station holder.

The input pallet accepts sheets from 1000mm by 1000mm to 3,050 by 1,525mm and weighing up to 3,000 kg. The pallet table uses smooth, quiet servo drives to change pallets in 30 seconds or less. The operator can unload finished parts while the system cuts a new plate.

“We live in a microwave society,” Ellison says. “It’s just been faster, faster, faster in terms of delivery times over the last 10 years. When customers come to EMS and see technology like the Electra 8kW fiber laser, they know we’re the right partner to help them bring their products to market faster.

“Other companies won’t inventory copper, but I see it as an investment that differentiates EMS. The same holds true for my investment in fiber laser,” he says. “It helps us go the extra mile to provide customers with superior speed, quality and service.” FFJ

Stefan Colle is the laser product sales manager at LVD Strippit

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

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

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc.

LASER TECHNOLOGY

Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

AMADA AMERICA, INC.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. Mazak Optonics Corp. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC MC Machinery Systems Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

Murata Machinery, USA, Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC TRUMPF Inc.

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

COIL PROCESSING

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group MTS Sensors Rolleri USA

STEEL

Burghardt + Schmidt Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

PRESS BRAKES

Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC.

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial Automec Inc. BLM Group
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

MC Machinery Systems Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies SafanDarley

WATERJET

Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

PUNCHING

Barton International

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit

SAWING

Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc. Behringer Saws Inc.

WELDING

Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. DoALL Sawing American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

HE&M Saw Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Savage Saws T. J. Snow Company

 

MetalForming Inc.

 

 

 

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

 

 

 

Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

 


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