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Laser Technology

Make it fast

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Components for back frame assemblies cut on the fiber laser.

Prototype specialist Accu-Rite Industries employs Komatsu fiber technology to cut nonferrous metals quickly and accurately for automotive applications

May 2019 - In March, Ford announced it will increase production of its Expedition and Lincoln Navigator by 20 percent. Sales for these models were up 35 percent in 2018. Market and analysis firm LMC Automotive found that sport utility vehicles are expected to make up 40 percent of the global market by 2025 and will account for almost half of all new vehicles and redesigns.

Accu-Rite Industries LLC’s Laser Foreman Mike Winkler has also observed the trend. Based in Shelby Township, Michigan, the prototype specialist supports several major automotive Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs. The ISO 9001-2015 certified firm laser designs, cuts, stamps, welds, assembles, inspects and tests complex parts.

“The industry is changing,” Winkler acknowledges, citing stricter gas mileage requirements, Americans’ ongoing love affair with SUVs and the push for lightweighting. The crossover from passenger cars to sport utility vehicles is good news for Accu-Rite.

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Accu-Rite uses the Komatsu TLH408 fiber laser to cut center risers for an SUV’s second-row seat.

“Seating components make up approximately 75 percent of the work we do,” he says. “SUVs are typically built with three rows of seats to comfortably accommodate up to seven people. The seats are required to perform different functions like folding flat,” which makes the crafting of seating parts and assemblies “more complex.”

Tighter tolerances

Tighter tolerances and growing demand for materials like aluminum, copper, brass, stainless and the occasional request for titanium put Accu-Rite in the market for a fiber laser. “It used to be that you processed 10 parts with a millimeter tolerance, roughly the thickness of a penny,” says Winkler. “Now we’re processing parts at tolerances tighter than that of a hair.”

The decision to branch out into fiber lasers was a necessary step for Accu-Rite. “We were losing work because we didn’t have the right equipment,” Winkler says. The company shopped around, but its strong history with Komatsu led it back to the machinery builder.

In 2002, the company purchased three Komatsu TLM610 CO2 lasers and two flat cutters. The longevity of the machines and their reliable performance proved persuasive. Accu-Rite purchased a Komatsu TLH408 fiber laser in 2013 and another in 2015.

“When the company first talked about getting a fiber laser, our engineers questioned using this equipment for prototype work since the machine was built primarily for large volume production runs,” recalls Steve Glovak, national sales manager for Komatsu’s Laser Group. Prototyping consists mainly of small part volumes for a wide range of part numbers. But Accu-Rite turned that concept on its head and used the fiber laser’s speed to process aluminum quickly and cleanly, he says.

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The Komatsu TLH408 fiber laser cuts a stainless steel furnace heat shield.

Aluminum is a soft, nonferrous, ductile material with low density and naturally high resistance to corrosion. The metal’s ductility and softness make it difficult to cut.

“We cut a lot of aluminum, something that was challenging to do on our older machine,” says Winkler. “Cut quality also generated tedious secondary processing such as manual grinding to get the desired edge smoothness.”

“Parts go from the machine to the box for shipping 90 percent of the time,” Winkler says.

“Edge quality on the TLH408 is superior,” Glovak adds. “Positioning accuracy is ± 0.05 mm.”

The company is able to run a range of parts from the size of a quarter to 72-in. door panels. “The Komatsu fiber lasers cut nonferrous material as fast as 1,118 in. or [30,000 mm] per minute,” says Winkler. “The machines are four times faster. Technology is growing quickly. We have to keep up. The fiber laser’s speed helps us do that.”

New fronts

Increased feed rates on nonferrous materials have allowed Accu-Rite to take on new business, including innovative work, while maintaining its position as a one-stop shop.

“We produced 57,000 pairs of inner, outer, right and left headlight buckets for a major electric car manufacturer,” says Winkler. “Without the fiber lasers, we could not have taken that job. With the Komatsu fiber, we’re able to maintain continuous production because while the machine is cutting one part, another is loaded and ready to go.”

The machine has a 116-in.-diameter rotary table, which allows Accu-Rite to put two or more parts on at the same time, says Glovak.

Accu-Rite programs the fiber lasers off line. It then builds fixtures to hold parts that are sampled, checked and rechecked to ensure tolerances are met. After the initial build, the company can provide feedback to the customer regarding any design issues it observes.

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A seat recliner assembly.

“We work one on one with our customers’ engineers,” says Winkler. “We cut, weld assemblies and test the welds with our customers looking right over our shoulders. That builds trust and attracts repeat business.

“These fiber lasers have also allowed us to help other people in the industry,” he continues. If a local stamper or fabricator has a machine that goes down, they turn to Accu-Rite to produce the parts they need on the Komatsu fiber lasers. “When their machines break down, they don’t have to stop production,” says Winkler.

Cutting programs on Komatsu laser systems can be shared between job shops without the need for reprogramming. In addition to being a good neighbor, the company understands the value of partnerships.

Accu-Rite had a fire in 2002 and lost three machines. “I was at a trade show when I got the call,” says Glovak. “We had a demo and one machine in stock. The third machine followed quickly. They had another building down the street so we set it up as a temporary laser station. They didn’t lose much work as a result.”

“Their technicians stayed on site and got us up and running in record time,” Winkler says. “They are a global company but I can call a technician or someone with service and support at a moment’s notice. I have no complaints.” FFJ

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

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Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc.

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Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

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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

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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

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

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial Automec Inc. BLM Group
Tishken

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MC Machinery Systems Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies SafanDarley

WATERJET

Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

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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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