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Laser Technology

Sow the seeds

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Mazak’s Multi-Control Torch can change focus and spot size instantaneously.

As harvest machinery evolves, fabricator adopts the latest cutting methods to produce parts

September 2019 - The window to harvest fruit, nuts or olives is limited. Attempt it too early and the fruits aren’t ripe. Wait too long and risk collecting produce past its prime. COE Orchard Equipment Inc. builds harvesting machines that capture the crops and machines that guide the picked crops through the various stages of collection.

“Our machines are state of the art and we needed to upgrade our cutting methods from CO2 to fiber laser in order to save time and steps,” recalls Chris Alexander, manufacturing director at COE Orchard Equipment, based in Live Oak, California.

To cut patterns into steel, rather than welding pieces together, Alexander invested in a Mazak Optiplex 4020 Fiber III 8kW with an 8-station nozzle changer, which allows the machine to use the optimum nozzle for each application.

FFJ 0919 laser image1

The Optiplex 4020 Fiber III 8kW machine from Mazak.

“I couldn’t keep up with orders cutting with the CO2,” Alexander says. “When I installed the fiber laser, I was told how fast it would cut but, honestly, I didn’t believe it until I started running jobs myself and they were right on.

“With 10 gauge using the old laser, we could cut 150 in. per minute,” he continues. “The new laser cuts 900 in. per minute. So, a job that used to take 40 minutes now only takes us 3 minutes—even on thicker material such as 1-in. steel. We are able to pick up speed based on faster piercing time. The new laser is 10 times faster. What used to take 10 seconds in piercing time now takes less than 1 second. A job that used to take an hour now only takes 6 minutes.”

The Optiplex 4020 Fiber III 8kW machine can be equipped with an optional high-pressure compressed air system instead of nitrogen assist gas. “This offers huge run cost savings while still maintaining cut quality and speed,” says Tim Tapper, applications manager at Mazak Optonics Corp., Elgin, Illinois. “This option allows for processing of mild steel up to 5⁄16 in. and stainless steel and aluminum up to 1 in.”

FFJ 0919 laser image2

Mazak’s piercing technology quickens the cutting process and uses auto focus and spot size adjustability, combined with advanced controller features, to reduce cycle time.

Short learning curve

COE has a designated operator in charge of the Mazak fiber laser who programs parts. “I was able to train workers so that I have backup people to get jobs started and running,” Alexander says. “Once we became comfortable making adjustments on the machine, it was easy to load up plate and hit go.”

COE operators could only cut plate up to 10 ft. long on its CO2 laser and older plasma tables. Parts longer than 10 ft. had to be reduced in size before processing. Clearly, a larger table was required. With the Mazak table, COE can now cut up to 13 ft. Separately, COE wanted to be able to laser cut 1-in. plate. Mazak’s piercing technology speeds up the cutting process, which is particularly useful for cutting thicker material. It uses auto focus and spot size adjustability, combined with advanced controller features, to reduce cycle time.

Mazak’s Multi-Control Torch can change focus and spot size instantaneously. The machine chooses the optimum setup for piercing, etching and cutting. The Preview G control on the fiber machine comes loaded with the technology tables for each material type and thickness and contains the predetermined optimum focus and spot size combinations to process any material right out of the box.

“The programmer simply needs to assign a material type and thickness to a job and let the control take over from there,” Tapper says.

FFJ 0919 laser image3

COE can now laser cut holes— a task its plasma cutter couldn’t achieve.

The fiber laser can also be equipped with the ability to create programs on the Preview G control itself. “This function allows the operator the ability to create programs right on the control in cases where they need a few extra parts or want to use up some of their remnant leftover material,” Tapper says. “Having the ability to program right at the machine eliminates the need to involve the programmer when hot jobs or filler parts are needed in production.”

Since running the fiber laser, Alexander says he doesn’t need to cut as far in advance with the material to feed the shelf. “I can shorten my lead time,” he says. “I can cut this week and load onto the machine the next. I don’t have to run material three months ahead.” The company can reduce inventory, thereby decreasing carrying costs. “I don’t have to have steel inventory sitting there because I didn’t have time to cut it.”

Unlike the plasma cutter, the fiber laser doesn’t require a full-time cleaner. The plasma was not capable of tapping cut holes. Now COE can tap a laser-cut hole instead of taking it to its machine shop. “We couldn’t do that on the plasma,” says Alexander.

Maintenance is minimal. “We check a few places that need to be greased and that’s it,” Alexander adds. “With fiber, we don’t have to account for resonator rebuild time, and it’s a lot more efficient to run this machine compared to the CO2.”

The company no longer needs to outsource material cutting. “We used to fall behind,” he says. “Now I can have 99 percent done in house without having to rely on anyone else.” FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SecturaSOFT

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. SigmaTEK Systems LLC
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc. Striker Systems

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Burghardt + Schmidt Group EMH Crane Rolleri USA Nidec Press & Automation
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc.

PRESS BRAKES

STEEL

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial AMADA AMERICA, INC. Alliance Steel
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

Automec Inc.

TUBE & PIPE

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies MC Machinery Systems Inc. BLM Group
Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

SafanDarley HGG Profiling Equipment Inc.

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc.

PUNCHING

Prudential Stainless & Alloys
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit Hougen Manufacturing

WATERJET

Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc.

SAWING

Barton International
Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. Behringer Saws Inc. Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

Cosen Saws Omax Corp.
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. DoALL Sawing

WELDING

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MetalForming Inc. HE&M Saw American Weldquip
Beckwood Press Co.

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

Savage Saws Strong Hand Tools
Triform Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

T. J. Snow Company

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