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Laser Technology

Software speeds laser cutting

By Russ Olexa

July/August 2010 - Laser machines offer users the advantages of speed and precision, and all of them need advanced CNC software to control their cutting functions. Nesting software also makes cutting as efficient as possible.

Joe Brehmer, president of Brehmer Mfg., Lyons, Neb., discovered this firsthand with his purchase of an FS 3015 4000-watt CO2 laser system from Han-Kwang USA Inc., Lombard, Ill., which has expanded the company’s ability to produce precision parts its high-definition plasma system couldn’t deliver.

Founded in 1975, Brehmer Mfg. moved three times before ending up in a 24,520-sq.-ft. building in 1983. "We’ve always been building products for the farming industry, such as grain bodies for trucks and stainless-steel hog feeders," says Brehmer. "We also do a lot of custom-designed prototype parts for customers and sell other companies’ products. We like niche markets, so we look for the types of products that fill them," he says.

The company also specializes in shortening and stretching truck frames, pusher axles, tag axles and Scott hoists. It offers aluminum or steel grain-and-silage truck boxes that have smooth side walls for easy cleaning.

While building stainless-steel hog feeders, the company needed more precision sheet metal cuts its plasma system didn’t offer, Brehmer says. "We were having this cutting work done by a vendor and eventually bought a laser system to bring the work in-house," he notes. "We started out looking for a used laser system, but by the time we got done reviewing what was available, we ended up buying a new one."

Han-Kwang’s laser system came with a Pro Design software package for part nesting. It’s an important part of the laser due to its efficiency, says Shane Siebrandt, the company’s laser operator.

Team effort
Lantek Systems Inc., Tyler, Texas, provides Han-Kwang’s Pro Design software. Although Lantek primarily offers its software to OEMs that produce sheet metal cutting equipment, such as lasers and plasma and waterjet systems--along with turret punch presses--its software is also available for five-axis, 3-D systems. The company will sell its CNC operating-and-nesting software to non-OEM customers. Lantek also will customize its software for an OEM to meet specific equipment needs.

Lantek adapted Han-Kwang’s Pro Design software from Lantek’s Expert software. It not only controls the laser but offers part nesting and full CAD product capabilities, which allows a user to design parts, import them and change geometry. It also will create remnants, put them into an inventory package and recall them for later use.

"I really like the Pro Design software, which is the Lantek-named software that Han-Kwang uses," says Siebrandt. "Pro Design is very easy to pick up on. If I had any problems with it, I could call the Lantek support people directly. They would show us what we needed just by tapping into the program on our computer screens. For me, it was really easy to catch on to it. Even though I have used a different nesting software for our plasma equipment, the Pro Design/Lantek software is so much simpler."

Siebrandt also likes the software’s nesting capabilities. "When I burn out a sheet and have remnants left over, it allows me to call up this same sheet later to continue cutting parts from the leftover blank area. It’s really easy to do and saves us time dealing with remnants. We also use and like the micro tabbing capability for the parts we cut out," he says.

Han-Kwang has been using the Lantek software for its lasers in the Korean market for years with excellent results, says Robert Won, Han-Kwang director. Lantek has worked closely with Han-Kwang to develop the right software package for its equipment and has given the company excellent customer support, he says. Another reason Han-Kwang chose Lantek software for its various flat-sheet and tube-cutting lasers was Lantek’s worldwide presence. Because Han-Kwang sells lasers worldwide, the company needed a software supplier with worldwide customer support. If customers need software support or training, they can call Han-Kwang or Lantek.

Wide range
Lantek integrated its Expert software in a single program, says Adria Iles, Lantek U.S. managing director at the Mason, Ohio-based facility. "It can be used within a stand-alone productivity cell or part of a networked system. It allows part design, part importing, nesting (automatic or manual), cut generation (automatic or manual), CNC code generation and review of what sheet metal is in storage, all achieved using the same program with no switching between programs.

"It can generate the CNC code to drive different machines, such as a laser, waterjet, plasma, turret punch press, shearing and combo machines, anything for sheet or plate metals, along with five-axis, 3-D equipment."

The software has an open database for parts management and material storage and a large library of parametric parts. It saves and organizes part information databases so a user can locate the required part and sheet easily. The software classifies this information by fields, such as material, thickness, date and customer.

The software can calculate time and cutting costs for any part or the entire sheet, taking into account the cut length, mark length, material costs, hourly machine rate, number of piercings and consumable costs based on machine data.

It includes advanced options for geometry and can import files from the most important CAD systems on the market, such as DXF, DWG and IGES. It has optional modules for calculating HVAC duct parts, unfolding and 3-D design.

Users also can connect it to a production management system’s ERP program automatically. Lantek also offers Flex3d Unfolding software, which gives an operator a simple flat-parts design capability in 3-D and subsequent automatic unfolding. The company also provides this for design work and tube cutting.

For bending, Lantek offers Flex3d Bending, which allows users to generate the bending sequence automatically from a 3-D design. Lantek also makes software that enables any 3-D sheet metal design to be unfolded automatically to Lantek Expert and integrated with SolidWorks, Solid Edge or Inventor software programs. FFJ

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Sources

  • Brehmer Mfg.
    Lyons, Neb.
    phone: 888/687-2655
    fax: 402/687-2656
    www.brehmer.com

  • Han-Kwang USA Inc.
    Lombard, Ill.
    phone: 630/916-0200
    fax: 630/916-0300
    www.hankwangus.com
    e-mail: salesusa@hankwang.co.kr

  • Lantek Systems Inc.
    Tyler, Texas
    phone: 903/258-9422
    www.lanteksms.com
    e-mail: info.usa@lanteksms.com

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