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process-automationWhen considering material automation for laser cutting systems, there are different levels of material handling that can be implemented to provide varying degrees of efficiency. The base level of automating the process is a system to load raw material with no automated part or skeleton removal. The drawback to this system is that it requires the operator to manually remove parts and shuttle the tables. If the operator is on break or busy with another task, the machine can sit idle causing unscheduled non-productive downtime.

To avoid this downtime, a system must be utilized that has automated load/unload capabilities. These systems have the ability to automatically load materials from a raw material stack and remove the finished parts and skeleton to an unload location. This type of system provides the consistency that is required of today’s highly productive laser cutting systems.

Floor Space

When determining the correct automation system, an important consideration is floor space utilized by the load/unload system. Floor space is a hidden, but significant cost. It is critical to consider a system that can achieve the load/unload process efficiently, while taking up the smallest footprint.

Keeping Pace with the Laser

Another important consideration in choosing the correct automation system are the load/unload cycle times. With today’s high-speed laser cutting technology, the automation cycle time is critical to ensure that the material handling system will not pace the laser. For the majority of high-speed cutting plans, this requires a system that has a cycle time of about one minute.

Material Storage

To achieve the highest productivity, it is important to consider an automation system that will automatically store raw materials as well as handle the load and unload processes. This entails a system that can handle all of your raw material needs (or using the 80/20 rule, at least the bulk of your normally used materials and thicknesses), and for extended periods of unmanned operations, also back-store your finished cut sheets. This type of system provides the greatest productivity gains by keeping the machine supplied with the correct materials, automatically unloading the cut sheets and maintaining overall process consistency.

By Frank Arteaga, Head of Product Marketing, NAFTA Region
Bystronic Inc., Elgin, IL –