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Bystronic ByStar Fiber Laser Cutting Machine

When talking about automation the manufacturing process some people talk about material handling, but this is not the only process to consider.

Automating the materials
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.

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 normal 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.

Automating the bending
As higher volumes of parts are being produced due to the speed of fiber laser cutting, there are additional automation options to consider. For large parts that typically require multiple press operators, and also for long piece runs, robot press brake tending provides the highest productivity through consistency and efficiency. There is far better consistency in handling large parts over an extended period of time and it also reduces the need for an additional press brake operator to help with the larger parts. For long piece runs the robot continues to bend through break times, meal times and many other types of typical operator interruptions throughout the day. In addition, operators can become fatigued over the course of a shift, so automating the tending of the press brake also improves productivity by the consistency of operations.

Automating the bending set-up
Press brake setup time in particular is also highly visible because of the nature of the different tool setups and variety of programs that must be processed each day. As much as 70% of non-productive time on a press brake can be attributed to machine set-up time.

New automatic robot tool changers can help to reduce the non-productive set-up time. The quick change tooling can be setup automatically for each job as it is encountered. Press brake tooling is stored directly in tool racks on the inside walls of the press brake and a six axis robot is utilized to change the tooling. Since everything is self-contained within the confines of the press brake frame, extra floor space is not required.

As tools are added by the press brake operator, the robot takes the tooling, and utilizing intelligent sensors, scans the tooling and places the tooling in an empty location in the tooling racks that are located on the inside walls of the brake. There is no programming necessary by the operator. Segmented tools are placed exactly where they belong and are selected exactly for each job, eliminating incorrect tooling selections.

Tool changes take less than 10 seconds per each tool and there is no need to search for the correct tooling or to even to know where it all goes on the ram or table. This information is given in the program tool mapping for each job and the tool changer robot automatically executes the correct set-up.

Automating for consistency, efficiency and productivity
Automation is the key to higher productivity, efficiency and overall consistency. As manufacturing chains continue to accelerate due to high speed equipment, any bottleneck in the manufacturing process becomes highly visible. Inconsistency in manufacturing creates inconsistency in profits as manufacturing quote times don’t match up with the actual production times. Automation provides consistency in productivity from shift to shift and from day to day and maximizes overall machine efficiency.

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