How do laser-Swiss combo machines work?

Jim Cepican/Marubeni Citizen Cincom 

Fiberoptic lasers offer high-precision, high-speed laser cutting. But for products that require multiple processes, significant time and quality challenges can arise. Combining a Swiss-style lathe with a fiberoptic laser delivery system, suppliers can provide the capabilities on a single machine platform to reduce part handling and improve part accuracies.

Because this is a relatively new system, there are only a few companies providing such hybrid machines. In order to discuss the technology, this article examines the L2000 made by Marubeni Citizen Cincom.

The L2000 uses the IPG Photonics 400-watt, single-mode laser unit with 10 micron delivery fiber. IPG is a leading provider of fiberoptic lasers and offers support in the United States. Additional power units are available that address specific application requirements. One option is a QCW (Quasi Continuous Wave) 300-watt system that can provide power bursts to 3KW when needed.

The laser head assembly mounts on the gang tool slide of the Cincom machine. The movements are programmed in the part program of machine control. The unit can also mount on the B-axis tool position, allowing for laser cutting at various angles for components that require angular laser cut features.

The laser head assembly is liquid-tight and capable of operating while coolant is flooding the work piece during the machining process. Internal air pressure protects the lens and internal components.

High-pressure coolant used during the cutting process also feeds coolant through the tubing material in the auto-loading bar feed system. This flushes the dross (chips) created during the laser cutting process.

A CCD integrated camera for optical viewing and alignment is included for X-Y beam alignment to the nozzle. The live camera is visible on the included touch monitor to improve set-up time.

The L2000 is completely interfaced to the Cincom control. Cutting path and offsets are fully controlled and edited in the machine control. Laser power and gas type can be selected from the machine control part program and can be edited in the part program as well.

An additional benefit of the L2000 is that it’s modular and not designed for a specific model of Cincom machine. A single system can be purchased and moved to other machines. The system can also be retrofitted to older Cincom models.

In general, the benefits of a hybrid machine lie in combining conventional and laser machining onto a single platform. Machinists can create multiple operations in a single set-up, which reduces part handling. The system can improve process control and increase throughput without compromising accuracy. And the system is also suited for prototyping because machinists can create tubing from solid stock.

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