The future lies in tubing
Many a success story has shown that cutting tubes with lasers offers wider perspectives, both for steel dealers and for job shops that until now have been involved in 2D laser cutting.
Tubes are the order of the day. Normally supplied in six-meter lengths, tubing is available in a variety of material qualities, thicknesses and sizes. Frequently it is round, but square, rectangular and oval cross-sections are often seen. Tubes and profiles are used everywhere, from gym equipment to furniture and on to agricultural machinery, but they are used for simpler structures, as well. Demand is currently outstripping available capacity. In the past only very few suppliers used the laser to cut tubes — but those who adopted this technology have enjoyed great success.
Laser tube cutting is a market with a great and diverse future. TRUMPF customers report that actively marketing the new design options available can significantly step up demand for laser-cut tubes and profiles. Many newcomers to laser processing for tubes expand to two-shift operations within a short time. They often invest in a second laser tube cutting machine in just a couple of years to fill a largely unoccupied market niche while cashing in on attractive profit margins.
New design options
After all, tube cutting opens up new tube design options that are not practical or simply too expensive with conventional processes. What’s more, this technology simplifies downline production work. Simpler welding equipment and jigs can be used, while costs for the welding operation itself are reduced. Positioning aids with tabs and slots simplify subsequent mounting while encoding precludes assembly errors.
Rework? No thank you!
The high quality of the cut edges virtually does away with rework and reduces both the number of process steps and time-consuming tool changes when compared with other technologies. Users can cut expenditures for downstream work such as deburring and assembly. The number of intermediate steps — storage and handling are two examples — can also be kept to a minimum. This saves an enormous amount of time and greatly reduces parts costs in comparison to conventional processes like sawing, drilling and milling.
Minimizes unproductive time: The new TruLaser Tube 7000
The flagship in TRUMPF’s portfolio is the new TruLaser Tube 7000. It was presented at the Tube Trade Fair, held in Düsseldorf, as a high-end machine boasting new features. With its fully automatic machine adjustment, this laser tube cutting machine minimizes unproductive time. It can cut tubes and profiles of up to 250 millimeters in diameter, with walls up to eight millimeters thick. Stepped rollers that provide both support and lateral guidance for the tubes automatically adjust to the diameter of the workpiece.
The self-centering clamping jaws also adapt automatically to the tube’s geometry. And the FocusLine regulation mechanism keeps the laser’s focal position constant, adjusting it automatically to suit the type of material being processed and its thickness. The machine’s software activates the laser parameters as necessary, depending on which tube is being processed. All these features combine to turn out parts at consistently high quality. Even better, the machine is cost-effective for small batch sizes, too. Numerous details featured in the previous model have been optimized. The machine now includes as standard equipment:
- An operating console on a flexible support arm for improved ergonomics
- An automatic clamping force adjuster for increased process reliability
- Permanent monitoring of the clamping jaw’s position as part of a robust telemetric system
- A push-through feeder which shifts automatically, to ensure that long contours can be cut without collisions
- Newly designed guard doors for improved viewing of the process
Diagonal cut and component sorting
A flexible unloading station is yet another innovation. Depending on the requirements involved, it can sort finished components and place them on movable conveyor tables, in pallet cages, or in other containers. The LoadMaster Tube unit, in turn, automates production. Its tube storage magazine will hold up to four tons of raw materials, which the LoadMaster Tube feeds into the machine for processing after carrying out a plausibility test. When doing this, the machine’s software compares the geometry of the tubes to be processed with data already in storage. This is how the software prevents disruptions caused by operating errors.
The LoadMaster Tube’s grippers automatically adapt to the measured length of the tube. The operator can, of course, still feed individual tubes manually or semi-automatically with a pivoting conveyor. Appearing with the new TruLaser Tube 7000 is, for the first time, a swivel-mounted laser cutting head. This permits accurate chamfering, which is a prerequisite for obtaining a close fit between surfaces to be welded. Diagonal cutting of amazing quality and at angles of up to 45 degrees opens up an entirely new spectrum of manufacturing options — not only in mild steel but also in a wealth of stainless steel and aluminum applications.
Practical test — our customers’ experiences:
“We see our future in tubing. That’s not just because tube is trendy and chic as a basic raw material, but because we firmly believe in its success, both today and in the future.”
Lorenz Lingemann of the company of the same name, which has been located in Bad Oeynhausen since 1896, is widely regarded as a pioneer in the steel trade. The company commissioned a TRUMPF laser tube cutting machine back in February 2007. The investment has long since paid for itself. In only six weeks the unit was being used to full capacity, in two shifts. Now it is sometimes used in three shifts. In February of 2012 Lingemann ordered an additional new TruLaser Tube 5000, due to go on line in June. The second laser tube cutting machine is intended to further increase the firm’s share in the constantly expanding market for laser cut tubes and profiles. His laser tube cutting capabilities pay off especially when used for highly demanding jobs. Lingemann: “Lasers are unbeatable when it comes to shaping complicated contours a full 360 degrees around the tube.” The figures on the return on investment are impressive. www.lingemann-stahl.de
“We see ourselves as system suppliers and full-range vendors. That is why tube processing is of such great significance.”
Robert Plersch is on the road to success with his laser tube cutting machine. “You have to do what others are unable or unwilling to do,” is the philosophy he follows when running his Allgäu-based job shop in southern Germany, now in the fifth generation of family management. Of all the things essential to attaining this goal, flexibility is first and foremost. A glance at his production facilities will suffice to show what that means to this dedicated entrepreneur. Round, rectangular and oval — profiles of every conceivable shape and size are stacked next to his TruLaser Tube 7000. The output: control consoles, table-top supports and switchgear cabinets manufactured in close liaison with the customer. www.plersch.de
“Once you have experienced first-hand the potential offered by laser tube cutting, you will be more than happy to continue down this new road.”
René Krapf, sales manager at KWL Blechverarbeitung GmbH in Neuwied, has put his faith in TRUMPF’s laser tube cutting machines for five years now. His team is also involved in testing the new TruLaser Tube 7000. Their first impression after numerous test runs: “This machine works perfectly from a mechanical point of view, the 3D laser is precise, and handling during the loading and unloading cycles has been improved considerably.” He knows that this new machine prepares him for new tasks, because it can cope with tubes up to 250 millimeters in diameter. Krapf also reveals his patent remedy for convincing customers of the advantages of laser tube processing. “Call in the designers to have a look at the machine and show them what it can do.” www.kwl-blech.de
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in spring 2012.