When laser meets tubing
Laser tube cutting machines built by TRUMPF open up almost unlimited variety in the engineering of tube designs. They simplify mutual positioning and joining tubes both one with another and with sheet metal.
Tubing is often used when torsion impinges upon the workpiece. The shape of the tube makes it ideal for withstanding this type of force. But there are many other reasons to make use of tubular structures. Among them are design specifications, hygiene regulations, or tactile requirements. As a consequence, tubes and profiles are integrated into products built for many different industries. If the designer decides to use tubes as the pre-product, then innovative designs contribute to making affordable components matching the function and optimized in terms of both weight and the manufacturing process. The most important tool here: the laser.
The laser not only boosts flexibility when it is a matter of designing in tube. It also helps save time and money in many applications. Conventional working of tubes for complex parts often requires many steps, including sawing, drilling and milling. The laser can handle these assignments in a single go. Subsequent steps, such as deburring and cleaning, are normally not required when cutting tubing with a laser.
The right machine
When TRUMPF builds its TruLaser tube cutting machines, the laser itself, the mechanical equipment, the software and the automation units all come from a single development source and thus are perfectly matched to each other. This starts with the high-precision clamping technology used for tubes, profiles and optionally open profiles. This effort continues with the laser developed especially for tube cutting. It executes cuts with superb edge quality. The machines can handle both small and large batches efficiently. Loading in bundles makes possible mass production with minimum set-up time and effort. Thanks to the open machinery concept, short production runs can also be carried out with full flexibility.
In addition to the TruLaser Tube 5000, the reliable all-rounder, TRUMPF also offers the TruLaser Tube 7000, a laser tube cutting machine for exceptional demands. Working with superb flexibility and productivity, the system can cut almost any curve in pipes and profiles up to 250 millimeters in outer circle diameter and with wall thicknesses of up to 8 millimeters. The TruLaser Tube 7000 can, of course, cut perpendicular to the surface. But with the optional technology packet for bevel cutting, it can separate stainless steel up to six millimeters in thickness, at slopes of up to 45 degrees. This opens the door for perfect preparations for joining tubing and sheet metal and the implementation of innovative tube designs.
Ingenious tube joins
There are three options for joining one tube to another: one tube can penetrate the other, it can rest in a cut-out in the other tube, or it can be placed on top of a tube. There are tricks available for all these versions and they help to find the correct position. Among these are joining aids which the laser cuts. These aids can be integrated with a simple mouse click into the program in the 3D tube design application; this, in turn, is incorporated into the TRUMPF TruTops Tube software.
One simple example is a trunnion that extends from the end of the tube to be joined, and which is inserted into the opening of the opposite tube. A T-shaped angled trunnion or a bayonet connector in the shape of an L offers even more stability. Trunnions, matching openings, and the same principle can be used to easily attach sheet metal to pipes. Even complex insertion and surface-mount connections are sure to be successful when using the same kind of positioning and joining aids. Of assistance in connection is bevel cutting, by way of which corner or plug connections can be effected seamlessly.
Flexible tube structures
When angled connections are made, multiple sections of a tube are bent and then folded together without a seam. Additional trunnions and cut-outs here help to position the tubes and profiles precisely after folding.
One special variation is the meandering cut. Here, a rigid sheet metal tube is transformed into a movable chain. To accomplish this, a laser will, for example, cut rows of wavy lines around the tube. Depending on the desired degree of movement once the tube has been cut, the cut-outs around the waves may be larger or smaller. Thus the laser cut gives rise to stable cable channels or chains for making up jewelry.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in March 2014.