Compelling Reasons to Bring Laser Cutting In-House

Many companies use laser cut components in the manufacture of their products, and the obvious starting point when prototyping or stepping up towards volume manufacturing is the use of a local subcontractor for laser cutting.  The flexibility and affordability of a subcontract service can match with the varying needs of companies unfamiliar with laser cutting.  With a prevalence of job shops offering fast turnaround and high-quality sub-contract services, why would you consider bringing laser cutting in-house?

 

When Just-in-time becomes Just-too-late

As product volumes increase, or order quantities fluctuate it can become more difficult to manage external suppliers and the option to bring the laser cutting requirement in-house is usually considered at this point.  Having a compact and efficient flatbed laser cutting machine, like the recently-introduced Hyperion 3GF standard system from Cyan Tec Systems, means that parts can be produced within minutes when the need for urgent response arises.  Sometimes the time taken to contact suppliers and book space in their production schedule, can lead to delays from a day to a week.  When parts are on the critical path (and perhaps require post-cutting operations like welding or anodising), a delay waiting for a supplier to respond can be circumvented by having the laser cutting machine and the material to cut available in your factory.  Delivery time pressure and the need to satisfy un-predictable customer demand can be minimised by taking control of laser cutting and having the resource available “on tap”.

 

When Stock Isn’t an Option and Variety is Needed

Some companies use the flexibility of laser cutting to personalise production, or to cope with a huge variety of spare parts.  Making to order rather than making for stock is always going to be more efficient from a stock control point of view.  The difficulty of forecasting can be overcome if a flexible laser cutting machine is available.  Designs can be held in software (or customised in CAD) and transferred to the laser cutter in minutes.  The cutting time with modern fibre laser cutting machines is short, especially on material less than 6 mm thick (which accounts for the lion’s share of the laser cutting requirements in most general industries).

 

 When Volume Reaches Tipping Point

Monthly spend with sub-contract laser cutting job shops clearly increases with volume.  As new products incorporating laser cutting gain acceptance in the market and the volume of laser cutting work outsourced increases, there comes a point when the monthly spend on laser cutting exceeds the cost of the monthly lease of a laser cutting machine.  At this point, many manufacturers decide to take the decision to bring their laser cutting in-house.

The Cyan Tec Solution

Cyan Tec Systems worked with several clients to develop unique solutions for cutting sheet sizes up to around 2 m x 1 m using a dedicated fibre laser cutting system that occupies well under half the floor space of a conventional flatbed system.  Using fibre laser technology, the system is efficient (giving up to 5 times the output of a conventional CO2 laser cutting machine per kW of supply).  In addition, the coupling efficiency of the fibre laser wavelength works extremely well with reflective materials like stainless steel, copper and aluminium, many of which are more difficult or impossible to cut with a CO2 flatbed system.  The Hyperion 3GF from Cyan Tec benefits from a standard design with the flexibility of customisation to add additional features or bespoke tooling.

Cyan Tec Systems has experience of integrating lasers for cutting, welding, marking, engraving, etching or ablation.  Experience with lasers from all the major laser source suppliers allows Cyan Tec to offer expert advice on the most appropriate solution for laser processing.  Cyan Tec also offers systems for paint spraying, assembly, test and many other applications. Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture, a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers.

Cyan Tec to improve nuclear decommissioning efficiency for UK Nuclear Research Centre

Cyan Tec Systems has been selected to design and build an exciting custom laser welding system for the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC), one of seven High-Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult centres funded by Innovate UK. The Nuclear AMRC in Rotherham will be taking delivery of the turnkey system before the end of 2017. Cyan Tec, based in the UK’s high-tech heartlands in Loughborough, has extensive experience in integrating high power fibre-delivered lasers in large systems for automated laser welding and cutting.

Bjoern Kraemer, a Laser Engineer at the Nuclear AMRC, outlined the reasons Cyan Tec were chosen following an open and competitive tendering process:

“Cyan Tec provided the best response to the Nuclear AMRC’s tender process. They not only addressed all of our requirements in an appropriate manner, they also showed great knowledge and professionalism by presenting their innovative solutions at the right level of detail and providing a selection of options. Cyan Tec provided a competitive and unique turnkey solution with a comprehensive service package which will satisfy all our demands for a high-quality manufacturing solution.

The Nuclear AMRC helps UK manufacturers win work in the civil nuclear sector and assists them in the development of new technical capabilities and processes. Situated on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire, the Nuclear AMRC research facility offers an array of state-of-the-art equipment for machining and fabrication, supported by in-house engineers and researchers, all of which are made available to manufacturers to use in collaborative R&D projects.

Cyan Tec’s advanced laser cell will further enhance the welding capabilities of the Nuclear AMRC to support manufacturing process development for key nuclear components. One example is the duplex steel boxes used to store hazardous waste from Sellafield and other decommissioning sites – laser welding can significantly reduce manufacturing times and costs while maintaining a high quality of weld seams. The innovative Cyan Tec welding cell will be used to develop and optimise these welding processes, as part of a programme to save hundreds of millions of pounds over the life of the decommissioning programme.

The system is designed for deep penetration welding for R&D of laser and hybrid laser and arc welding. With the highest power Disk laser in the UK, delivered by fibre optic cable, the system will have a wall-plug efficiency higher than 30% and is fully protected against back reflection which is vital in high power welding of reflective materials.

Integrated with a 6-axis gantry system, the overall cell has the capability of delivering a simultaneous MIG weld for deep penetration hybrid welding with hot wire or cold wire feed.  The system includes a large tilt and turn manipulator which can carry components up to 15 tonnes and overall the advanced CNC controller is able to interpolate all 8 axes simultaneously to weld complex seams with perfect results. Such a system is a challenge for an integrator of automation and CNC systems, but falls easily within the capabilities of Cyan Tec’s team of experienced laser integration engineers.

With such a high average laser power delivered by fibre optics, and a system capable of steering the beam in all directions, laser safety is extremely important.  Cyan Tec have developed their own safety solution, comprising an active guarding laser safety enclosure of dimensions 10 m x 7 m and 6 m high. The safety system has an actively monitored cavity wall with instant shut-down in the event of any break-through of the outer layer.

Modern motion systems are faster, have higher accuracy and vastly-improved repeatability compared to previous generations. Cyan Tec Systems has experience of integrating robots and CNC systems with lasers from all the major suppliers and can offer expert advice on the most appropriate solution for laser processing. Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture; a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers.

The innovative Cyan Tec design configuration is shown in the image below.

Vision is essential for quality laser marking

Cyan Tec Systems, an expert laser marking systems integrator, has extensive experience of integrating laser marking with vision systems to combine automatic code verification and position compensation, to achieve the quality required for industries like automotive and aerospace manufacturing.

A revolution in digital imaging technology has enabled camera sensor resolution and sensitivity in low light to increase dramatically in recent years. Cameras which are smaller and more efficient can be integrated where space is limited and are capable of operating in harsh environments.

In 21st century manufacturing, there is a need to verify correct completion of a process to ensure parts match specification at all stages in the process. Laser marking is a commonly-used technique to write information in text or machine readable code (bar codes and 2D matrix marks) to identify components providing traceability and quality assurance. Immediately after a mark is completed, a vision system grabs the image of the mark under controlled lighting conditions and automatically reads the code to ensure that the contrast and integrity of the code matches the one that is stored in the customer’s master production database.

Given the resolution of modern cameras, the vision system can also be used for compensation of position or orientation, reducing the need for expensive tooling. A component can be placed within the field of view and the software automatically recognise the object (which might be one of a family of different components) and check the angular and positional misalignment before compensating by accurately shifting the laser marking file to match the actual component position.

 

Finally, another use for vision is the dimensional verification of laser processes like drilling, where the whole area can be calculated to ensure that the parameters are within the quality tolerance bands specified. Data can be recorded and logged to allow categorisation and process verification with the option of actively adjusting for errors during the production run or raising an alarm or warning to suspend production until fault conditions are rectified.

Modern laser marking systems are fast, accurate and repeatable with high reliability and minimum maintenance. Cyan Tec Systems has experience of integrating laser marking, engraving, etching or ablation systems using lasers from all the major suppliers and can offer expert advice on the most appropriate solution for laser processing, paint spraying, assembly, test, and many other applications. Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture, a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers.

Robotics Plays A Leading Role In Automation

Although a significant amount of machinery that is manufactured by Cyan Tec includes the integration of traditional automation components such as motor driven linear axes and pneumatics, robotics are becoming more frequently involved when customers initiate a request for a piece of automated equipment.

In order to meet the majority of its customer’s needs, Cyan Tec endeavour to work with all of the leading suppliers of Scara, collaborative and of course, six axis robots. Those suppliers include market leaders such as ABB, Yaskawa, Fanuc, Staubli and Mitsubishi and the experienced team of engineers at Cyan Tec have extensive experience in programming and commissioning such mechanisms into bespoke and standard solutions.

In terms of Cyan Tec incorporating robotics into semi-automated and fully automated production lines, this can include processes like laser cutting, laser welding, leak test, assembly and leak testing.

When a customer specifies a robot for a bespoke automated system, Cyan Tec will liaise with the selected robot supplier to evaluate the payload and reach that is required for the particular application. The close relationship with the robot manufactures allows the selection process to be smooth and regularly involves the end customer.

Standard productions cells by Cyan Tec that include robotics are as follows; Multi Axis Laser Welding System (Hyperion 8RF), Single Laser Cutting Cell (Hyperion 7RC), Dual Laser Cutting Cell (Hyperion 13RC) and Dual Input Laser Welding Machine (Hyperion 8LG).

Although the above machines are a standard design, the fact that the nature of Cyan Tec’s business heavily involves designing ground-breaking bespoke automation means that any of the machines can be modified to meet any individual requirements.

Related links:     

https://cyan-tec.com/automation/robotic-systems

https://cyan-tec.com/laser-systems

https://cyan-tec.com/industrial-inkjet

 

 

Laser Cutting: Product Focus

Laser cutting of a variety of different materials, particularly metals and fabrics, is fairly common nowadays. Therefore, when an automotive supplier contacted Cyan Tec Systems Limited to design and manufacture an automated piece of equipment to remove excess material from their complex 3D formed products, the perfect solution was developed and in turn the RRTS14CC standard laser cutting cell was established.

cyan-tec-laser-head-005

Cyan-Tec: Laser Cutting

One of our laser source suppliers describe laser cutting as “a process where a material is cut, and this can be for small & fine materials or materials with a much greater level of thickness”.

They continue by stating “Laser cutting has a number of application areas, particularly in industrial manufacturing where a higher output is required but is also used in schools, Aerospace the military and in small businesses”.

The integration of a rotary transfer system, a six axis robot and fixed laser optics ensured that the customer is not only satisfied with the much-improved cycle time that the cell can offer but also the quality of the laser cut that the Co2 laser can achieve is exceptional.

In order to achieve the aforementioned high-quality laser cuts, the six axis robot is designed to follow pre-programmed paths, thus presenting each of the different variants to the laser head at the correct focal distance.

The laser source that is integrated as part of the RRTS14CC cell is generated from carbon dioxide and the integration of a series of mirrors means that the beam alignment from source to nozzle is both accurate and repeatable to suit the customer’s application. Though the RRTS14CC is a standard cell, the optics (tubes, mirrors etc.) will be specifically designed application by application to guarantee that the laser head arrangement is perfectly suited to the material that is being processed.

For more information on the RRTS14CC cell please visit its dedicated page here: http://cyan-tec.com/single-robot-laser-cutting-machine

 

Robot Laser Welding Cell is Flexible & Fast

To address the needs of the white goods and automotive industries in particular, expert system builder Cyan Tec Systems of Loughborough has developed a standard multi-axis robotic laser welding cell incorporating a 6-axis robot combined with a 2-axis tilt-and-turn manipulator to give the ultimate flexibility with 8 programmable axes. Such a system can work on large components or assemblies and present them in such a way to reduce the complexity of the robot moves and compress the overall cycle time.

More and more welding tasks are becoming automated as the lack of availability of skilled and experienced manual welders, and the requirements to achieve stringent and repeatable quality and higher throughput, drive production away from conventional joining processes towards laser welding.  In addition to this, the current trend in reshoring production from abroad promotes a high degree of automation which minimises the impact of international differences in labour rates, and reduces the cost and uncertainty associated with long distance logistics via sea or air freight.

The Hyperion MAR30WF is a standard system built by Cyan Tec using a 6-axis robot carrying a compact laser welding head from a multi-kW fibre laser source. The tilt and turn manipulator has an integral indexing system allowing parts to be safely unloaded and re-loaded during the welding cycle by an operator outside the Class 1 safety enclosure. Welding by laser is a non-contact process, where the laser beam is typically some distance from the final focusing optic. For best results a pipe delivers Argon assist gas which prevents oxidisation, leaving a bright and oxide-free weld which is capable of coating or painting after welding without any need for post-weld cleaning.

standard-multi-axis-robot-laser-image

Image: Standard Multi-axis robot laser welding cell

A highly efficient laser welding cell can be modified to process new products by simply re-programming the software and re-tooling for new configurations. Using a dedicated cell with a standard design gives the benefit of reduced cost and lead time for the capital equipment, as custom machinery is limited to the final tooling and the welding path programme.

Laser welding has the benefits of low heat input and excellent repeatability.  The accuracy and consistency reduces the amount of material required in flanges and enables novel joint arrangements since only single-sided access is required (unlike resistance spot welding).

Modern robots are faster, with higher accuracy and repeatability than previous generations. Cyan Tec has experience of integrating robots and lasers from all the major suppliers and can offer expert advice on the most appropriate solution for laser processing, paint spraying, assembly, test as well as many other applications. Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture, a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers.

Choosing the Right Marking Technology

Marking parts with a serial number, bar code or 2D matrix is becoming more ubiquitous, driven by the need to ensure traceability to control stock and maintain quality.  Sometimes known as Direct Part Marking (DPM), this technique is used widely in aerospace, automotive, medical and consumer products.

When faced with the task of choosing the best marking system, there are many factors to be considered including cost, contrast, ability to mark on different materials and permanence.  Cyan Tec Systems works with the full range of marking technologies and is ideally placed to offer advice, arrange for sample processing and assist in recommending the optimum solution.

The three major marking technologies for automation are laser marking, dot-peen (or pin) marking and ink-jet marking.  Each of the techniques are considered below and the pros and cons discussed.

Laser Marking

Modern laser marking systems are generally compact and efficient with the laser beam focused onto a plane in space using a mirror and lens arrangement such as a galvanometer (galvo) scanner.  The surface to be marked needs to be a consistent distance from the laser (to keep the mark in focus) for best results.  For safety reasons, laser marking systems require some local guarding (polycarbonate or metal depending on the laser type) to protect the eyes of the operators and personnel nearby.

In terms of quality and ease of automation, laser marking (also sometimes called laser engraving or laser etching) scores highly compared to all the other methods.  Lasers offer a non-contact process which is clean, safe, rapid and easily automated to cope with high volume production environments.  The small spot size (sometimes less than 50 microns) and high frequency (often more than 10 kHz) can result in very high quality and high-resolution marking which can be very compact (for example in micro-electronics where space is limited).

 

fig1_laser-mark8

Image: Laser marked metal component (courtesy of ROFIN)

The range of materials which can be laser marked is virtually limitless although the type and wavelength of the laser will influence the contrast achieved by laser marking.  Of the technologies discussed, laser marking is typically the highest capital cost, though the lack of maintenance, high quality and speed can make running costs highly competitive.

Dot-peen Marking

In dot-peen marking (sometimes known as pin marking or stylus marking) a hardened carbide pin is vibrated at high speed to displace the surface of the material leaving an indent.  By moving the pin, it is possible to create text or codes which can be human or machine-readable.  The method of marking, which leaves an indentation, can result in very limited contrast which could make reading the mark more difficult in some materials.  Most often used in metals, the technique can work to a lesser degree in plastics too, though the results depend on the type of plastic.

 

The cost of dot-peen marking is lower than laser and ink-jet, but the pin is a mechanical item which needs to be checked and maintained regularly to achieve consistent results.

Inkjet Marking

Ink-jet marking relies on the movement of the parts under the ink nozzles to create the required marking (text, barcode, 2D matrix, and graphics).  Different coloured inks can be used to ensure contrast and discreet or invisible marking is possible using UV sensitive inks. More advanced inkjet marking systems are capable of full colour photographic quality adding a decorative element to marking. Marking with ink can be used on all materials, and the process can be easily integrated in automated production.

In capital cost terms, the ink-jet solution is cheaper than laser, however maintenance costs, to optimise nozzle performance, and ink consumable costs need to be taken into consideration.

The ink mark can be vulnerable to wear with time, however marking speeds are high and this is often used in the fast-moving consumer goods market.

Summary

Each method of marking has advantages and disadvantages, Cyan Tec is experienced in providing complete solutions including automation for Direct Part Marking and able to give non-biased advice on production solutions including robots, conveyors, lasers, assembly and paint spraying systems.

Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture, a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers

Leak Testing: Pressure Decay Explained

Cyan Tec Systems Limited (Cyan Tec) specialises in the integration of leak and flow test equipment which includes the supply of semi-automated and fully-automated systems into a wide range of different industry sectors. When talking specifically about leak testing, Cyan Tec has often adopted the pressure decay method to meet their customer’s demands.

bespoke-leak-test-tooling

Bespoke leak test tooling

The straightforward but effective technology that is well-known within the industry as pressure decay has now become a mainstay where high volume production testing is required and Cyan Tec has used its expertise in the design and manufacture of high-end automation systems to work alongside all the leading suppliers of leak test instruments to offer a quality solution. Strong working relationships with the aforementioned suppliers allow Cyan Tec to offer the end user the required after-sales support that is a key element in this type of project.

Pressure decay leak detection instruments are frequently associated with the checking of components that have relatively small volumes. The chamber is filled with air and the pressure transducer built into the specialist leak test instrument monitors the pressure for negative changes where any pressure drop indicates a leak.

automatic-leak-testing

Automatic leak testing

The pressure decay technique can also be referred to as gauge decay leak testing or absolute pressure leak testing. This is due to the method of leak testing simply measuring the drop in pressure on a gauge (transducer) during the leak test.

Although Cyan Tec is a UK-based company predominantly supplying leak testing equipment on home turf, having a strong reputation in this particular industry has also provided opportunities to supply leak testing machines to ‘Blue Chip’ companies on the continent. The product knowledge, reputable name and the high-quality end product associated with Cyan Tec gives the end user of the leak test equipment the confidence that the required skills are available in-house to offer expert advice no matter how simple or complex the automation.

Cyan Tec Systems Exhibiting at MACH 2016 Show

MACH2016

Cyan Tec Systems will be exhibiting state-of-the-art capabilities in industrial automation and laser systems equipment at the MACH 2016 Show from 11-15 April 2016.  Experts will be available on Stand 4360 in Hall 4 of the NEC, Birmingham, to discuss potential applications in automation and laser material processing.

With a team of dedicated designers, Cyan Tec can provide standard or bespoke laser processing machines for laser welding, laser cutting, laser marking (engraving) and laser drilling.  Building on several decades of experience, Cyan Tec is perfectly placed to provide automation solutions, including assembly, leak testing, machine loading and unloading, robot systems, clean-room automation and automatic spraying systems.  Solutions from Cyan Tec are used in the automotive, aerospace, medical device and pharmaceuticals, electronics, plastics and food industries.

Working with the industry leading robot, conveyor, pick & place and laser systems suppliers, Cyan Tec can provide and support automation and machinery all over the globe, from its base near Loughborough in Leicestershire.

New enquiries for automation and laser processing are welcomed, and the team at Cyan Tec can provide anything from design through to complete turnkey system delivery and installation.

Cyan Tec is situated in the AILU (Association of Industrial Laser Users) Pavilion on the South side of Hall 4 at the NEC.

 

 

 

Automotive Component Leak Testing

When a high-profile automotive supplier needed a suite of customised leak testing systems for their latest engine components, they had no hesitation in contacting Cyan Tec Systems who had previously provided several automation machines for their UK factory. In order to fulfil the customers’ requirements, Cyan Tec provided a total of six individual leak testing machines, each designed to suit specific engine components.

To verify the quality of high performance engines, it is necessary to perform accurate leak testing of components and assemblies, the most commonly used method being “pressure decay” which has been used for several decades to identify faults in sealing or component integrity. Using this method, air is injected into the test object which has been sealed to allow a build-up of pressure. The pressure is then monitored over time, any decay of pressure indicating a leak. In this case, it was the high-level testing of the casting integrity that was required.

Cyan Tec has established a track record in automated leak testing, using third party leak testing equipment integrated into the production lines of many clients.  In particular, Cyan Tec has a strong relationship with Ateq, a well-known supplier of differential pressure decay leak testing equipment.

After assessing the requirements of the customer, Cyan Tec provided the six machines based around a modular design. Each machine has a fabricated metal base frame, providing a rigid support structure for mounting of the various machine elements.

All the machines provided are manually loaded by an operator and wherever the parts are too heavy to be lifted, the operator is assisted by appropriate lifting equipment.  To simplify operation and eliminate human error, the operator uses a handheld scanner to scan the barcode on the component or assembly to identify and record the product variant which is to be tested.

 

All the orifices on the component under test are sealed by O-rings on the bespoke tooling which are closed onto the part using a combination of pneumatic cylinders and manual clamps. With the design and manufacture of such intricate tooling being a critical aspect of the leak testing process; the wealth of knowledge that Cyan Tec has in this area was absolutely vital to ensure that the project was a success.

Once the component is detected as “in place” and the variant is verified by the barcode reader, the automated leak testing process is initiated by the operator pressing the start button. On completion of the test sequence, the result is displayed as a green or red light (for pass or fail) as well as being displayed on the HMI (Human Machine Interface), located in front of the machine. Parts are then unloaded and new parts loaded by the operator.

Each machine is customised to suit one or more products, the machine construction providing a combination of guarding and safety light curtains to ensure that the operator is well-protected during the testing sequence.

Cyan Tec is an experienced manufacturer of laser processing systems, robotic automation and automated leak testing systems based in The Midlands, United Kingdom. Standard and custom systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture, supported by a dedicated team of engineers.