ASK THE EXPERT: TRUMPF’s Adi Buerkler on what to look for in fibre laser tube cutting systems

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With the TruLaser Tube 7000 fibre laser TRUMPF offers a spatter protection device that is essentially a spoon inserted during the cutting process to remove debris. PHOTO courtesy TRUMPF.

From splatter protection to accuracy assurance there is much to consider in choosing the fibre laser tube cutting system that’s the best fit for your fabricating shop. To help you out, we discussed some key considerations with Adi Buerkler, TRUMPF TruLaser Tube product manager, in an exclusive interview.

SHOP: There have been significant increases in power when it comes to sheet laser cutting systems, which increase the working speed and therefore reduce the cost per part. We haven’t seen the same type of increases for tube processing. Is the fact that tubes obviously have a closed shape with an opposite wall that can be affected by what happens to the initial wall cut by the laser, the main reason holding back an increase in power? Or are there other important considerations?

Buerkler: We have also increased power with tube over the past five years.  We went from 2kW to 3kW and to 4kW. Now we offer 6kW and you never know when we are going to go even higher. The reason you don’t need the same kind of power in tube that you have in flat sheet is that the wall thickness of the tubes you’re working with is typically a half inch or less. Cutting half inch tubes with 6kW is more than sufficient. With more power you would blow a hole on the other side.

SHOP: With laser cutting there are sparks and debris and slugs that fall inside the tubing. What can be done for spatter protection from the machine end?

Buerkler: With our TruLaser Tube 7000 fibre tube laser we offer a spatter protection device, called a spatter catcher. Basically, it’s a spoon that is inserted during the cutting process to remove debris. It is hooked up to a suction system so that during the cutting process we suck out the debris and the spoon has a sacrificial copper plate to take the beating from the laser. On the TruLaser Tube 3000 and 5000 series we offer a different solution. We offer the spatter guard where the inside of the tube is coated with a water-based anti-spatter liquid and the benefit is that we can do that with all raw material blanks. So, if you have a 21-ft tube, it can coat the tube for the entire 21 feet. And if you have a 26-ft tube, it can handle that too.

SHOP: What specific machine features for accuracy assurance are important to consider?

Buerkler: In terms of accuracy, TRUMPF basically sets itself apart because our chucks are pneumatic not hydraulic. We have four rollers to support the material, feed it through, and turn the tube or profile. On the TruLaser 3000 and 5000 fibre laser, the chuck can open up fully. It can go from 0 up to 6 inch and bring in the tube without collision problems. The tube is always perfectly placed into the centre of the chuck. We can control the pressure, adjusting to a lower pressure for lighter, thinner tubes or higher pressure for thicker, heavier tubes, which allows us to control the bow and always get perfect accuracy. Also, the cutting head is an inch away from the rollers to maintain accuracy.

SHOP: Looking at part optimization, how can you help fabricating shops with design that increases cost efficiencies?

Buerkler: On the tube side, we have the software geared so you can basically import your 3D assembly and add features. Our Programming Tube software is proprietary, and we have features that make for more efficient assemblies. For example, if you have to make a frame, instead of cutting four separate pieces, we can do it as a connected bent frame, and we can select features like locking tabs that are offset so that it’s mistake proof for assembly. There are many features built into the software to make the whole process much easier for the customer and to reduce costs. We have a customer in Las Vegas who makes slot machines and I always told them that what they manufacture could easily be done on a tube machine and they would probably realize 70% time savings compared to the way they were doing it. A few years ago they decided to give it a shot. With the old process to make one frame took 90 minutes. We were able to cut the whole frame in less than five minutes and put it together in another four minutes. So, we went from 90 minutes down to 9 minutes of production.

Adi Buerkler, is the TruLaser Tube product manager with TRUMPF.
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