TECH TIPS: 7 criteria for choosing a sheet laser cutting machine

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Cutting head technology has developed rapidly, integrating sensors and motorized optical systems managed by the machine’s CNC. For example, all the BLM GROUP sheet laser cutting systems can be provided with the automatic nozzle change system and monitoring of wear conditions. PHOTO courtesy BLM Group.

By BLM Group

Beyond the common criteria of laser power, work area, axis acceleration and price, there are 7 additional assessment criteria for choosing a sheet laser cutting system that can have a fundamental impact on return on investment.

These selection criteria may help you define in greater detail the ideal laser cutting system for your production.

1. Ease of use

A good interface can make the difference with any operator.

The usability of a laser cutting machine allows you to more efficiently perform programming and maintenance and reduce operator training time.

Today, in fact, the development of process technologies and the continuous turnover of operators, require that the learning curve for laser machine is as steep as possible. Only in this way can the new operator achieve the highest level of efficiency in the shortest possible time.

When evaluating a new laser cutting system, for example, make sure that the control interface is simple and intuitive. In particular, we recommend human-machine interfaces that have the following characteristics:

  • allow you to start a new production with just a few steps;
  • are similar to the interfaces of other machines used in the workshop;
  • are equipped with a database of laser cutting parameters specific for the most common metal materials;
  • provide support and quick consultation during common plant maintenance operations. 

2. Laser cutting head with sensors

To have a consistent cut quality the machine must always operate in the best conditions.

The cutting head is the heart of a laser cutting machine and the value of this component is essential to ensure the good quality of the parts produced.

Along with the rapid growth in power of the sheet laser cutting systems, cutting head technology has also developed rapidly, integrating sensors and motorized optical systems managed by the machine’s CNC.

With high powers it is essential to have a cutting head able to automatically adjust the focus position and diameter of the laser beam during cutting, in order to provide ideal cutting speed and quality on different materials and thicknesses.

Furthermore, to ensure cutting quality over time, the head should have a set of sensors able to monitor pressure, temperature and humidity. The operator can only then know in real time the state of cleanliness of the protective window and replace it when necessary.

3. Automation and scalability

A laser cutting system that evolves with your company can help you to take the first step into this technology.

As production volumes increase or new production requirements arise, it may become necessary to integrate the existing sheet laser cutting system with automatic systems for loading sheets and unloading processed parts from the pallet changer or with an automatic sheet magazine with one or more towers.

4. Assist gases

Laser cutting with compressed air can save you money.

Air is almost entirely made of the two gases used in laser cutting: Oxygenand Nitrogen, that is why, if properly treated, it can be used as service gas of unlimited availability and may represent an excellent solution to save money, both in aluminum and construction steel laser cutting.

Many producers of laser cutting systems therefore provide the possibility to equip the machines with specific kits for laser cutting with compressed air that include all the accessories necessary for pressurization and filtering.

If you are considering this solution, we recommend that you verify the quality of the air treatment devices as the purity of the generated gas directly correlates to the cleanliness of the optical path of the system.

5. Interconnection

ERP, production analysis, system monitoring, etc.: there are many functionalities that can support you in everyday decisions.

In an increasingly dynamic market, production processes need to be able to rapidly adapt to production changes. The key to success is therefore the availability and exchange of information between the machines and the management system.

During the evaluation of a sheet laser cutting system, we suggest you also carefully evaluate its potentialities in terms of connection to the company ERP system, remote monitoring of production statistics and automatic notification of the machine and production status.

These functionalities, together with a high level of automation, will allow you to be faster in production changeover, keep your work constantly under control and streamline the production flow from design to production.

BLManalytics offers a complete and easy-to-use view of all the production statistics of the Group’s connected systems: up and down time, overall system efficiency, material processed, and much more.

6. Plant versatility

Cutting both tubes and sheet metals with the same machine may prove to be an important advantage, especially for small batches.

If you deal with job shop, a “hybrid” laser cutting system, able to cut both tube and sheet metal, can offer an important competitive advantage, especially when production volumes do not justify the purchase of two dedicated systems.

In many other cases, it may be advisable to focus on one technology only and make the most of its performance or choose a sheet laser cutting system that is designed to add tube laser cutting at a later date.

Laser combined cutting system for tubes and sheets LC5.

7. Experience of the manufacturer

Choosing a new machine also means choosing the partner that will help you throughout its life cycle.

We suggest you choose a manufacturer with years of experience in this technology that can ensure the quality of the system and of the after-sales service.

Here are some criteria that may help you make the right choice:

  • presence in your area;
  • tailored after-sales services;
  • a manufacturer easy to talk with.
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