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Notable: November 2018

One Laser: Plenty of Beam Formats Generally, more than one type of laser is needed to achieve specific cutting characteristics.
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One Laser: Plenty of Beam Formats

Generally, more than one type of laser is needed to achieve specific cutting characteristics. But a company named nLight Inc. (nlight.net) has developed a fiber laser using a proprietary technology that enables users to directly program the output beam characteristics.

With this single laser, the Corona, users can rapidly select from high-intensity, small-spot-size beams to large, donut-shaped beams, and everything in between, according to the company. It delivers cutting speeds characteristic of high-power fiber lasers for thin metals and CO2-like edge quality and cutting speeds for thicker metals—all while retaining the productivity, uptime, and operating cost advantages of fiber lasers.

The time needed to switch from one beam format to another is less than 30 milliseconds with the laser operating at full power.

The Corona was developed with the intention of eliminating the need for multiple machines for different types of jobs, according to the company.

“Legacy laser technology forces manufacturers to restrict their production to a limited thickness range, to purchase multiple tools for different thicknesses, or to employ expensive free-space optics to laser cut a range of materials,” states Jake Bell, general manager for nLight’s industrial lasers. “Corona fiber lasers will expand the range of metal thicknesses that job shops can cut with a single machine, eliminating compromises they make today.”




Caption: The Corona fiber laser can switch from one beam format to another in less than 30 milliseconds.

Paint Inspection Light Tunnel Coming to Toyota Georgetown


Toyota has contracted Dürr (durr.com) to build a new paint shop at its plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. The new facility will include paint booths of various sizes, work decks, ovens, and an advanced exhaust-air purification system. Notably, the shop will also include the EcoReflect system, an innovative light tunnel that allows detection of paint flaws that otherwise might go unnoticed.

The lighting in a conventional inspection system shines high-contrast horizontal lines onto the car body to make imperfections better stand out where there is a transition from lighter to darker lines. Too few lines and the inspector may miss an imperfection; too many and the viewer’s eyes can be overstimulated, leading, again, to missing surface flaws. In the EcoReflect system, the number of contrast lines in the field of vision is based on research into what is a suitable stimulus frequency. What’s more, rather than horizontal contrast lines, which force the inspector look up and down the car body, the EcoReflect system generates vertical lines, allowing inspectors to follow the progression of the car bodies on a moving line when checking them: The cars’ movement through the light tunnel negates the need for constant, tiring, up-and-down eye movement.

Glare-free conditions are another requirement for detecting surface flaws while minimizing operator fatigue symptoms. EcoReflect features prisms on the LED lamps to ensure that as much light as possible is shined onto the car bodies without glare. Additional low-contrast light zones help to identify defects over a large area.

The light tunnel is arch-shaped to illuminate the car body uniformly and efficiently. Fabric strips between the light arcs prevent distracting reflections from the shop lighting, windows or other light sources. The LED lighting minimizes maintenance time and uses half of the energy of conventional fluorescent tubes, enabling lower energy costs.



Caption: EcoReflect paint-inspection light tunnel.



Productive Multitasking

The PUMA TT2100SYY twin-spindle, twin-turret turning machine from Doosan Machine Tools (doosanmachinetools.com) features Y-axis capability on both the upper and lower turrets in order to provide flexibility in machining, as well as off-center machining capability. The machine permits simultaneous OD and ID cutting on a workpiece in the main spindle, as well as simultaneous milling and turning of parts in both the main and subspindle. Both spindles use 34-hp motors that produce 165 lb-ft of torque. The top rotational speed is 5,000 rpm. The motor for the live tools has an output of 10 hp and 35 lb-ft of torque. The 12-station turret has 24 positions and handles BMT tooling. An 8-inch chuck is standard.



Plastic Piston for Transmissions


The pistons used in dual-clutch transmission hydraulic accumulators are ordinarily made of steel. These formed pistons require a rather combust sealing package: there are two guide rings that assures the piston slides in the cylinder as required, and the piston ring that is secured in place by a backup ring.

Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (Freudenberg.com) has come up with an alternative: an injection-molded thermoset plastic piston. The composite is, like the steel version, impermeable to gas and it is capable of resisting the transmission oil and hydraulic fluid. Its coefficient of thermal expansion at high temperatures meet the requirements.

What’s more, the number of rings necessary have been reduced, with the two guide rings being eliminated and only one seal ring is required.

Not only is the design and production simplified, but the plastic piston is approximately half the weight of the steel.

Freudenberg says that it is working with a German OEM on preparing the component for use in a production hybrid.



Caption: The typical steel piston for a hydraulic accumulator in a dual-clutch transmission (left) and an injection molded thermoset piston (right). Note the differences in the required rings and seals.

Quick Cutting of Metal Tube—With a Laser

The LT7 from BLM Group (blmgroup.com) features a 3kW fiber laser for high-speed 3D cutting of up metal tubing--round, square and rectangular—up to 6 inches in cross section.

Not only is the laser itself quick in cutting, but the system software accelerates getting the machine up and running: With a few keystrokes, an operator can import a CAD model and tell the machine what material is being used, and the machine will generate the optimal cutting path and speeds for completing the application. Then, while cutting, the software obtains information from sensors so that adjustments are made to maintain the highest cutting speeds.

According to Andrew Dodd, national sales director of BLM Group USA Corp., “The machine recognizes what’s needed from the CAD model and sets the parameters itself.”

The system’s Active Tool software includes: Active Piercing, which automatically controls and optimizes the drilling stage; Active Scan, which helps to compensate for imperfections in the material; Active Marking, which allows marking individual components with identifying texts, and Active Weld, which improves the identification of tube welding and the management of the cut near welds.

The system is also able to store and share production data for analysis to help in process improvement. The Protube monitoring system helps users to make accurate time and cost estimates based on processing time for an entire production batch. It also prepares work orders and sends them to the machine, while a remote management feature provides real-time production progress monitoring, system operating statistics, estimates to the next batch change and more.

The LT7 includes a loading/unloading system that accommodates tube by the bundle, with improved loading speeds and weight capacity. It includes a mechanism that allows loading a single tube “over the bundle,” so that it can be processed as a one-off, “without having to unload the bundle that had been in process,” Dodd said.

At the end of each production batch the LT7 automatically configures itself for the next batch, regardless of the new sections to be made—whether round, square, special or open profile. No manual adjustments are necessary.


Caption: The LT7 tube cutting system features a 3kW fiber laser and a cutting head capable of 3D cutting.


Automated Powertrain Component Fastening System


Atlas Copco Tools and Assembly Systems LLC (atlascopco.com) has developed an automated modular work cell that speeds the securing of powertrain components with fasteners through the use of custom-configured end-of-arm, spindle-driven tooling that fits onto all of a powertrain’s hard-to-reach nuts and tightens them to the correct torque all at once. The PF6 Flexsystem not only saves time but also reduces the amount of equipment, material overhead, and labor required using traditional methods.

Because powertrain assembly configurations vary between vehicle models, the automated system can dock and change multiple spindle fastening tools to maximize productivity. The system utilizes a single robot equipped with tool changers from ATI Industrial Automation (ati-ia.com) for efficient spindle fastening. Changeover is hands-free as the robot does the job automatically. When not in use, end-of-arm tools are stored in an ATI tool stand.

Sean Kane, Senior Product Manager at Atlas Copco, states that the company spent considerable time analyzing and researching which attributes of a fastening system are most critical to their customers. They found that improving flexibility and reducing footprint are vital to manufacturers as they seek opportunities to upgrade existing production plants with shorter, faster, assembly lines.




PF6 Flexsystem custom-configured end-of-arm, spindle-driven tooling.

Punch Tap Tool Speeds Thread Forming

Emuge Corp. (emuge.com) has put a new spin on the way that threads can be formed in softer materials such as aluminum. It calls the process “helical thread forming” and the tool that makes it possible a “Punch Tap.”

A conventional or cold forming tap has a continuous thread profile: The tap makes as many rotations into a pre-drilled hole as the threaded hole requires. It would seem that there’s no way to shorten that number of rotations and thereby shorten the time it takes to form the thread. Emuge, in partnership with Audi AG, found a way. The solution came from recognizing that the path taken by the tap can in fact be much steeper and shorter than the threaded path it creates for the fastener.

The Punch Tap tool has two broaching teeth on opposite sides of the tool head. Trailing out behind each broaching tooth in a steep helical curve up the tool shaft is a row of slightly shorter cold-forming teeth. The tool is plunged into a predrilled hole, twisting as it moves in a steep helical curve identical to those formed by the rows of forming teeth. So far, the only material removal has been by those two broaching teeth at the head of the tool: the forming teeth are snugly in the helical groove made by the broaching teeth.

At the desired depth, the spindle turns another 180° while the axial feed axis moves half a pitch. That single half-turn causes the teeth lining the sides of the tool to form all of the threads at once.

That 180° turn aligns the broaching teeth with the helical grooves they cut, and the tool is retracted along that same path—which, if you are forming a standard M6 thread that’s 0.59 inches (15mm) deep, is about 15 times shorter than the thread path itself would be. The entire process takes less than half a second, reducing threading time about 75 percent compared to cold forming.

The finished thread is interrupted by those two 180° offset helical grooves. While this means there is much less thread securing the fastener, Emuge says that thread strength is comparable to conventionally machined threads from a depth of thread of 2xD.

Punch Taps can be used for blind and through-holes and the production of metric threads from M3 thru M10 with thread depths up to 2xD; inch sizes are available from #8 (5/32) thru 5/16. 




Caption: Punch Tap with diagram of its helical tool path.