Power-Tech Supercharges Fiber Laser Cutting with 6-g Acceleration
From PC-based control and EtherCAT to scalable servo solutions, the complete CNC platform from Beckhoff boosts capabilities for the high-tech EAGLE laser line
Speed and precision in sheet metal cutting have always required a balancing act. But fiber lasers help fabricators split the difference. As such, the fiber laser has become the technology of choice in the fine cutting of sheet metal, enabling highly precise cuts with very narrow kerfs and outstanding contouring speed. To deliver these features, Polish manufacturer Power-Tech employs fiber lasers in its EAGLE laser cutting machines and relies on powerful automation technology from Beckhoff for machine control.
EAGLE laser cutters can cut virtually any shape out of sheet metal with burr-free edges on sheets of varying thicknesses. Power-Tech makes three variants of laser cutting machines: the Esmart model with a working area of 1,500 by 3,000 millimeters (roughly 5 by 10 feet) as well as the Evision and the Inspire models with working areas of up to 2,500 by 6,000 millimeters (8 by 20 feet).
Each EAGLE laser cutter features easy operation, high reliability and a compact machine footprint. Equipped with special high-performance EAGLE laser heads, they cut through sheets up to 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) thick. Customers can select the laser power that best fits their needs – the higher the power, the faster the cutting speed.
Speed up laser cutting to 150 meters per minute
Power-Tech has continuously improved the performance of its laser cutters. In 2013, the company introduced a machine with a 6-kW laser to the market. In 2016, it followed up with a 12-kW machine, which increased the production efficiency regarding material thickness and cutting speed significantly.
“With the Inspire 1530 developed in 2018, we have introduced a laser cutter with a top performance of 15 kW that makes dynamic cutting processes with a speed of 150 meters per minute possible,” says Power-Tech Managing Director Janusz Marcin Ejma. “We work constantly on making our lasers more powerful, because these improvements have such a decisive impact on a cutter’s productivity. A machine with 15 kW cuts four times as many shapes per hour as a machine with 4 kW, which reduces the manufacturing costs per workpiece dramatically.”
To achieve the necessary machine parameters in terms of motion speed and accuracy, Power-Tech employs powerful control and data communication systems.
Laser focus on integrated CNC solutions
In 2010, Power-Tech decided the integrated automation platform from Beckhoff offered the most robust and futureproof option to meet the EAGLE laser line’s requirements. “After a careful analysis of the market we picked Beckhoff as our control system supplier,” says Marcin Masternak, who is in charge of CNC/PLC systems at Power-Tech. “The deciding factor was EtherCAT. The high-speed fieldbus system, which Beckhoff introduced in 2003, has become a global standard because of its performance. Many suppliers of other components used in our machines also use EtherCAT, which gives us great flexibility in component selection.”
Furthermore, Power-Tech uses a Beckhoff Industrial PC (IPC) and TwinCAT automation software as the standard control platform in all its machines. “The openness and modularity of the PC-based control system allow us to expand each machine’s functionality with great flexibility, for example by integrating the CNC interpolation. We can also integrate our own solutions, such as the visualization system, which is based on our own proprietary solution,” explains Masternak.
The Inspire 1530 laser cutter uses a C6930 Industrial cabinet PC equipped with an Intel® Core™ i7 processor as its control platform. To control the axes via three AX5000 EtherCAT Servo Drives (single- and dual-channel), the X-, Y- and Z-axes are linked via CNC interpolation (the X-axis is implemented as part of the gantry system). Various machine modules such as the laser beam source, cutting head, vacuum suction system, etc. are integrated via analog and digital EtherCAT I/O modules with IP20 and IP67 ratings. Process and machine parameters are processed in real time, with data exchange taking only microseconds. The integrated safety solution was also implemented with Beckhoff components.
“With EtherCAT, we meet the high requirements regarding high-speed exchange of large data volumes during laser cutting at speeds of up to 150 meters per minute,” Masternak says. “With the great support we received from the Beckhoff control specialists, we were able to achieve a single-axis positioning speed of 4 meters per second and a speed of 5.6 meters per second running all axes simultaneously. Our fastest machines feature an acceleration rate of 6 g, which is top-of-the-line in the laser cutting industry.”
Loading and unloading systems cut production time for end users
The laser cutters are optionally equipped with semi-automatic or fully automatic loading and unloading systems. The Crane Master, a fully automatic and fully integrated system, picks up the sheets via a loading frame and places them on the cutter’s pallet changer while the cut parts are removed with a comb conveyor. The loading and unloading system connects to the cutter’s controller via the EK1100 EtherCAT Coupler. This simplifies data communication and further increases throughput, helping competitive fab shops make the cut with EAGLE laser.
Are you interested in leveraging PC-based automation to enhance your CNC machines? Contact your local Beckhoff sales engineer today.
Paxton Shantz is the Digital Manufacturing Industry Manager for Beckhoff Automation LLC.