top of page
  • Writer's picturePaxton Shantz

A Cut Above: Trumpf Elevates 3D Laser Cutting with IPC Technology and EtherCAT

As an open, highly adaptable and complete CNC solution, PC-based automation from Beckhoff helps a global metalworking and fabrication leader optimize machine concept

As a pioneer in 3D laser processing technology, Trumpf offers complete machines and systems with optimally coordinated components in addition to beam sources and beam components. The advanced TruLaser Cell series machines utilize Industrial PC (IPC) technology and EtherCAT I/O components from Beckhoff. The current, second-generation TruLaser Cell 8030 combines maximum production reliability and productivity for 3D laser cutting.

The TruLaser Cell 8030 is designed for the automotive industry and supports flexible configuration. A large version for cutting drawings and complete side parts is available along with a smaller variant for manufacturing individual parts and segments of the bodyshell. The high-speed rotary changer provides a 20% shorter turning time of only 1.8 seconds, minimizing non-productive times and increasing overall performance. In comparison to the predecessor model, the machine cuts a hot-formed vehicle cross member, for example, with 10% higher machine dynamics, 10% lower non-productive times and 30% faster slug control.

Flexible industrial automation solutions

The TruLaser Cell 8030 can process large series parts cost-effectively and with high flexibility. The NC programming offers maximum flexibility in terms of the component geometry, which can be subsequently modified to address new requirements using the variable laser tool. The same applies to the automation platform chosen to support the project, according to Thomas Brauchle, Service Quality Assurance Manager at Trumpf in Plymouth Township, Michigan, and former TruLaser Cell 8030 project manager.

“With Beckhoff, we have a partner who supplies us with state-of-the-art automation technology and also has the flexibility to address the special requirements of a laser processing system,” Brauchle says. “The broad portfolio offers almost all of the required components. In rare cases, in which the standard range could not provide a solution, they quickly developed the ideal product.”

Interior of the TruLaser Cell 8030
Interior of the TruLaser Cell 8030

Another key factor behind the decision to choose Beckhoff technology was the underlying EtherCAT communication system. “We utilize EtherCAT with all TruLaser Cell machines. The key factor here was that EtherCAT provides an optimal fieldbus system for modular control cabinet equipment. This enabled us to implement our concept for compact control cabinet modules in an ideal way – only a few I/O signals combined with the secure signals in a single module,” Brauchle explains.

The EK1914 EtherCAT Coupler, in particular, supports these requirements. It combines the functions of the EK1100 EtherCAT Coupler with standard and secure digital I/Os in an exceptionally compact design and can be expanded to include additional EtherCAT Terminals as needed. “Using the EtherCAT I/O system from Beckhoff, we significantly reduce the space required in the control cabinet compared to other fieldbus systems,” he adds.

Another differentiator for the TruLaser Cell is the high performance of EtherCAT for controlling a highly dynamic laser optic axis while also supplying the servo amplifiers with setpoints fast enough. EtherCAT offers a number of essential features to the TruLaser Cell.

“The available bandwidth perfectly matches the requirements of a laser processing system. This enables us to utilize EtherCAT for all of the installed technology and we do not have to make any compromises,” Brauchle says. “In addition, there is the advantage of a worldwide communication standard with its widespread use. The transmission of signals to a rotating axis is an essential function in a 5-axis machine, and we have developed a contactless and wear-free system for EtherCAT transmission together with a supplier.”

C6930 control cabinet IPC from Beckhoff
Trumpf selected the C6930 control cabinet IPC from Beckhoff as the main controller for the TruLaser Cell 8030.

Trumpf also values the extensive EtherCAT diagnostic options as a means of locating the causes of any faults. For example, a service technician remotely identified a fault in a cable for the power supply. “After the right spare part was received and replaced by the machine user, the system was back up, running smoothly again and the customer was impressed with the service provided,” Brauchle explains. For some systems, space-saving control components are also important to reduce footprint requirements. As such, the Beckhoff system as a whole provides the assurance that the TruLaser systems are state-of-the-art, flexible, very reliable, highly productive and also cost-effective.

Demanding HMI requirements

Trumpf machine control panels have extremely demanding requirements. These ultimately led to the decision to use a customized Control Panel from Beckhoff. "On one hand, the HMI has to be uniformly suitable for diverse machine technologies. On the other hand, our high demands regarding ergonomics and design also have to be fulfilled. This is only possible with a specifically developed Control Panel,” Brauchle explains.

Beckhoff's high flexibility regarding the design was a particular advantage, he adds: “For example, we were able to specify the supplier for the integrated pushbuttons. We also quickly received a fully functional prototype for our own testing. The compatibility of the 'open frame' variant with the design operating panel is another advantage as it enables the new operating panel design to be integrated into an existing machine series.”

The C6930 control cabinet IPC with 2 SSDs and the C9900-U330 battery pack is used as the control computer in the TruLaser Cell 8030. According to Brauchle, Trumpf had numerous selection criteria and considered the IPC and Control Panel package as a whole. In addition to high performance, flexible installation on the highest possible number of different machines was a decisive factor. The ability to place the Control Panel in any desired location using the CP-Link 4 single-cable solution was another contributing factor.

Openness for multiple networks in laser cutting

Trumpf TruLaser Cell 8030 with Beckhoff Automation components
The TruLaser Cell 8030 laser cutting machine features a highly customized Control Panel for operator interface built by Beckhoff (left).

Trumpf must accommodate a wide variety of fieldbus systems since its OEM customers, in particular, integrate the laser sources into mixed-architecture production lines. According to Brauchle, Beckhoff offers the right solution because of the open-system design of PC-based control combined with a wide range of different fieldbus controllers, enabling the machines to flexibly adapt to each production environment. For example, PROFINET RT is connected via the EL6631 controller/device terminal as well as EtherNet/IP (EL6652), DeviceNet (EL6752) or PROFIBUS (EL6731).

The TruLaser Cell machines and the laser devices also utilize further EtherCAT I/O components. These standard I/O terminals include the high-density (HD) design, the compact EK1818 and EK1914 EtherCAT Couplers, IO-Link Box modules (with IP67 ratings) for connecting diverse sensors (temperature, pressure, level) as well as the EP9214 24 V voltage distribution for EtherCAT Box modules. Machine safety is also integrated consistently across diverse TwinSAFE Terminals and Box modules. The logical links are implemented in the EL6910 TwinSAFE Logic terminal.

“TwinSAFE has replaced numerous electromechanical components with wear-free software. This has significantly reduced the number of conventional components and also the amount of wiring required. All non-drive safety functions were implemented via the TwinSAFE Editor and we truly value its graphical overview of the logical links,” Brauchle says. “The ability to show and hide safety functions is essential for standard machines with expansions.”

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.


bottom of page