Laser doubles speed, cuts thinner metals, operates ‘closed loop’

With a smorgasbord of controls technologies, a recent unveiling of the latest laser metal-cutting machine here satiated select metal-fabricating customers with competitive superlatives.

By Control Engineering Staff May 27, 2004

With a smorgasbord of controls technologies, a recent unveiling of the latest laser metal-cutting machine here satiated select metal-fabricating customers with competitive superlatives. Mazak HyperGear 510 uses twice-as-fast custom linear motors, increased use of sensors, refined programming, read-ahead controls, and new algorithms allow a new laser metal-cutting machine to work on 20-30% more applications—higher speeds can cut thin, painted galvanized steel sheet (0.2 mm, 0.008-in.) that would have blistered or caught fire previously, up to nearly inch-thick steel plate. ( Click here to review HyperGear 510 standard specifications .)

Sensors detect when any of four automatically interchangeable heads need a new laser nozzle, then the machine replaces the head without operator intervention. Such higher-accuracy closed-loop, intelligent operations permit longer unattended fabrication and use of operators with lower skill levels than previously possible. On the new machine tool, Mazak applied for more than 30 patents. The machine is part of Mazak’s internal pilot effort to move from three-month to three-day production process. A Mazak Laser Corp . media and select-customer event on May 5 introduced HyperGear to the world. Click here to read more about the technologies used and why.

Mazak HyperGear 510 can determine when wear or a job requires any of four laser heads and up to 10 nozzles and make the change automatically. New algorithms are among control technologies that permit extended closed-loop operations at double the speed of previous laser cutting tools.

Tony Yamazaki, president of Yamazaki Mazak Optonics in Japan, suggested that HyperGear will allow manufacturing to remain competitive. HyperGear incorporates the first automatic torch changer; dramatically different PC control design; the first hyperlinear drive design; the first laser to diagnose and repair cutting-related problems; and the first laser to automatically notify operator in advance of needed maintenance, he said.

Metal fabricators worldwide say that finding skilled operators remains among their greatest challenges, Yamazaki said. Higher levels of automation allow one operator with a lower level of training to operate several machines, he suggested.

Glenn Berkhahn, Mazak Laser senior vice president, noted that customers can expect 1.5-year payback on the HyperGear 510, fitting in with the “driving need to have machines that have high-speed, high-accuracy production with low labor units per piece production.” He called it the “most advanced machine tool in the marketplace.”

HyperGear’s intelligent functions, according to Bruce C. Dozier, Yamazaki Mazak North American market liaison, allow near zero setup time, and very small, and still-profitable lot sizes. The functions, Dozier said, include:

Nanosecond PREview 640 PC Control. The control’s new “read-ahead” system is able to calculate a part’s cutting path with eight-times greater resolution than the “feedback” system found in other laser controls. Linux-based control software saves time by creating programs from CAD/CAM software input. The operation station has a 64-bit processor for control and a 32-bit processor for the 15-in. SVGA operator display. Software also automatically calculates the laser’s optimum cutting speed and acceleration for each contour of the part’s shape. “Taking a nest from a Mazak Smart System,” HyperGear’s Nanosecond PREview 640 PC Control automatically can determine the best method of piercing the entire sheet so that no area on the sheet becomes too hot, preserving cut quality. Controls can send more accurate instructions to the newly engineered Hyperlinear Drives, enabling the laser to double its speed while staying on course.

Hyperlinear Drives. Magnets in the two Mazak-designed linear drive motors are machined so precisely that they serve as positioning scales. Filtered shop air is used to cool the motors instead of water cooling. A vertical box frame design enables Hyperlinear Drives to be more accurate and generate less heat than traditional linear motors.

The 4000w HyperGear CO2 laser head moves on two x axes, designated y, and z, while the laser is held a uniform distance from the nozzle by the U-axis. This increases cutting accuracy by maintaining uniform cutting power. The 5 x 10 ft bed is stationary. Using these constants, new algorithms eliminate the need for tool-positioning feedback to the cutting program, permitting higher speeds and greater accuracies. The program looks ahead at forces that will be generated by the fixed mass, and compensates beforehand. A resolver for the linear motors confirms location and compensates by exception (not feedback), if needed.

The program also seeks information for the Cutting Conditions learning database and updates information automatically based on learned conditions. In an example of capabilities, for 10 mm (0.39 in.) dia. holes, at a 10 m/minute feed rate, circle roundness accuracy is 0.046 mm (0.0018 in.) at 0.56 G acceleration, compares to “normal CNC with feedback control” with accuracy of 0.080 mm. It can make these holes, at a maximum 23 m/min. (906 in./min.) feed rate with accuracy of 0.148 mm at 3 G; normal CNC with feedback control cannot perform at that rate, Dozier said. In a one-minute speed test, the hybrid linear motors and read-ahead programming did 350 holes of 10 mm dia., compared to 152 with a normal feedback system, the company said.

An intelligent maintenance notification system can spot cutting problems as they happen and automatically make self-adjustments, such as replacing a dirty lens or reconditioning a nozzle. In addition, sensors throughout the system alert operators in advance of needed maintenance (allowing scheduling of labor and part ordering). Before every cutting job (or at set intervals), a CCD camera checks to ensure the nozzle is centered and the lens is clean. If not, the system switches the torch or nozzle. It can also grind a nozzle to remove contamination. If cutting problems occur during production, an intelligent sensor signals HyperGear to recheck the nozzle. The system can also check the focal point and power levels and perform the necessary automatic adjustments or alert the operator to optimize cutting and prevent burning. Sensors also monitor all filters and even the internal and external beam delivery systems. These automatic features can significantly reduce downtime and rework.

Automatic torch changer (holds four), lens changer, and nozzle changer (holds 10). These features, plus automatic focusing and beam adjustments, enable the ideal setup for every cutting application with the lowest possible setup time.

Quick-change piercing gun. A piercing-optimized torch with automatic setup enables fabricators to use the optimum torches for both piercing and cutting without incurring time-consuming manual setups.

A spherical leveling device easily sets and holds the machine level, which is critical for accuracy.

Using HyperGear in conjunction with changes in design and assembly can increase efficiency. Time reductions from 3 months to 3 days in Mazak pilot plant test are expected, in part, by eliminating delays in waiting for larger machine tools by employing snap-together laser-cut metal designs, allowing machining and assembly in one shop, according to Yamazaki, to minimize welding and finishing.

Comparing two Mazak plants, Yamazaki says labor in China is 1/30 the cost of Japan, yet total manufacturing costs in China is 25% higher than Japan, with main differences in productivity, duty rates paid, and costs related to component availability. “We’re offering our customers our machines to invest in, but also suggest that customers change their company organization from the existing pyramid type to bowl or spherical type organization to improve profits.” The customer is at the center of the bowl, he adds.

Mazak’s accepting orders for fall delivery on the $598,000 HyperGear 510. For more from Mazak Laser click here , including videos with equipment in action, and information about U.S. tax incentives.

—Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief, Control Engineering,

HyperGear 510 standard specifications

Max. workpiece size: 1,525 x 3,050 mm (60 x 120 in.)

Cutting capacity: Mild steel 25 mm (0.98 in.) thick

High quality cutting: SUS 15 mm (0.59 in.); AL 12 mm (0.47in.) High quality cutting is achieved over long hours of machine operation thanks to the Intelligent Optimum Beam Diameter Selection (U axis offset) (patent pending). This feature keeps the laser source a set distance away from the cutting point, keeping power uniform.

Beam Mode: TEM 01

Max. load capacity: 930 kg (2050 lb)

Axis stroke: X axis 3,070 mm (120.86 in.); Y axis 1,545 mm (60.83 in.); Z axis 100 mm (3.94 in.)

Acceleration: X, Y, Z axis 3G

Positioning accuracy at

Pallet changer: 2 PC

Assist gas change: 3 kinds by NC

Torch: 7.5 in.

Laser resonator continuous rated output: 4,000 W-Electrical power requirements: 51 kVA/200 V

Total electrical power requirements: 116 kVA

Machine dimensions: 10,600 x 3,370 x 1,850 mm (417.32 in. x 132.68 in. x 72.83 in.)

Machine weight: 14,800 kg (32,628 lb)

Optional Equipment: e–Tower; Mazak Clean Air Booth; Cyber Production Center; Laser FMS specifications; Cutting Torches 3.75 in., 5 in., 8.25 in.; and Piercing Torch.