8 min read

How to program a 3D laser cutting machine

Sep 17, 2019 2:42:00 PM

ArtCut is the programming software developed by BLM GROUP for the programming of its 3D laser cutting systems.

The operator has a user-friendly graphic environment, in which the entire LT-FREE system is modelled three-dimensionally, including cutting head, internal frame, robots, tables, fixtures and workpiece.

It also contributes to making the programming experience simple and user-friendly:

  • display of cutting profiles
  • view of the work program tree
  • user-friendly control panel
  • drag & drop manipulation of 3D objects



The advantages of using ArtCut to program your workpiece

  • It constantly follows you during workpiece programming
    The operator has only the commands needed at the time and is guided step by step to define the work cycle. From importing the 3D file to setting up parameters, defining cutting positions and simulating.

  • Program everything off-line remotely
    All programming in ArtCut is off-line. The work program can be studied, simulated and sent to the machine only when it is ready. This avoids downtime and makes 24/7 production possible.

  • One software for all parts
    ArtCut is equally effective for importing and processing any type of file for any workpiece, whether three-dimensional or not: curved, hydroformed, preformed, pre-welded, flat and/or stamped sheet metal.

  • Programming time optimization
    Programming times are considerably reduced by using automatic functions: fast import of any 3D object, selection of the geometries to be cut and program creation.

  • A powerful collision analysis function
    By using the collision resolution algorithm, the software automatically corrects axis trajectories to avoid collisions with the workpiece or parts of the machine.

  • Material and thickness database
    ArtCut has an extensive and current database, which is the result of BLM GROUP's experience in laser cutting, that you can utilize to optimize cutting parameters, according to the material and thickness of the part to be cut.

  • Part-specific support fixtures
    Artcut can create part-specific support fixtures, generating the program to be able to cut them on LT-FREE or any other laser sheet metal machine.

  • Creating cutting programs
    In addition to generating the cutting programs, the software programs all machine components, including robots and shuttle tables. To set-up part production, a robot programmer is not required for machine operation.


The LT-FREE unified human-machine interface

LT-FREE is equipped with a user-friendly human-machine touch interface, common to all BLM GROUP Lasertube machines, which provides a clear overview of all machine systems. Here are the main features:

  • Part program clarity
    In LT-FREE, the part program has a tree structure, which allows you to operate on multiple levels and implement changes to any point of the trajectory, to the geometries or to the cutting position. Even after it has been sent to the machine, the operator can carry out many operations, such as moving cut geometry locations, modifying cutting parameters, managing or inserting micro-joints.

  • Scheduled maintenance management
    The wear of the main machine parts can be monitored in the maintenance area. According to the hours of operation and the lifetime of the system, LT-FREE alerts the operator of required maintenance checks (cleaning, mechanical inspections, inspections of the technological part, electrical system checks and lubrication). This feature allows you to schedule maintenance operations well in advance to reduce machine downtime.

  • Remaining operating time
    Monitoring the machining progress and complete part cycle allows the operator to maintain high productivity and keep the entire production always under control. This function also allows the operator's efficiency to be calculated by monitoring the time for which the machine is waiting to be loaded, as well as the number of parts per hour.

  • Micro-joints: the great advantage of being able to add them on the machine
    Although it is easy to accomplish with ArtCut, it may sometimes be necessary to add the micro-joints directly on the machine. This is especially true for manufactured by cold-formed or plastic deformation processes, which have accumulated a lot of stress during the forming process. Once cut, these parts have an unpredictable and physiological resetting because they tend to release the stresses accumulated in the forming process. For this reason, it may be necessary for the operator to insert micro-joints along the cutting path to check that scrap and workpiece remain in the correct position and consequently that the cutting path is also not affected by forming process stresses.

  • 3D visualization of the part to be made
    The ability to view the part and robot gripper in 3D makes it possible to manage the machine program from the points acquisition to the simulation of the working cycle.

Find out more about LT-FREE


What difficulties do programmers face when programming a 3D laser cutting machine?

A 3D laser cutting system requires powerful, yet easy-to-use programming software. Here are some of the common difficulties you may encounter:

  • Risk of collisions between head and part
    Collisions can occur both when the head travels through the cutting geometry and while in motion along the rapid paths, i.e. moving from one cutting geometry to another.
    Collisions while in motion can occur when processing the tube or hydroformed part, as the individual cutting geometries are often located in opposite areas of the workpiece. The consequence is that the programmer takes a long time to change the trajectories manually to be able to switch to machining the part in total safety.
    ArtCut simplifies the programmer's work because it automatically calculates the best rapid cutting paths in order to avoid collisions between the laser head, the part and the robot, simplifying and significantly shortening programming time. In addition to this, during the simulation, the software shows not only the part and the cutting head, but all the components of the work cell, including robots, tables, machine structure, etc. This is an important feature for the programmer who, during graphic simulation, has every detail of the machine always under control.

  • Management of all automatic cell systems
    Handling robots are very useful for work cycle automation by performing the same operation effectively over time. However, when the work cycle changes, the robot must also be reprogrammed and this requires the intervention of a trained robot technician.
    ArtCut allows you to program all the LT-FREE systems, not only the cutting head but also any shuttle tables and robots. This comprehensive programming is performed offline and can be transferred to the machine remotely. It greatly simplifies the programmer's work.

  • Changes on the machine

    Once the program has been sent to the machine, it may be necessary to make changes because the part may be affected by errors, internal stresses and other types of critical issues. For this reason, the operator may need to make changes directly on the machine, such as change to geometries, adding micro-joints, activating or deactivating Active functions, managing cutting parameters, to ensure the final product is processed defect-free.

    The LT-FREE machine interface allows the operator to have a clear view of the work cycle, go and modify it easily, without having to go back to ArtCut.

  • Indexing

    When laser cutting a workpiece in space, the exact locationof the workpiece is fundamental. The success of the entire machining process will depend on it. The position of the workpiece in the machine is defined by a process known as indexing and is one of the activities that has the greatest impact on production time.
    In LT-FREE, everything is designed to speed up this process. The machine interface shows the points on the workpiece whose position needs to be captured and the operator can each point in a simple and guided way.

Find out the strengths of LT-FREE


How to train your operators

BLM GROUP offers two training sessions to the customer's staff during the purchasing phase:

  • During testing at the BLM GROUP headquarters.
  • After installation at the customer's facility.

During this time, users gain hands-on on machine operation experience and above all become confident using the machine and programming new parts, exploiting all the potentialities of the system. In addition to training new operators or advancing the skills of experienced users, there are a variety of training courses offered through the BLM GROUP Academy.


Here are some of the companies that chose LT-FREE to boost their production

Arrow: laser-fast prototyping

Arrow Special Parts manufactures exhaust systems for mopeds, scooters and motorcycles and has made technology the backbone of its business. In order to face the fierce price competitiveness o of manufacturers in emerging countries, the company was looking for a solution that could guarantee construction quality, high productivity rates and, above all, flexibility.




LT-FREE was the ideal answer:

  • As a result of fast production set-up, the prototyping phase was drastically reduced: Arrow can now cut parts, starting directly from the 3D CAD model, build the prototype, send it to the customer for approval and start actual production in record-breaking time.

  • The efficiency of the separate part loading area combined with the accuracy and speed of laser cutting and robotic handling has reduced Arrow’s cycle time and improved cutting quality of exhaust pipes and mufflers.

New call-to-action


VDL: Feasibility and convenience with no trade-offs

VDL Belgium chose LT-FREE to make any part from the customer's 3D model and perform highly complex three-dimensional laser processes, especially on pre-bent tubes.


vdl futura

To meet the needs of key customers in the industry, you need productivity, quality and short delivery times. LT-FREE has made the production process more efficient, saving up to 50% of production costs and allowing:

  • The flexibility of being able to produce any part thanks to two robots.
  • The productivity offered by separate loading and unloading chambers.
  • The possibility of producing, in a single step, 3D laser cut parts that previously required many different processes.
  • Easy to use. To put it briefly, the operators quickly became skilled users in a very shory time; unthinkable with traditional processes and techniques.

Find out more about why to choose an LT-FREE