Visionaries are the true architects of change and of the future. They are far-sighted and are brave in following their dreams and their instincts.
Visionaries are sometimes able to bring about a change in the way of thinking and living, to invent a new product or to revolutionize the way it is produced.
At other times, they prove to be able to use technologies in a completely innovative way to achieve their goals intelligently and effectively, adding value to their company.
In a sector as specific as metal cutting, being innovative requires multiple steps:
- Imagining, designing and creating innovation in one's own production
- Recognizing innovative metal-cutting technologies
- Understanding what features a machine needs to have to cut complex geometries or add features to improve secondary processes
- Following the continuous innovation of cutting technologies, such as laser
- Understanding how to get flexibility from your system...
- ...and how to transfer the concept of flexibility into increased productivity
Imagining, designing and creating your own production
New technologies can be extraordinary tools in the hands of visionaries in the development of their projects. A new technology can:
- Add value and foster innovation, give your products distinctive features to make your company stand out amongst the competition: features that your competitors haven't considered.
- Take a step forward to advance flexibility and productivity, with positive effects not only for the company (more efficiency, more margins), but also on a personal level (recognition, extra benefits, promotions, pay raises).
- Establish a trusted partnership with your customers as a supplier they can rely on and as a leader in technology, innovation and quality.
- Being a source of pride for your employees who will always feel stimulated and motivated by learning about new technologies and working in a future-oriented company.
It is no mystery that the most famous and respected entrepreneurs are those who have been able to effectively implement new technologies.
Innovative metal cutting technologies
In order to understand the most innovative metal cutting technologies, the most important indicator is the extent of technological developments made over time. Some technologies, such as blanking, punching, disc cutting or band saws cutting have remained almost unchanged over the last decade. Others, however, experienced rapid development, which is still ongoing, and it’s mainly due to:
- Next-generation CNC systems, which can interpolate and manage dozens of axes simulatenously.
- Increasingly simple and intuitive CAM software. Cutting-edge technology allows you to simulate cutting operations in a space that reliably reflects the reality of the machine, allowing you to import very complex 3D models and go from the idea to finished part to production rapidly.
- Laser technology development. The fiber laser has allowed the cutting of reflective materials, output powers have increased to cut materials tens of millimeters thick, 3D laser cutting capability, and systems automatically adapt the cutting parameters in real time.
|LT-FREE, the BLM Group solution for 3D laser cutting|
What features does a machine need to have to cut complex geometries?
"Complex geometries" include stamped, deep-drawn, hydroformed sheet metal, bent tubes, etc.
Certain characteristics are required to cut parts like these:
- Five-axis systems: Five is the indispensable number to reach any point of the part with the right inclination of the cutting head.
- Smaller dimensions: Whether it is the cutting head of a laser or a milling cutter, having a small footprint will allow you to reach even the narrowest points of the surface of the part.
- Part clamping system: The cutting head cannot reach the points where the part is fixed to the supporting plate. In some cases, the part can be repositioned by hand, but this is a detriment to accurancy. There are intelligent solutions to solve this problem.
|Workpiece clamping by handler robot|
Laser cutting: the most innovative solution on the market
First introduced in the 1960s, laser cutting has experienced - and is still experiencing - continuous technological developments.
Modern industrial lasers have increased their power.
In the past, CO2 lasers and complex beam delivery systems were the primary source used for metal cutting. Today, the simplicity of fiber laser is preferred: this has made it possible to overcome the mechanics of mirrors, increasing speed and reliability of cutting systems and allowing the development of 3D laser cutting systems.
|Example of the same process performed without and with laser|
As far as gas assistance is concerned:
- Oxygen still holds a leading position in the cutting of thick construction steels.
- The most widely used gas is undoubtedly nitrogen, which provides much better cutting quality on reflective and thinner materials.
Flexibility is an essential requirement for productivity
When a manufacturer is considering the introduction of a new production system, the first element to be considered is productivity, but in today’s market being able to make to order is an increasing important factor for a system which can adapt quickly to changes in production.
The transition from the production volume concept to that of productivity is now incorporated and it is a matter of reducing the production time of a single part, keeping the processing quality unchanged (or improving it).
However, it is a relative concept and not an absolute one: there are many factors that determine the productivity of a technology. Often, in order for a job to take less time, it is not only necessary to have a fast technology, but also to have a system that offers flexibility in processing. There are many cases in which the need for productivity translates into a demand for flexibility.
Are you wondering if this is your case? Then, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is production changed at least once or more times a day?
- Do you need to make different types of parts?
- Does your production target more than one sector?
- Do your customers ask you to be productive but at the same time to make more and more different types of parts?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then what you need most is a production system which is also flexible.
How can flexibility make your production grow?
Let's clarify what we mean by flexibility in metal cutting. We mean reducing the preparation times to switch from one production job to the next.
- Programming the new work cycle
- Preparing or making the equipment needed for the process
These two activities must be performed off-line (without interrupting the cutting cycle of the machine).
- Machine set-up
It should be as automatic and as guided as possible.
By reducing the time of all these operations, the final cost per part can be reduced significantly.
By adopting a flexible system, it is possible to respond quickly to new requests from customers, even those that competitors have not been able to meet.
If you are convinced that a 3D metal cutting system is right for you, find out how to evaluate your investment correctly.