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On the other side of the coin are systems avail- able up to 6 kW from suppliers like Amada and Mazak and 8 kW from TRUMPF. “There are different ways a fi ber laser can cut thick material with CO2


back in 2011, and we didn’t


power level has been unprecedented,” he said. “CO2 laser cutting technology took nearly 20 years to ar-


-like quality,” explained Amada laser


product manager Jason Hillenbrand. “We were cutting 1-inch mild steel on a 4-kW fi ber laser with the same edge quality as a CO2


have our ENSIS technology then. We use cutting lens technology that changes the beam mode. One type of lens transfers the beam without changing the mode,


rive at the 6-kW level, whereas fi ber has taken six years to arrive at the same power level. With more and more users migrating away from CO2


technology,


more demand was placed on being able to process thicker materials with fi ber laser technology.” Today’s customers want fi ber laser cutting systems to process all the materials their CO2


systems used to,


he continues. “Job shops especially are looking for the fl exibility of the single cutting tool solution. While the CO2


,


is slightly faster in the thicker range of materials at the 6-kW level, the benefi ts of cutting with fi ber are realized with 50% lower cost of operation compared to CO2


reducing the overall cost per part.” “Any laser system will cut thin mate-


A range of material can be cut with Bystronic’s BySprint system: .500- inch copper, .625-inch brass, 1.180-inch aluminum, 1.180-inch stainless and 1-inch steel.


Photo courtesy Bystronic


allowing for maximum cut speed in thin material. However, when cutting thick material with oxygen, we use a different lens that changes the mode to a ‘donut’ shape, typical of what a CO2


laser creates.”


Today, he added, “there are a lot of laser manu- facturers doing similar things. There are companies that have cutting heads with multiple optics inside to change the diameter of the beam and try to manipu- late that beam to cut thick and thin material—and they get good results. ENSIS is unique because we have removed the need to change lenses or add optics in the cutting head. Instead all this is done in the fi ber engine, and we can change the mode of the laser beam essentially infi nitely—from what you would want on a fi ber laser all the way to what you would want for a CO2


and everything in between.” Power, Time, Quality As the demand for cutting thinner materials faster


with fi ber has grown, said Frank Arteaga, head of product marketing for Bystronic, so has the demand for higher wattage. “The speed at which fi ber tech- nology for fl at sheet cutting has reached the 6-kW


LF14 AdvancedManufacturing.org


rial,” noted Steve Aleshin, applications manager for Salvagnini. Customers cut- ting thinner material tend to use a 2-kW solid state resonator, he said, because of the signifi cant feed-rate advantage over CO2


and because of its lower operating


costs. “However with a 2 kW fi ber laser cutting mild steel, you don’t want to push the machine to cut higher than 15 mm,


or .59 inches. If you want to cut in the ¾”-range, we will recommend a higher-powered system. A 3-kW or 4-kW resonator will allow you to cut thicker mate- rial faster, with increased quality at the upper range. Cutting thinner materials with a high-power resona- tor can be overkill because you aren’t going to be able to take advantage of some of the speeds.” At 2 kW, Amada’s ENSIS “is still going to cut three times faster than a 4000-W CO2


in the thin material


range,” Hillenbrand noted. Manufacturers are not necessarily buying higher-wattage systems to cut thick material, he said, “although a 6000-W system will cut thick material with no problem and do a great job. The primary reason you see people investing more in high-wattage machines is that, for example, a 6000-W fi ber laser can cut ¼" mild steel with nitrogen at over 200 ipm. They now can start cutting these mid-thick, quarter-inch and even up to 5/16” metals with good edge quality at much higher speeds than they ever could with any other technology. Not only that, but parts are coming off the machine without oxidation because you’re cutting with nitrogen.”


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