Keely Portway considers how AI can benefit industrial laser system users

Artificial intelligence has increasingly been making its way into industrial manufacturing over the past few years. With the drive for the factory of the future, or Industry 4.0, it’s difficult to argue that manufacturing is getting increasingly smarter. Looking specifically at laser processing, AI will enable lasers to ‘become even more efficient, easier to operate and more adaptable’, according to Christian Schmitz, CEO of laser technology at Trumpf. Indeed, the company has been

developing its laser technology for some time to include the adoption of AI solutions. At the Laser World of Photonics trade show in 2019 it presented a laser system featuring AI that enables it to be operated using voice commands.

Kit communication The system is equipped with a marking laser, and was used to demonstrate some of the potential benefits of AI in laser material processing. For instance, how the operator could instruct a machine to carry out actions such as ‘open/close the door’, ‘start the marking process,’ or ask ‘how many products have been marked today’, by speaking into a microphone. The laser system responds immediately and carries out the instruction. Schmitz believes that there are numerous

advantages with using voice control. Navigating skills gaps, for example, as inexperienced users will not require extensive training to safely operate a machine. They would not need to learn how to navigate what can be a multi-layered menu structure when entering instructions manually via the software interface. It also saves time, allowing operators to keep their hands free to prepare the next part for processing or remove a finished part from the machine. Moreover, by providing


barrier-free access, voice control allows a more diverse range of employees to operate the machine, so a handicapped person, for example, would not be prevented from doing so. Schmitz revealed at the time that the

company fully intends to further simplify operations of the laser marking system. For example, advanced sensor systems and image recognition software could help the machine identify a part, select the necessary program, and automatically position the laser at the correct angle before starting the marking process.

A helping hand

It’s not just marking applications that Trumpf is applying AI to. The company’s TruLaser Center 7030 laser cutting machine can cut parts from a metal sheet and remove them automatically using 180 movable pins supported by AI. This repetitive job has, historically, been undertaken by hand because the parts may tilt slightly as they come out of the sheet, and a human can easily manoeuver them into the correct position . In the AI-assisted system however, from below, the pins lift the part from the scrap skeleton, while suction plates hold it in place from above. If a part gets stuck on the first try, the suction plates and pins repeat the process in a slightly different way until they succeed. The machine sends data about any failed

attempts to the cloud, where it is evaluated centrally. TruLaser Center 7030 systems will then receive regular updates, allowing

each and every user to benefit from what the algorithms have learned worldwide. This huge pool of machines, all connected to the same central hub, could offer real benefits to users by making their individual machines better over time.

Investing in AI The investment by Trumpf for using AI in its products is not slowing down. It made a further announcement last year that it is extending its partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA to form a research alliance, set to run until 2025. Its goal is to develop AI solutions for connected sheet-metal manufacturing on an industrial scale. ‘Trumpf’s mission is to further extend its AI leadership in sheet-metal fabrication,’ explained Thomas Schneider, managing director of development at Trumpf Machine Tools. ‘To that end, we have already started investing in the kind of future technologies that will drive major efficiency gains in our company and boost our competitiveness.’ The collaboration sees 10 employees spanning both partners involved in the project, which will receive around €2m of funding spread over five years. Professor Thomas Bauernhansl, director of Fraunhofer IPA said: ‘Trumpf has been working with us on connected manufacturing for years because they share our view that Industry 4.0 developments represent a major opportunity. Everything depends on what happens over the next few years – so

AI is able to monitor cutting processes in real time and simplifies use for workers of all skillsets @LASERSYSTEMSMAG | WWW.LASERSYSTEMSEUROPE.COM @researchinfo |

MC Machinery

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