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EuroBLECH 2016 showcases industrial laser systems

20 Oct 2016

Sheet metalworking technology expo takes place in Hanover, next week.

Between 25 – 29 October, the 24th international sheet metalworking technology exhibition EuroBLECH takes place at the expansive fairground in Hanover, Germany (Blech simply means sheet metal). The event invariably showcases the latest developments in laser-based metal-processing systems.

The exhibition covers the entire sheet metalworking technology chain: raw materials, handling and forming, joining and additive manufacturing, welding and surface treatments, tools, quality control, CAD-CAM systems and R&D. More than 1,500 exhibitors from 40 countries (listed here) will present their technologies to an expected 60,000 trade visitors.

Here, optics.org previews the exhibits of several key laser systems developers and their take on what is “hot” in sheet metal processing.

Fraunhofer ILT is to show how its laser-assisted metal processing techniques are significantly reducing component and end-product weight in automobile construction. Ahead of the show, the Aachen, Germany-based research group gave a taster of some of its recent developments:

Laser processing of ultra-high strength steels The automobile industry uses press-hardened and ultra-high strength steels with a tensile strength of up to 2,000 MPa in car body construction to reduce weight. Together with project partners from science and industry, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT has advanced the development of separation and joining as well as heat treatment technologies.

The ILT says that while laser-cutting and spot welding have already proven themselves as separation and joining process, respectively, both methods lead to metallurgical effects that can adversely affect component properties. During cutting, hardening occurs in the edge zone of the cut edge; and with spot welding, a heat-affected zone forms with a distinct hardening reduction around the weld.

But it adds that by means of local laser heat treatment in the zones of interest, such weakening can be counteracted: “The hardness and ductility of the material can thus be adjusted locally to tensile elongations of 10 to 15%,” it stated in a pre-EuroBLECH announcement.

Laser combi-heads for the processing of car body components. The ILT added, “it makes sense to combine individual process steps in one tool for economic reasons”. This is the starting point of the collaborative project KLASSE, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research; the project is being carried out by the Fraunhofer ILT along with partners from the automotive industry and laser plant construction.

KLASSE has resulted in the development of a combined processing head with a hybrid laser beam source consisting of a diode laser for heat treatment and a fiber laser for cutting. For several years now, a laser processing head developed by Fraunhofer ILT and marketed by Laserfact has been successfully used in the industry, combining different work steps.

The head incorporates the two process steps cutting and welding into one machine without a need for retooling. In mid-2016, a powder nozzle was integrated into the combi-head, enabling it to carry out additive manufacturing steps by means of laser metal deposition. After this integration, set-up times can be minimized and highly flexible production made more efficient. In addition, the combi-head can also be used to cut composite materials, like carbon-fiber reinforced components, which are becoming increasingly popular in car body manufacturing.

Jenoptik’s Automotive division is presenting its laser machine series for 3D metal cutting, the Votan BIM, at EuroBLECH.

It says that this system is the “virtually wear-free tool for processing of a variety of metal working parts”. With repeat accuracy of up to 50μm and also highest dynamics, this laser machine ranks among the most precise systems of its class. In just one second, the Votan-BIM can cut a circular or other standard contour shape, which allows for a significantly shorter cycle time compared to other robotic sheet metal processing systems.

The Votan BIM is based on a beam guide situated inside the robot. Thus, laser sources with a power of up to 5kW can be used without a complex external beam guide. At the same time, the equidistant beam path prevents the laser beam from pumping effects, ensuring a stable beam quality.

Rofin’s FL Fiber Laser Series are multifaceted tools suited to sheet metal cutting and welding. Following the development of more powerful pumping modules and optimized fiber laser modules, Rofin is now capable of generating 2.5kW of laser power from a single fiber laser unit, which the company claims makes them the most powerful fiber laser units on the market. Rofin will also present its FL050C, a 5kW compact model consisting of only two units.

New diode laser Rofin’s fiber-coupled multi-kilowatt diode laser will also be presented in the new HQ version (High Beam Quality) for the first time. With an output power of 4kW and a 600µm fiber, the DF040HQ complements the company's DF Series as a cost-efficient tool for keyhole welding in addition to brazing and surface treatments that require higher beam quality.

A system solution for tube and profile welding that can be combined with either CO2 or fiber lasers, rounds off Rofin’s EuroBLECH offering. The PWS is a complete laser welding system with an integrated process sensor for gap detection and tracking. The “Weld Sensor” allows a user to observe the welding process while the integrated controller corrects the welding position automatically. The PWS will be presented with a fiber laser for welding of profiles.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

Photon Engineering, LLCScitec Instruments Ltdart Photonics GmbHPhotonTec Berlin GmbHOmicron-Laserage Laserprodukte GmbHBristol Instruments, Inc.Spectrum Scientific Inc. -  SSI Optics
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