What are some early warning signs that maintenance may soon be required?

A noticeable reduction in cutting speed, feed rate or edge cut quality is a clear indicator that something isn’t right.  Other warning signs include a more frequent need to realign the nozzle or if the nozzle is hot to the touch.  Likewise departures from factory tech tables with regard to power, frequency, duty, gas pressure, and so on are also red flags.

Lasers, be they fiber or CO2, are only making money when they are operating at peak performance. It’s, therefore, important to closely follow maintenance protocol. Follow optics cleaning procedures closely and regularly, track your productivity and machine downtime and ask to see the machine alarm history to help identify and address recurring problems. Understand and plan for secondary operation bottlenecks that may put a strain on schedules and machinery. Remember to keep machine programming software current, minimize part tip-ups and follow OEM recommended maintenance schedules. It’s true what they say about an ounce of prevention: Take the time to create and follow a daily and monthly maintenance checklist; and find laser operators who understand the importance of this and who are interested in taking ownership of the machines they run.

Contributed by:

Patrick Medlin
Advanced Technology Sales & Service
1130 Tarrant Rd.
Greensboro, NC 27409
Tel: 336-393-0030

More on Laser Maintenance

With CO2 lasers there is often the temptation to substitute after-market lenses, mirrors, nozzles, and consumables for OEM-specific parts. While it may seem like a good idea at the time, opting for cheaper parts will usually come back to haunt you in the long run. We often see problems stemming from a failure to have the chiller serviced annually by an industrial chiller service company or failure to replace beam path bellows that may have holes or tears. Laser gas is another area that’s often over looked - Running low or out of laser gas can contaminate the resonator.

The chiller is another critical laser component; and when neglected, it can cause premature failure of components inside the resonator, power supplies, and optics.  If bellows aren’t replaced once they develop holes, the beam path becomes contaminated which shortens the life expectancy of the optics, causes the beam to grow in diameter and ultimately affects focal length at the cutting lens.  All of these effects introduce more variables and inconsistencies into the cutting process and the end result is lost parts due to blow-outs as well as poor edge quality and slower cutting speeds.

Contributed by:
Patrick Medlin - President, Advanced Technology Sales & Service

ATS
1130 Tarrant Rd.
Greensboro, NC 27409
Tel: 336-393-0030
pmedlin@atsservice.com

 

 

Fiber Lasers: Often Overlooked Maintenance

Unfortunately there are several areas that are often overlooked when it comes to keeping your fiber laser operating at peak performance. However all are easily avoidable.

Laser head crashing is often attributed to slat build-up. When cut parts tip up as a result of excess slat you run the risk of the laser head crashing in to that protruding part. This can cause serious damage to the laser head resulting in thousands of dollars for replacement.  When cleaning the lens and lens window be sure to take the time to do it thoroughly and correctly using proper cleaning supplies. Also, while substituting after-market lenses, lens windows, nozzles, insulators, or non-spec consumables might save you a few dollars, in the long run it’s always best to stick with high-quality OEM parts designed especially for your machine.

 Removing Slat Build-Up

There are several companies that offer a motorized tool for removing slag build up from slats.  I’ve also seen companies have moderate success in preventing slag build up by spraying the slats with a solution that is very similar to anti-spatter for welding.  From my experience the best, long term solution is to use copper slats.  While the upfront investment is significant, after 4 to 5 years, when it is time to replace them, you receive a good portion of your money back for the copper scrap.  Another cost saving tip is to make sure that you develop slats that are double-sided so that when the top side becomes too worn, the slat can simply be flipped over.  The reason why the overall height of the slats is so important is because this affects how high the material sits inside of the laser.  When the slats become too short, the laser will experience height sensor alarms when processing thin gauge material because the Z-axis travel is close to exceeding the soft-limits of the machine’s parameters.

Contributed by:
Patrick Medlin
- President, Advanced Technology Sales & Service

ATS
1130 Tarrant Rd.

Greensboro, NC 27409
Tel: 336-393-0030
pmedlin@atsservice.com

 

 

Preventative Maintenance: Fiber vs CO2

The primary maintenance differences between CO2 and fiber lasers are the optics inside the resonator and in the beam delivery system.  All CO2 lasers have resonator optics that help generate and intensify the laser beam; most fiber lasers do not.   All CO2 lasers have beam path optics (bend mirrors) that deliver the laser beam from the resonator to the cutting head.  On the other hand, fiber lasers employ a fiber optic cable to deliver the laser beam from the resonator to the cutting head, eliminating the need for bend mirrors. 

The CO2 laser’s bend mirrors are also enclosed in beam path bellows that are susceptible to holes from constant movement and back reflections and they must be replaced periodically.  Beam path optics can also become misaligned from serious head crashes due to part tip-ups.  All optics must be cleaned, realigned and periodically replaced to maintain optimum cutting efficiency.  However, CO2 lasers are more forgiving in general and their cutting head optics are less sensitive to dusty environments than their fiber laser counterparts. 

While there are far less preventive maintenance requirements with fiber lasers, cleanliness and strict adherence to factory optic cleaning and maintenance procedures and performing those tasks in a controlled, dust-free environment are critical to a fiber’s successful operation.

If you employ a fiber laser take care to pay attention to some often overlooked maintenance areas.

  • Slat build-up is critical. When cut parts tip up as a result of excess slat you run the risk of the laser head crashing in to that protruding part. This can cause serious damage to the laser head resulting in thousands of dollars for replacement. 
  • When cleaning the lens and lens window be sure to take the time to do it thoroughly and correctly using proper cleaning supplies.
  • Also, while substituting after-market lenses, lens windows, nozzles, insulators, or non-spec consumables might save you a few dollars, in the long run it’s always best to stick with high-quality OEM parts designed especially for your machine.

The same can be said for CO2 lasers. Opting for cheaper parts will usually come back to haunt you in the long run. We often see problems stemming from a failure to have the chiller serviced annually by an industrial chiller service company or failure to replace beam path bellows that may have holes or tears. Laser gas is another area that’s often over looked - Running low or out of laser gas can contaminate the resonator.

Contributed by:
Patrick Medlin
- President, Advanced Technology Sales & Service

ATS
1130 Tarrant Rd.

Greensboro, NC 27409
Tel: 336-393-0030
pmedlin@atsservice.com

 

 

Laser Preventive Maintenance

No matter if you have a CO2 or Fiber laser, understanding preventative maintenance is a critical step in getting the most out of your investment.  Let's take a closer look at some of the often overlooked of laser preventive maintenance.

On a daily basis, it’s important to ensure that the laser nozzles are properly aligned and the cutting head and height sensor are clean and free of dust build-up. Also check the water level in the chiller, confirm that operating air supply lines are free of moisture and contaminants. You should also confirm assist gas and purge gas supply levels. These steps take only a few minutes to perform but you would be surprised at how often they are overlooked.

At the same time there are a number of steps that should be performed on a monthly basis. 

  • Slats should be cleaned or replaced if broken or worn down
  • Remove excess laser dust and slag from inside the machine
  • Air filters and chiller condenser coils should be inspected and cleaned
  • Confirm set-point temperatures on the chiller and replace water and add treatment chemicals as needed
  • Check auto-lubrication reservoir levels and follow factory lubrication intervals
  • Inspect hoses for holes and signs of wear
  • Check the dust collector and empty the dust container
  • Inspect the laser safety enclosure for cracked or broken windows
  • Reload factory tech tables (cutting conditions library) and sub-routine programs

Up Nest: CO2 vs Fiber Maintenance

Contributor

Patrick Medlin, President, Advanced Technology Sales & Service. ATS serves fabricators throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Advanced Technology Sales & Service
1130 Tarrant Rd.
Greensboro, NC 27409

Tel: 336-393-0030

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A constant within the world of software is whats called "Shadow Solutions."  Shadow software solutions are usually implemented by a small group of individuals to solve a problem, but create a silo of data within a companies process.  One example of this is Solid CAD solutions.  Organizations will develop amazing CAD drawings with a lot of information, but need to be transitioned out of this solid model state for the rest of the organization to use it losing valuable information.  The solution to this problem is to use a integrated platform which can read directly from these files.  SecturaSOFT is able to do this, by pulling in Solidworks files, understanding materials, products, BOMS and processes from such drawings to create the BOM in your ERP/MRP solution. 

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Utilizing geometry within a quoting and scheduling platform gains organizations a very large advantage.  Most MRP/ERP solutions utilize basic copy and paste functions when making calls between databases.  With this method, all geometry is held outside of a companies global solution.  In addition all changes must be made in a separate CAD solution.  Integrating geometry directly in your MRP / Fabrication quoting solution give you the ability to make changes without ever leaving the global system.  This means a single point of entry, no duel entry, and no shadow systems which is not tracked by you.

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