Laser Cutting Machine, Up and Running.
How are we getting on with our laser cutting machine?
Well here we are, a quarter of the year on from having our own Laser cutting machine commissioned and what a steep learning curve it has been. The week-long training course at the manufacturers gave us valuable training on the programming but the operation of the Laser cutter is something you can only learn “on the job”. Delivery and commissioning took just under two weeks with a further two days of training and then we were effectively “on our own”.
Laser Cutting Machine Miscellaneous Activities
When running the machine there’s quite a lot of housekeeping to be done and the frequency of this depends on the amount the Laser is used. In our case we find we must carry this out weekly. Part of the housekeeping involves cleaning the lens on the laser head. This is done using a special lint free cloth, we find make up removal pads Ideal. Acetone is then on the pads prior to wiping the lens to clean it. It is important the lens is spotless as this is how the laser beam is focused on to the workpiece to achieve the cut. Next process is to center the laser beam in the center of the nozzle. This process is a little “Heath Robinson” but it works. We place over the end of the nozzle a piece of Sellotape and then fire the laser beam through the Sellotape. This process creates a small hole in the Sellotape. Looking at this through a special magnifying lens indicates if the Laser is in the center of the nozzle. If it has moved it can be adjusted until it is firing centrally within the nozzle using three adjusting screws. Once central the next and final part of Laser housekeeping is setting the height of the Laser head from the work piece. This process is carried out automatically by a program written into the Laser control panel. The program ensures the correct calibration of the head height above the workpiece and guarantees a clean cut when carried out with the previously described processes.
I don’t think before we have the Laser we fully appreciated just how many hours each week the Laser cutter would be in operation. It was a concern of ours that we would only be using the Laser cutter for a few days each week and the rest of the time it would be switched off (something which Lasers don’t particularly like). We soon discovered however that it is working almost daily and sometimes we are struggling to keep pace with the amount of Laser cutting we need for our production.
Previously when we subcontracted our Laser cutting to others we would send the purchase order and three days later the stuff would arrive. Now however it’s a lot more involved and we have much more work to do than we did on the Laser cutting, but it’s much more cost effective this way. Our steel usage has gone up quite considerably though which has gone down well with our steel suppliers but we don’t have the big Laser cutting bills anymore. We can see though that if we increase our product range which we hope to do soon we may have to subcontract some Laser cutting out due to our machine capacity.
We’ll have to see how we go in the next six months. Watch this space!
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