Robotic Production Laser Simplifies Complex Cutting Operations
A five-axis 3D, robotic production laser currently in use at Inland Metal Technologies has simplified and reduced the cost of cutting tubes used in electronic equipment frames. The SG-U44 Mazak laser has added precision, repeatability, and speed to the complex process of cutting tubes that are later welded into metal frames for the semiconductor, large server, or flat panel testing systems markets.
"This is a tube laser, which is a little different from a standard laser cutting device," said Stan Sutton, president of Inland Metal Technologies. "It has a five-axis cutting head, so it can wrap itself around a tube to cut whatever holes or features are necessary."
The round or rectangular tubing is welded into a framework that requires a high level of precision, which Sutton said is very difficult to obtain unless the components are accurately cut. "What the laser allows us to do is design in features that allow the assembly and welding to be very precise for the various frame components," he explains. "Ordinarily, this laser cutting would have to come from a much slower machining process. Now, we can do it much faster on the laser with a fully-articulated robot that moves around to cut these features. Even a one-off part will be a very precision part."
Inland Metal Technologies' core competency is precision metal fabrication, but the contract manufacturer also provides metal stamping, CNC machining, value-added assembly and testing, and quick-turn prototyping for a vast variety of high-tech clients. The company's hallmark, however, is management of the entire manufacturing process for its clients.
We're very diverse in our ability to serve our customers," Sutton says. "We've found over the years that as customers became more dependent on moving their required contracting to sub-tier suppliers, we had to be more competent in various levels of performance. Included in that are such varied processes as supply chain management, where we take on the entire project for a customer. This is where they want us to buy, develop, look for better sources, and then put all of the parts together in an assembly project."
Inland Metal (www.inlandmetal.com), based in Hayward, Calif., has been in business since 1964. Throughout its history, the company has had many opportunities to facilitate critical projects. "We've made fuel tanks for refueling systems for C-130 cargo aircraft, a 40-foot-long tank inside the aircraft so it can be refueled in-flight," Sutton remembers. "Recently, we worked with Bloom Energy to redesign a few of their higher cost parts to squeeze out some of the added costs. These are internal components for a fuel cell that converts natural gas to electricity on-site. These tanks are about the size of a small car, like a Volkswagen.
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