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The Challenge of the Multi-Axis Laser

Looking for a low-risk way to get started with laser processing to solve some of your difficult part manufacturing problems? One that can give you an immediate payback in high quality, and reduced tooling expense for flat and contoured, metal and non metal parts?

Laserdyne is the leading North American manufacturer of multi-axis laser machining systems used for formed part processing by both job shops and manufacturing plants.

Laserdyne performs all of the services you'd expect from a laser job shop such as cutting, drilling, welding, heat treating, and laser marking of parts up to 96" x 72" x 36". But it performs a lot of special operations and solves difficult part processing problems with lasers that takes it out of the ordinary, putting it on the leading edge of laser machining technology. In the area of welding, for example, it can process very complex shapes of highly heat-sensitive aircraft materials with minimal heat input and minimal part distortion. In cutting complex 3-D parts minimal distortion is achieved with little or no tooling.

Much of Laserdyne's work involves problem-solving with formed, tubular and flat parts, requiring tolerances as close as 0.0005" with little or no tooling. The work requires a wide range of sophisticated laser systems together with a concentration of laser experience and knowledge seldom found in a single company.

Laserdyne is a completely self-contained CNC laser job shop with seven laser systems and up to 8-axis capability using both CO2 and Nd:YAG lasers. The company has been in business 10 years and is part of a diverse group of companies making everything from laser machining systems used in fabricated part production to laser marking systems for identifying a wide range of consumer goods to lasers used in bio-medical research.

At Laserdyne Precision Services, lasers are used for simple and complex part-making, solving a variety of manufacturing problems. A wide range of metals and non-metals are processed: cold rolled low carbon steel to high temperature stainless steels such as Hastelloy and Inconel, to non-metals including plastics and composites. Laser machining projects range from welding anti-lock brake components on a 5-axis laser machining system to competing head-to-head with the short run stamping industry on sheet metal parts. Runs vary from a single part up to 50,000 assemblies for customers in the medical, agricultural, aerospace, automotive and job shop industries located throughout North America.

Why A Laser Job Shop?

How does Laserdyne come to have such a sophisticated production facility if its primary business is designing, building and selling standard laser processing systems?

If you were to ask anyone in Laserdyne management, they would probably admit it wasn't planned that way. But they're extremely proud of what they now have and what it does for them.

First and foremost, the job shop provides a working environment in which to demonstrate and prove the capabilities of its multi-axis laser systems to potential buyers. Laserdyne's showroom is a real-world job shop with few frills, handling a steady volume of precision work for a variety of customers in a variety of industries.

Second, Laserdyne learns firsthand what features are important in a flexible laser system. The design of the laser system is improved by having this in-house customer to provide input to where product development efforts should be focused.

An additional benefit is that Laserdyne has a convenient, hands-on facility to train its own technicians, plus what it calls a "Beta Test Site" for its system designers. This doesn't take into account that the job shop is a profit center. But the real focus is to be a problem-solver for customers with special part needs and to develop new applications for its multi-axis laser machining systems. What impresses customers most are Laserdyne's reduced tooling costs, fast turnaround on prototype parts and new designs, higher part quality and consistency as compared to traditional manufacturing methods.

Onan--A Customer With A Captive Shop

A typical customer relationship is Laserdyne's experience with Onan Corporation. The two got together nearly eight years ago when Laserdyne was in its infancy. Laserdyne began cutting low carbon steel prototype motor laminations requiring an edge finish of 50 micro-inches and offered fast turnaround without need for investment in the system itself or in progressive die, hard tooling. In time, Onan saw that a Laserdyne system would pay for itself in one year so it decided to purchase a Laserdyne 780. This did not change Onan's need for Laserdyne's job shop services. After getting their own laser, Onan was able to reduce its new product development time by more than a year and still keep Laserdyne as an important resource for prototype work.

John Deere Saves Big Bucks On Tooling

Garden tractor body panels made of low carbon steel required tough, three-dimensional contour cuts with multiple angles. Mechanical trim dies costing up to $300,000 were required for this family of parts. With its five-axis Model 780 BeamDirector equipped with a Lumonics 1500 watt CO2 laser and simple, low cost tooling, Laserdyne was able to eliminate the need for costly trim dies and provide the flexibility to quickly incorporate design changes. The John Deere parts were trimmed at an average cutting speed of 30 inches per minute with 30 of the panels completed per hour. The process completely eliminated the need for complex die setup plus it made possible a just-in-time program to fit John Deere's inventory needs.

Corry Laser Increases Ability, Buys Two Lasers

Corry eliminated the need for multiple sets of pierce tooling and contour trimming dies in the production of formed 0.020" thick Inconel 625 aircraft heat shields. Using the 780 BeamDirector, Corry was able to easily produce the 32 critically drilled holes and contoured end cuts on the multiple contoured surface.

Corry's second laser system was purchased because the greater productivity and higher quality aircraft components produced on its first system helped win more work for both machines.

Corry also found that it was better able to respond to customer design changes that accompany most new product development. The prototype parts can be produced in days compared to weeks since the 780 BeamDirector software allows these design changes to be made quickly.

Corry's business expanded quickly because half of their volume was generated due to the 780 BeamDirector's multi-axis laser capability plus its ability to produce low diameter to thickness ratios in piercing and drilling. With customers' thin gauge aerospace alloys, Corry was able to get 0.3 diameter to thickness ratio. In conventional piercing, Corry was limited to a 1:1 diameter to thickness ratio.

Corry also found laser contour trimming produces superior results and is more economical than old trim and pinch-off dies. CNC ground hard trim tooling is not only costly to manufacture but also costly to maintain. The laser system eliminated both.

Beech Aircraft Gets Better Quality Exhaust Stacks

Originally Beech produced its turbine engine exhaust stacks by hand. Part halves were stamped from 0.060" thick Inconel 625 sheet metal and assembled and welded. Trim lines were scribed onto the formed part using a fiberglass template. The halves were cut with a shaper saw and burrs were removed by hand. Frequently, saw chatter produced gaps in the mated parts and fitting was a trial and error operation. Scrap ran high--to get 50 satisfactory stacks, 75 had to be produced. The process was slow, difficult and inaccurate.

Laserdyne's 780 BeamDirector provided the ideal solution because the system produced uniform parts which resulted in precise fit-up. The two halves could now be welded without addition of filler metal to close gaps inevitably left by hand methods. The result: a 33% increase in the life of the exhaust component. Production rates increased so dramatically that the system paid for itself in less than 2 years. A second Laserdyne system was then added by Beech, to increase capacity required for new applications being generated as a result of the successes with exhaust stack trimming.

Seven Systems, 8-Axis Capability

Laserdyne offers abundant part-marking capacity with seven operating laser systems available for customers' part projects. These systems include:

All of these systems have been proven, both in Laserdyne's job shop and in more than a hundred user installations. All systems offer a high degree of part-making accuracy and part-to-part consistency, easy setup, rapid changeover and high throughput.

All systems are equipped with Laserdyne's exclusive Auto Focus Control (AFC ) which maintains constant cut width and reduces part tolerance band 50%. Another is Feature Finding which ensures accurate positioning of laser cut features in sheet metal parts. These features and many others make Laserdyne's equipment and its job shop capabilities extremely competitive.

Laserdyne adds new laser systems and support equipment as new projects require. While most of its systems are only a year or two old, some of the machines now have over 50,000 hours operating time on them, proving their reliability as production tools.

Benefits of Laser Use

Laserdyne Precision Services offers a cost-effective resource for immediate turnaround on difficult-to-produce parts in small or large quantities. The parts buyer invests a few hundred dollars on a part program and initial parts to become familiar with multi-axis laser before investing a quarter million dollars or more buying a machine.

Equally important, parts buyers can see and measure the machine's performance in real time rather than against that found in claims and published literature specifications. He may be pleasantly surprised like many parts buyers before him at finding capabilities he never dreamed possible. Plus, the parts buyer is guaranteed good parts or there's no charge. It costs nothing to talk to Laserdyne--it's a win/win situation.

Laserdyne Precision Services

Complete CNC laser manufacturing capability with seven laser systems and up to 8-axis capability using - CO2 and Nd:YAG lasers.

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