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Salvagnini has revealed that the UK’s first L1Xe fibre laser profiling centre has been installed at subcontract manufacturer Altex Engineering to speed up laser profiling times.

The company said that the L1Xe has accelerated laser profiling times by a factor of five in comparison with the eight-year-old 3kW laser cutter it replaced.

Salvagnini’s solid-state fibre laser requires no laser gas, no mirrors, no turbine, no bellows, no beam compensation system, no routine service requirements for the laser source, and no start-up time.

In addition, power consumption is up to 75 per cent less, according to the company.

Optical fibre is used on the L1Xe to both generate the beam inside the electronic source and transport the beam from the source to the machine.

The dense beam that is produced does not require high power levels to achieve good performance or cut thick materials.

At Altex, the L1Xe has been set to work profiling components for use in sectors including defence, furniture, retail and heating.

The machine processes steel up to 18mm thick, stainless steel up to 10mm and aluminium up to 8mm.

Due to the wavelength of the fibre laser, it is also possible to cut highly reflective materials such as copper and brass up to 5mm thick.

General laser profiling tolerances at Altex are 0.2mm, which was about the limit of the company’s previous laser cutter.

However, the Salvagnini L1Xe has a cut of 0.07mm, which makes it more conducive to achieving tight tolerances if required.

Switching to Salvagnini technology proved to be straightforward for Altex despite having a large number of parts programmed to suit the previous cutter.

Colin Gill, planning engineer at Altex, said: ‘It was very easy to learn Salvagnini’s Six control system; we picked it up with minimal training.

‘As a company we use Radan software throughout the fabrication shop, and it proved simple to interface the L1Xe with Radan.

‘In terms of the individual programs we only needed to set new tooling parameters, which could be done with a few mouse clicks,’ he added.

Batch sizes at Altex range from one-off prototypes up to mass production quantities.

As is the case throughout the manufacturing sector, most customers want smaller batches delivered more frequently, on shorter lead times.

The L1Xe is said to give Altex the flexibility to do this.

The performance of the L1Xe at Altex is enhanced further by a pallet exchange system that provides easy and efficient production changes and high process reliability.

During the pallet changeover phase, the table with the processed workpiece passes beneath the table carrying the incoming blank, eliminating any risk of cut parts or scrap falling onto the incoming blank.

The fibre laser source reduces hourly running costs compared with a CO2 source as a result of factors that include: up to 70 per cent reduction in energy consumption thanks to high source efficiency; lower impact on consumables due to the absence of optical path, mirrors and bellows; reduced maintenance costs; the elimination of laser gas; and the eradication of standby currents and source warm-up times.

Altex is generating further savings through the acquisition of an in-house nitrogen generating plant, which was installed last year.

The added benefit of using nitrogen as an assist gas is that it does not oxidise the edge in the way that oxygen does.

Using oxygen means that sheet metal parts need to be wire brushed after laser cutting to remove the carbon layer before painting.

Failure to do so could see the paint flake off prematurely.

Using nitrogen eliminates the need for edge cleaning.

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