Multiaxis Laser Cutting in the Automotive Industry
Laser technology and the automotive industry have gone hand in hand for a very long time.
Self-guided parking? Automatic emergency braking? It’s not a secret that the automotive industry is at the forefront of many new technological discoveries, and while most individuals understand why these features are made, we often don’t stop to think about how vehicles with these features are created. Enter laser technology.
Without the use of lasers, it would be a struggle to put vehicles together in a safe and efficient manner today. From welding fan wheels to laser marking control panels, lasers are part of the entire car-making process. One of the most used applications for lasers within the automotive world, however, is cutting. Laser cutting, specifically multiaxis laser cutting, is what ultimately shapes your car and keeps it safe and secure (Fig. 1).
What Exactly Can Multiaxis Laser Cutting Do for the Automotive World?
You might be wondering, “What part of the car is utilizing laser cutting technology?” Lasers are used in various operations throughout the automotive process. Let’s look, starting from the outside and working our way in.
First, to protect against corrosion and other types of deterioration, several parts of a vehicle are often produced from galvanized steel, such as the body of a car. When utilizing a laser system with multiaxis cutting capabilities, you can cut these galvanized steel sheets very quickly while maintaining extremely high quality. For those who deal with a lot of prototype construction or preseries production, a multiaxis laser cutting system also allows them to react in a fast manner to any changes that need to be made and, thus, adjust the component appropriately.
We next examine the door. How was that door created for your car? Most likely with the help of a multi-axis laser cutting system. Using laser technology, you can very quickly and easily cut large dimensions of a hot-formed vehicle section, all while producing high-quality results.
Multiaxis laser cutting systems are not just used for the body, doors, and other large parts but are also used to create many of the smaller and more detailed portions of a vehicle. With a laser cutting option, you can easily create the openings and trimming of the vehicle rear seat (Fig. 2). Trying to perform this process with conventional punching tools, especially for small quantities, is often very expensive. With the use of a multiaxis laser cutting system, you can cut all the required contours on these components extremely quickly, ultimately reducing production costs.
But what about those complex components within a car? The use of a multiaxis laser cutting system is a more cost-effective solution compared to alternative processes, such as milling. The laser system can cut all the outer contours and creates the through holes, making it capable of tackling even the most complex parts.
What Are the Benefits of Multiaxis Laser Cutting for Automotive Manufacturing?
It is clear how multiaxis laser cutting technology is much needed during automotive manufacturing. Now let’s look at why vehicle manufacturers should be utilizing it and how exactly it can help during production.
One of the best benefits a multiaxis laser cutting system can bring to the table is fast cutting production times. Newer cutting systems can cut hot-formed vehicle cross beams with higher machine dynamics and lower nonproductive times as well as a quicker punching slug check (a sensor in the laser that verifies the slug has dropped out of the hole or feature cut into the part). The rotary table within this type of cutting system minimizes rotation time, so when combined with departure motions, you can achieve short non-productive times. Some rotary tables can even have a rotation time of 1.8 seconds. Additionally, with the help of an energy-efficient disk laser, you can also achieve up to a 20% lower machine-hour rate (Ref. 1).
Another benefit many companies see from the use of this type of cutting laser is the flexibility the right system can bring. There can be several different adjustments and changes thrown into the mix during this type of manufacturing, and a multiaxis cutting laser can easily adapt to new requirements when needed. There are also cutting systems available that include the use of flying optics, meaning the components stay in one spot while being cut, which results in less space being required to set up the machine.
The Future of Laser Cutting for the Automotive Industry
As you have now learned, the automotive industry is no stranger to advances in technology and developing the next great feature. Laser technology is also in the same boat (or car, in this case). Laser technology, specifically for multiaxis cutting laser systems, is continuing to develop and grow each day to allow for even faster production and higher quality parts. Software has been designed that enables you to make quick adjustments to your laser programs directly at the machine. Control panels and apps make it possible to achieve the most ergonomic comfort while operating the machine at any position. Communication interfaces exist to help you prepare for any unexpected Industry 4.0 challenge.
Automotive laser cutting, and laser technology in general, continues to grow and improve at incredible speeds. When it comes to the automotive manufacturing world, it makes one wonder, “Are we taking advantage of the best available technology for the future?”
TRUMPF, Electronic References. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from trumpf.com/en_US/products/machines-systems/3d-lasercutting-machines/trulaser-cell-7040.
TRUMPF, Electronic References. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from trumpf.com/en_US/products/machines-systems/3d-lasercutting-machines/trulaser-cell-5030-hotforming-edition.
TRUMPF, Electronic References. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from trumpf.com/en_US/ products machines-systems/3d-laser-cuttingmachines.
TRUMPF, Electronic References. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from trumpf.com/en_US/products/machines-systems/3d-laser-cutting-machines/trulaser-cell-8030.
TRUMPF, Electronic References. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from trumpf.com/en_US/products/machines-systems/3d-laser-cutting-machines/trulaser-cell-5030.
This article was written by Kelly Wanamaker, head of sales development at the TRUMPF Inc. Laser Technology Center, Plymouth, Mich., for the American Welding Society.