As customers push for ever more complex shapes and faster turnaround on the labels and other cut parts they order, screen shops have begun relying on sophisticated laser cutting systems to meet their clients
By Bill Knotts
Improved beam shape allows the laser to be steered faster, and software improvements take this a step further by shaving milliseconds off of every operation to increase speeds even more. The software on today’s cutting systems also optimizes cutting sequences for faster throughput. Additionally, they use smart control systems to monitor operating conditions such as registration, web control, and integrated laminating and slitting operations, and they allow programming of automatic shut-off at the completion of runs or when material or machine conditions require.
Note that the speed of laser cutting systems is highly job dependent. A very intricate cutting pattern involving a long cutting path will take more time to cut than a straight crease line, for example.
What is involved in job setup and job changeover?
Setup time ranges from seconds to no more than 15 minutes. In high-end systems, software tools are built in to improve imported DXF or DWG files for the best cutting results. These tools provide corrections for difficulties created by vector-type files, allowing shorter setup times and overall improvement of the laser cutting process. Such systems also will simulate the job production rate during set up, telling operators precisely how long a job will take. Finally, the job-setup specifications can be saved so that they can be recalled at a later time, making a changeover to that repeat job a simple matter of a few keystrokes that can be completed in seconds.
What level of operator training is required?
In the newer and more sophisticated laser cutting systems, the skill levels required of machine operators are very similar to those that are needed to operate a cabletelevision menu screen. System controls typically take the form of an easy to use touchscreen user interface (Figure 3). Some systems even provide interactive help tools that makes it possible for workers who have never even used a PC to fully operate the cutting system and all its features. Features such as this also can help bypass language barriers because they teach by example, rather than using spoken or written words.
What are the limitations of laser cutting systems?
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