LT-FREE: THE BLM GROUP 3D LASER CUT SYSTEM

 

The solution to cut any three-dimensional profile: curved, hydroformed, preformed, pre-welded, deep-drawn, flat or printed sheet metal parts.

 

LT-FREE

LT-FREE is the BLM GROUP 3D laser system developed to laser cut any three-dimensional profile, curved, hydroformed, preformed, pre-welded, deep-drawn, flat or printed sheet metal parts.

The LT-FREE has a laser cutting head mounted on a 5-axis CNC system and can be configured with single or dual work area, mobile tables, turning tables and single or dual 6-axis robot for workpiece handling.

 

3D Laser Cutting

 

 

 

Introduction to 3D laser cutting technology

In terms of competitiveness, laser cutting offers many important advantages including shorter cycle times, lower equipment investments, and elimination of costly remachining or manual jobs, which as a consequence, reduce the cost per part over the benefit of improved productivity.

The use of laser cutting heads mounted on 5-axes CNC systems has made it possible to overcome the limitations of 2D systems and to extend laser cutting to uneven surfaces where perpendicular or inclined cuts are required.

Being able to process curved, hydroformed, deep-drawn tubes, and pressed sheets means being able to use laser cutting on all complex geometry components, while maintaining high quality cutting edges, precision, and part integrity.

 

METAL LASER CUTTING?  PICK THE SOLUTION THAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS

 

3D laser cutting technology

 

 

 

A universal tool for every type of workpiece

One of the great advantages of technologies such as plasma, laser, or water-jet cutting is being able to cut metal without needing special tools which, by their nature, are subject to wear and tear. In addition, depending on the types of parts being manufactured, a wide variety of different types and sizes need to be purchased and maintained.

 

The only tools used by a laser system are gas and light.

 

Gas is used to cool the edges of the cut kerf as well as blow away molten metal and oxides from the kerf. The types of gas normally used are: Nitrogen, Oxygen, Air and Argon.

Like the most advanced laser cutting systems, LT-FREE has more than one gas line allowing the user to choose the right gas to be used for the type of material being cut.

The main technological parameters in laser cutting are gas pressure, duty cycle (i.e. the pulse frequency of the laser light), cutting speed, laser focus height and diameter of the laser spot.

The LT-FREE technological parameter database allows the user to select the most optimal cutting parameters for all common metallic materials.

With this helpful guide pre-installed on the machine, there is no need for highly experienced operators and anyone can make excellent quality cuts.

 

 

LT-FREE laser cut

 

 

Fiber laser

Today, the use of fiber laser systems has made it possible to overcome the technological and physical limitations of the earlier CO2 laser systems.

In other words, fiber laser:

  • has made it possible to extend laser cutting operations to materials which tend to be highly reflective, such as stainless steel, copper alloys or aluminum, expanding the field of application of this technology;
  • is generated by a source which does not require special maintenance because it has no moving mechanical elements;
  • has no need for mirrors to reflect the beam because it uses an optical fiber for carrying the light, meaning that the beam can be directed with greater flexibility;
  • is much more energy efficient than CO2 technology.

Thanks to fiber technology, it is now possible to overcome mirror dynamics and to increase movement speeds and degrees of freedom of the cutting head, the latter being essential for a 3D laser cutting system.

 

LT-FREE can be equipped with 2000 W or 3000 W IPG laser sources.

 

LT-FREE: an overview

 

LT-FREE Mid Flex model

 

LT-FREE is a 5-axis fiber laser cutting system for cutting any three-dimensional profile of curved, hydroformed, flat or pressed, pre-welded and preformed tubes made of a wide variety of materials, including iron, stainless steel, titanium, copper alloys and aluminum.

Compared to other technologies and similar machines of the competition, LT-FREE stands out for flexibility and productivity. The programming speed on ArtCut, the ease of use of the interface and the intelligence installed on the machine assist the operator throughout the production process, reduce the new production start-up time and make LT-FREE a highly flexible system, capable of responding quickly and flexibly to changes in production.

 

 

 

 

Programming

 

 

 

LT-FREE is programmed using the ArtCut software.

ArtCut is a powerful CAM software which allows you to program the entire work cell, from the laser trajectory to the movements of the handling robots, cutting the part holding fixtures and so forth.

With ArtCut, programming is fast and guided in a three-dimensional environment that is completely true to reality.

The main advantages of ArtCut programming are:

  1. Programming the new production jobs offline while the machine is engaged in production;
  2. Importing STEP or IGES files of any 3D profile, curved, hydroformed, deep-drawn, flat or printed sheet metal, etc. in a powerful and fast way;
  3. A powerful automatic collision detection system. This function is particularly helpful when cutting curved or hydroformed tubes;
  4. Simulation of the cutting path in a 3D environment which is totally true to reality, where part holding template, robots, workpieces and cutting heads are entirely modelled.

Management of the waste generally present on bent tubes, as a result of the bending process.

 

 

3D environment artcut programming

 

 

 

 

Machine interface

The LT-FREE is equipped with a user-friendly, simple touchscreen interface that provides a clear view of all the systems and functions of the machine.

The main functionalities of the LT-FREE interface are:

 

Program fine-tuning

Using the interface, the operator can make changes to the part program, even after it has been sent to the machine.

Operations including shifting cutting geometries, modifying technological parameters, adding and modifying the robot gripping and unloading points, and micro-joint management can be easily modified. All this allows you to quickly switch from the program to the finished part, in an extremely simple and quick way.

 

Production progress monitoring

The process progress monitoring and a door open countdown feature allow the operator to maintain high productivity by knowing in advance when to perform loading and unloading operations.

This function also allows the operator's efficiency to be estimated by monitoring the time for which the machine is waiting to be loaded, as well as the number of parts per hour.

 

Maintenance page

The wear of the main machine parts can be monitored in the maintenance area.

According to the hours of operation and the life time of the system, the LT-FREE alerts the operator of required maintenance activities (cleaning, checks, mechanical inspections, inspections of the technological part, electrical system checks and lubrication).

 

This feature allows you to schedule maintenance operations well in advance and avoid costly machine downtime.

 

 

 

 

Active Technology

Active Tools are designed to guarantee maximum performance in any cutting condition, constantly optimizing the cutting parameters automatically during the job or by providing automatic solutions to the benefit of precision and productivity.

 

Active Piercing

Active Piercing automatically detects that the material has been pierced and immediately progresses to the cutting process. This function is particularly important for piercing parts with uneven thickness (pieces made by molding or hydroforming often display this problem) and curved tubes (where Active Piercing helps to prevent burns and/or defects to opposite side of the tube).

Active Piercing makes it easier to set-up of workpiece production on the machine. Often, it is not possible to know the thickness at every point of the surface in advance, so much so that this can vary in an unpredictable and inconsistent manner. Active piercing optimizes the piercing process automatically, whatever the thickness of the workpiece. This way, the holes are pierced right from the start and the waste is eliminated.

In the case of parts with different thicknesses, being able to reduce the piercing time of the material in the thinner area saves time which is compounded by the number of attachments on the workpiece.

Active Piercing also acts as a process control, avoiding the laser cutting drift which cause the workpiece to stick to the waste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active Focus

This feature allows you to optimize the focus depth point by point, according to the cutting conditions (material, thickness, inclination of the cutting head, etc.). This greatly improves cutting quality on any thickness and is particularly effective in cutting multi-thickness pieces where the focus depth can be adapted accordingly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active Speed

Active Speed dynamically and automatically optimizes the laser cutting parameters to always obtain a perfect cut even in the most difficult conditions.

This function dynamically and automatically controls power, frequency, duty cycle, focus position, assist gas pressure and speed.

Some practical examples are the inclined trimming and cutting of complex geometries, such as hydroformed, stamped parts etc., in which the head is generally forced to switch continuously from inclined cut to orthogonal cut and vice versa. When you need to cut thin geometries, very small holes or sudden changes in direction, and any situations in which the speed changes considerably, Active Speed dynamically adapts all parameters to always achieve excellent cut quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active Gripper

Active Gripper is an automatic workpiece clamping system that allows the pneumatic clamps which secure the workpiece to the fixture to open and close individually as the laser passes along the cutting path.

This eliminates the need for manual repositioning increasing part accuracy and greatly reduces cycle time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active Reference

Active Reference is a laser viewing system designed to identify the exact position of the workpiece in space and correct its position so that the cutting process can be started very fast.

With Active Reference, it is no longer necessary to manually manage the workpiece gripping points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active Restart

With Active Restart, in the case of an unexpected interruption to the cutting process, the operator can restart the machine from several points in the work cycle: from the exact point at which the cut stopped, from the beginning of the geometry at which the interruption occurred or from the next one.

This prevents the workpiece from being discarded and is particularly useful when the parts to be cut by 3D lasers are semi-finished products (which include material and processing costs).

 

 

 

 

 

LT-FREE configurations

 

With the LT-FREE, all production needs have the right configuration, such as "one-piece-flow" for 24 hours production with background loading and unloading.

LT-FREE entry level model

 

LT-FREE ENTRY LEVEL

Version for preformed, hydroformed, pre-assembled and flat sheets. It is provided with two fixed tables for mounting fixtures and/or tooling, ideal for cutting even very large pieces.

LT-FREE one flex model

 

 

LT-FREE ONE FLEX

The large fixed table combines with a handling robot. It is a hybrid version suited for cutting flat and preformed sheets, hydroformed and pre-assembled, but also curved tubes and parts which require robot handling.

LT-FREE mid flex level

 

 

LT-FREE MID FLEX

Equipped with two shuttle tables, it is suited to machine flat sheets or preformed, hydroformed and pre-assembled parts on both tables with loading and unloading in the background.

LT-FREE high flex model

 

 

LT-FREE HIGH FLEX

This version combines the two shuttle tables with two handling robots. It allows the processing of preformed, hydroformed, pre-assembled sheets, flat sheets and bent tubes in a flexible way and with loading and unloading in the background.

LT-FREE piece value model

 

LT-FREE PIECE VALUE

This version has a rotary workpiece handling system, which provides for the presence of a rotary table, ideal for cutting in the background on a wide variety of 3D parts: preformed sheets, hydroformed, pre-assembled and bent tubes.

 

 

Laser-cut components

 

 

LT-FREE applications

 

 

Type of feasible parts

The LT-FREE allows you to process a wide range of three-dimensional workpieces. Furthermore, the configurations that include robotic handling allows parts, such as tubular and hydroformed profiles, to be cut on opposite sides of the workpiece. This means being able to work at 360° around the tube section and as well as follow any trajectory or shape on the workpiece. The tapered cutting head combined with the 5 CNC axes offers significant processing capability, even in difficult areas which are hard to reach due to the presence of scrap or have very narrow bending radii.

The LT-FREE can be used to cut any three-dimensional workpiece, including curved, hydroformed, preformed, pre-welded tubes, flat and/or printed sheets.

 

LT-FREE laser processing

 

 

 

LT-FREE application sectors

The LT-FREE applications are practically unlimited, it can be used in a wide variety of industry sectors. The main ones are:

 

Automotive

Automotive manufacturers utilize the LT-FREE in the production of lightweight, 3D components in order to meet strict quality, productivity, and cost per part demands.

 

Contractors

Many subcontractors have chosen LT-FREE because of its production flexibility, given by the possibility of going from offline programming to production extremely quick.

 

Motorcycles

In this sector, the remarkable flexibility of LT-FREE in cutting curved and hydroformed tubes is fundamental in the production of complex parts made of lightweight materials.

 

Aerospace

In this sector, the LT-FREE is used to perform high-quality cuts, without the defects and deformations typical of traditional mechanical cutting processes. The LT-FREE allows manufacturers to process premium-quality, lightweight materials and achieve the high quality and precision standards demanded of this industry.

 

Other sectors

The use of 3D laser cutting is constantly on the rise in many sectors because it allows the laser cutting of stamped parts, deep-drawn or thin sheet metal parts without the defects and mechanical deformations commonly caused by traditional processes such as blanking, cutting, punching, etc.

 

3D Laser Cutting - Discover the applications

 

Some examples of LT-FREE application

Whatever the shape of the part, the flexibility of the robot combined with the 3D cutting head and the various operating modes offered by the machine allow you to find the perfect solution for making each part and managing the cutting cycle with maximum efficiency.

 

Multiple part separation

Separation of multiple parts means being able to save material and increase productivity at the same time.

The part in the figure was made by following a separation process of multiple parts from a previous hydroformed part.

 

 

Multiple parts separation example

Exhaust system component - Automotive sector

 

 

Combined fixture and robot processing

When processing parts that require several geometries to be cut on each side, such as hydroformed or curved tubes, the combined use of a part holding fixture and robot allows the part to be cut at any point in a single cycle. This eliminates the need for manual repositioning, ensuring high precision and a substantial reduction in cycle time.

The laser performs the first operations on the workpiece in the fixture, also cutting in the areas that will be subsequently clamped by the robot gripper. When completed, the robot picks up the workpiece and positions it to the other cutting locations, making it possible to process areas the cutting head couldn’t reach when placed in the fixture.

With this type of solution, it is possible to reduce the cycle time considerably, up to 80% compared to traditional technologies.

 

 

 

combined fixture example

Battery compartment for electric bicycles - Electric vehicle sector

 

LT-FREE: A success story

 

VDL: Feasibility and convenience with no trade-offs

VDL is a Belgian multinational leader in the production and sale of semi-finished products for buses and cars, in addition to complete vehicles.

VDL Belgium chose LT-FREE to make any part from the customer's 3D model and perform highly complex three-dimensional laser processes, especially on already curved tubes.

LT-FREE has made the production process of VDL more efficient, saving up to 50% of production costs and allowing them to:

  • Make any part also by using two handling robots
  • Load and unload in the background
  • Produce in a single work cycle parts that previously required many different cutting operations

Program and working with extreme simplicity. The operators achieved mastery and speed that were unthinkable with common techniques.

 

BLM GROUP

 

 

BLM GROUP is a global leader in the production of tube processing and sheet laser cutting systems.

With over 60 years of experience and thousands of installations worldwide, BLM GROUP has three main facilities in Italy:

 

BLM S.p.A. which makes 3D laser cutting systems, tube bending and wire bending machines, tube bending machines and related integration and automation devices.

 

ADIGE S.p.A. which manufactures Lasertube systems and machines for disc-cutting tubes, solids and sections. The company’s product range also includes brushing, washing and collecting systems.

 

ADIGE-SYS which makes mixed tube and sheet laser systems, systems for processing large-sized laser tube systems and cutting and end-forming machines for tubes and bars.

 

BLM GROUP is present all over the world, in Italy with 10 specialized assistance centers and six sales centers.

 

In addition to a complete range of products for tube and sheet processing, BLM GROUP has a wide range of services for customer service at 360°, including:

  • Remote support with remote servicing, augmented reality, and Tool Designer services.
  • Specific maintenance programs for laser systems and specific devices.
  • Programming and MES software updates.
  • Supply of spare parts.
  • BLM GROUP Academy, with face-to-face training services, on site or by customer or via the web: Webinar or E-learning.
 

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