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Turbocharger for plate processing

When atoms are supplied with additional energy via collisions or light, they release the excess. This is called ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’, in short: LASER. Plate processors are interested in speed and flexibility. Complex contours; clean, precise cutting edges; and low changeover times and costs. Thanks to automated loading and unloading, the latest laser systems speed up production. Solvaro GmbH, the manufacturer of metal components based in Kirchheim / Germany, has invested €1 million in a new fibre laser system. By rigging the system individually, Solvaro can use it to achieve ultra-short production cycles.

Quick, clean, safe – and expensive?

Commercial fibre laser devices in the watt range were first available around 1990. They were based on erbium-doped fibre amplifiers with an upstream laser oscillator. Back then, nobody thought that these lasers would be an integral part of modern production processes years later. The latest fibre lasers are quick, clean and safe. However, procuring them means a major investment for small and medium-sized companies. Once in operation, fibre laser systems are genuine energy miracles and can reduce costs significantly. Unlike punching, lasers do not incur tool production costs, which means that small quantities can be produced inexpensively. During the warm-up phase, the fibre laser consumes practically no energy, and in standby mode, its energy consumption is minimal. This not only makes it the quickest production process, but it is also environmentally friendly and reduces energy costs. Solvaro – the manufacturer of metal components based in Kirchheim – recently decided to invest in a new fibre laser system. ‘We have invested €1 million in our new laser system. You don’t rely on intuition when making a purchasing decision like this,’ said CEO Gerhard Bullinger. ‘For us, the advantages and opportunities outweighed any negative aspects. We needed to expand our capacity. With two laser systems, we can now offer very short production cycles. This is worthwhile for us and our customers.’ Solvaro decided to purchase a system from the Italian manufacturer Salvagnini. The transport fibre and focusing head of the type L5 system generates a beam that achieves an impressive cutting speed of over 60 m/min. At Solvaro, they cut out server rack doors, engine covers and cooling grilles from steel sheets with thicknesses of up to 3.0 mm and sizes up to approximately 1.5 m by 3.0 m. ‘With the new system, we have reduced the cycle time for processing server rack doors from 120 seconds to 67 seconds,’ Bullinger explained enthusiastically. Put plainly, this means that on a day with three shifts, they can cut out 1,300 server rack doors instead of only 720.

Increasing automation

Loading the laser system, removing the components and disposing of the waste material are the major elements of a system. To fully exploit the laser’s speed, an automatic workpiece exchange function is required. But a laser not only needs to be fed quickly: in the exchange phase, it is also important to prevent cut pieces from falling onto the plate that is being processed. Ever cleverer rotary table systems do this job. ADL (aerodynamic logistics) and ASL (aerostatic logistics) links take over the automation of the loading and unloading processes. In conjunction with a safety fence, the systems have become major islands in the production halls. For example, the system that was designed to meet Solvaro’s requirements perfectly takes up an area of 154 sq. m. Since perforated plates are typically cut to specification at Solvaro, the manufacturer integrated a special feature. The components are positioned to perfectly maintain the required distance between the hole pattern and the cut edge. When asked about the disadvantages of the new fibre laser system, Bullinger smiled and replied: ‘We will have to add helpers to the staff plan to ensure that enough pieces are always on hand.’

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[Caption] Laser close-up: At a speed of 60 m/min., the Solvaro server rack doors are taking shape. 

[Caption] Full laser system: The plates that are processed at Solvaro are loaded and unloaded fully automatically on an area of 154 sq. m.

[Caption] Laser system, side: With its new laser system, Solvaro has successfully reduced the processing cycle for server rack doors from 120 to 67 seconds.

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SOLVARO – tailored solutions made of metal

SOLVARO provides engineering and development services and produces perforated plates and non-perforated metal components for industrial customers. With its tailored solutions, SOLVARO serves a wide variety of industries, including manufacturers of agricultural and construction machinery. For more information, visit www.solvaro.com.

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