News Part sorting/stacking automation highlights new laser cutting machine
In 1990, the sheet metal-fabrication department of centrifugal-blower manufacturer Jan-Air welcomed its first CNC machine, a turret-punch press controlled from a DOS-based computer. My how far we’ve come, as early in 2019 the company, now operating out of a 52,000-sq.-ft. facility in Richmond, IL, became the proud new owner of a 4-kW fiber-laser cutting machine (a Bystronic ByStar Fiber 3015 with 5 by 10-ft. worktable), equipped with state-of-the-art end-of-line part sorting and stacking automation.
“During day shifts, we typically schedule our shorter production runs through the sheet metal department,” shares company president Mark Sattersten, “and overnight we’ll schedule longer production runs to process on the laser-cutting machine unattended. We can load up a 3000-lb. skid of material on the laser and leave for the night. It will run unattended, lights out, and in the morning when our shift starts there will be sorted and stacked parts, maybe as many as 1000 parts, ready for operators to move over to secondary operations—press brake bending, welding, painting or assembly.”
A Varied Material Mix
The Jan-Air shop processes mild and stainless-steel sheet, as well as aluminum, from 22 gauge to 10 gauge. “However, day-in and day-out we’re fabricating 16- and 14-gauge cold- and hot-rolled mild steel, three grades of stainless steel, and three different aluminum alloys,” Sattersten says, “perfect for the 4-kW laser. We’ve moved all of our aluminum work over from our CNC turret press to the new laser, which now cuts those jobs—including holes and oblongs—faster than we were punching them, and also eliminates the need to deburr after cutting.”
Jan-Air’s new Bystronic laser replaced a 2008-vintage 3-kW CO2 laser cutting machine and, according to Sattersten, it cuts about four times as fast while using 25-percent less electricity. It’s mostly the aluminum work that runs overnight lights-out—0.063-in. Grade 5052 H32 is a big runner, Sattersten says. Nests that run lights-out typically have previously run during the day to prove them out, “so we’re confident they’ll run without any issues, such as part tip-up in the nest,” Sattersten says. “We’ve been running the machine lights-out three to four nights per week, or an extra 30 to 40 hr. of weekly green-light time.