Most manufacturers evaluate parts being processed to decide whether they need punching or laser processing. Yet, parts might be manufactured effectively through any of these technologies. This brings forward the following questions:

  1. How can we decide whether our workshop can use the punch/laser combined technology?
  2. What should be considered prior to apply the combined technology?
Fig. 1

Answers: 

For the beginning let us view what tasks the punch/laser combined machine carries out. Actually, this machine gains more popularity, as it offers reliable, flexible and automated performance. (Fig.1) This combination makes it possible creating parts more quickly and at low costs. Persistent improvements exclude improper material treating. This combination is designed to eliminate the part moving from a machine to the other one. Moving parts from a machine to another might cause inaccuracy due to the sheet misalignment, which in turn increases costs as blanks will need extra processing.

The combined laser/punch machine eliminates certain non-primary operations. For example, in case the design carries a tap tool, you do not need to forward the blank to the hardware input station as soon as it leaves the combined equipment. 

Let us look over the basics of the combined machine, prior to going into its advantages. This machine has got a punch-head as well as a laser upon its frame. Punch and laser can`t work meanwhile. The sheet is held by clips. Then it passes through the static laser or punches heads for treatment. Because of this, the sheet material decreases to 0.25 inches.

Punching head makes holes, creates shapes (flanges of 1-inch-high), stamps and extrusion, processes the whole blank in case laser cut is not required. The laser is most suitable to handle intricate-shaped or clean-edged blanks. (Fig. 2) This is suitable to develop parts as well since it produces parts rapidly with no requirement for assembly or ordering tools.

The off-set of the punching and laser heads must be considered to keep tolerance of parts ± 0.004 inches since there is no need for the parts to move from 1 operation to the other to finish them. 

 In addition, the punch may let burrs on the part base, and thick sheets might have matching marks. This can be avoided by machining parts through laser if clear edges without burrs are required.

Since metal manufacturers work out smaller and larger orders, they try to gain the highest possible productivity for their clients. The laser/punching combined system is properly-suited to achieve this aim and mostly alleviates handling failures.

For instance, in case one-hit tooling isn`t accessible to process any contour or slot, laser technology might be used. Punching is not needed anymore.

When particular sizes of holes or shapes are required within the 3-day period, the task can surely be carried out, as the flexible laser technology is capable of producing shapes in no time.

The combined laser/punching design allows avoiding the purchase of additional tools. Though work-loads of metal manufacturers differ, generally, workshops may reduce their stock of punching tools having this combined machine.

The stock of tools must not be limited to plain geometry. Punching still provides more rapid and cheaper cutting compared to the laser one. Besides, punching speed delivered through the combined design is the same as that of autonomous ones. Punch technology is effective, yet, commonly used tooling to make a key-hole, single or dual D shape, computer port openings are still recommended in the stock of tools.

Fig. 2

Capacities of Automated Design

The addition of automation to the combined machine has made the part handling process automated. This will be costly to repeat on stand-alone laser and punch cutters. This design allows raw materials to get loaded from platforms and to get fed into the equipment to be processed. A robot lever moves away from the separate blanks from the plate frames palletizing them upon unloading platforms or mobile trolleys.

Part quantities, positioning as well as orientation are adapted to the pallets or carts. This will enable you to make part sets for a particular assembly. This is important, as it provides safe and uninterrupted processing. Accomplished product pallets might be put back in the store to be used for further.

The automatic combined machines eliminate possible part injuries and errors associated with separating the left and right parts since no handheld interference is needed.

The advantages concerning the combined technology are not limited to workshop efficiency.  Part designers are also provided with an opportunity to work more freely.

Blanks suitable for punching are mostly right-angled and have acute angles with circular open reliefs. This makes bending applications possible at the corners. The combined punch/laser system is efficient here, as the corners with multi-radius are supported by laser with no need for accessory tools. For instance, an extremely slim notch about half as thick as the sheet is possible to cut through laser.

Answers to Important Questions 

Let us get back to the previously given answers.

1. How can we decide whether our workshop can use the punch/laser combined technology?

Generally, complex-shaped parts with many holes appear proper material to be processed by the combined machine. (Fig. 3) Holes are produced by punching a lot more quickly compared to the laser. However, the task of processing intricate shapes is carried out by laser. The latter performs efficiently while processing blend-contoured and multi-radius parts, that otherwise might need additional tools. Separate punch processing along contours can cause undesirable nibbling signs. In addition, the laser provides flat and clear-edged parts to meet the requirements of aesthetic appearance. 

Fig. 3

Part samples made by this combined machine are everywhere in our daily life. Nowadays most kitchens have incorporated a range of home appliances made of stainless steel. These devices bear such features as a louver, offset, hinge as well as openings. These parts have been processed through the punch operation. The parts mentioned above might demand flat and clean edges to correspond to the standards of aesthetic look. Laser processing is responsible to solve this task. Thus, the combined designs create successfully excellent, clean-contoured parts featured with high precision.  

2. What should be considered prior to apply the combined technology?  

First determine whether there is the right product range in your workshop, which allows you to boost the productive capacity of the equipment. It must be considered how processing automation can increase the productiveness, meanwhile maximizing the entire capacity of the machine.

At last, I offer to turn to a question no less often asked. 

What if we have to select just one tool for part processing?

You will surely be answered: combined technology. The combination of punching and laser technologies enables you to fabricate any part in the sheet processing production.