3D Lasers Can Mine Savings from an Entire Manufacturing Operation

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A lot of the cost in a typical manufacturing operation lies in the assembly of the product being manufactured, whether it’s labor or an automated system that’s doing the work. A Mazak Optonics laser cutting system – especially a 3D machine like a SpaceGear or a FabriGear – has the potential to not only reduce assembly time in a manufacturing operation, but streamline design and improve many other areas as well.

The accuracy of a Mazak Optonics laser cutting system facilitates ease of assembly, allows for more consistent welds and adds the capability of cutting tab-and-slot connections. While all of these are the processing advantages of lasers, it’s because of these that the effects of a laser can be felt throughout a manufacturing organization.
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Such an operation is more than just processing a part; it’s the whole process from design to finished product. And there are many areas within that big picture where 3D lasers can save a company time and money. There’s design time, the aforementioned assembly, inventory, and growth.

Companies are so used to seeing parts in 3D and designing in 3D that it’s just a natural progression to create parts in 3D. In the past, manufacturers would take a flat part and use welds to make the part 3D. Now they can model the parts and draw them easily with standard shapes creating unique designs that five years ago was impossible because the CAD software wasn’t strong enough. Then programming is just a matter of loading that data to the laser’s control system.

In the manufacturing operation itself, if a company has multiple steps in a part-processing operation, it’s adding cost that a customer can’t see and doesn’t want to pay for. That’s just sleeping money. Once an operation is more efficient and less wasteful and can provide parts just in time, management doesn’t have to worry about in-process inventory and its associated costs.

We can look to many markets to see lasers fostering growth. Some smaller shops are doing customized parts for motorcycles and racing vehicles. Previously, shops did that sort of work by hand. As the popularity of lasers increases, so does the volume, so the shops are looking at lasers to cost effectively process these very specialized parts.

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Any operation is more than just processing a part; it’s the whole process from design to finished product. And there are many areas within that big picture where 3D lasers can save a company time and money… 12 Steel service centers are another area where 3D lasers can make an impact. In the past, fearful of stepping on their customers’ toes by selling finished parts, they sold just raw material. Now, they’re starting to offer semi-finished and finished parts with the help of 3D lasers.
mazak 3d laser cut part
3D lasers often are associated with processing tubes and other shaped pipe, but they also work well on stampings. Shops that do high-volume stamping are almost a thing of the past as customers push for JIT and as product lives shrink. They have to find different ways to compete, either by reducing quantities, offering faster lead times or by doing prototypes. And they have to do it as the least-costly supplier. Lasers can give them that advantage. Tooling for stamping becomes very expensive for limited and low-volume parts because of the trim and punching dies required. When you’re doing prototyping, you don’t know what the final part is going to look like. There could be many changes. A 3D laser allows a company to produce low-volume prototypes without all of that up-front money. They can wait until the final design is done to invest in hard tooling.

Hydro-formed parts are yet another area where lasers are beneficial. Secondary operations require special fixturing on a traditional machine tool and part distortion may occur when pressure is exerted during drilling, tapping or punching. A laser puts no pressure on the part.

Clearly this philosophy of using lasers to push overall cost savings is playing out in the marketplace as companies are getting more familiar with the 3D machinery and their capabilities. 3D lasers first made an impact in the Midwest with the automotive industry. The auto companies favored big machines. Now 3D is finding its way into job shops, which don’t know what kind of job is going to come in from day to day and appreciate the flexibility a 3D laser offers. They are being asked to do things like prototypes and limited-run projects that they have no capability of doing, or not doing effectively. The capabilities of a 3D laser allow them to evolve and diversify what they’re able to offer to their customer base.
mazak 3d laser cut part
Laser machines themselves are evolving, adding Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) automation and the agility to be able to process a large variety of parts and being able to process just in time. The SpaceGear and SG-U44 3D lasers gives a shop the ability to process flat work and formed parts on the same machine. Adding a FMS to SpaceGear makes it even more multi-functional. Mazak Optonics recently added tapping to its 3D FabriGear machine as an additional step toward a more complete part, eliminating secondary operations. This allows even a wider variety of parts to be brought in and done in one operation.

Models other than FabriGear have table sizes ranging from 4’x4’ all the way up to 5’x10’ in our standard offerings. Mazak Optonics offers a wide variety of resonators to go on these machines as well as different rotary and software options. Again, this allows the machinery to be selected based on what the customer really needs rather than trying to make a machine fit an application.
Request literature on Mazak 3D lasers.
In the future you’re going to see a wider range of materials that can be processed. You’re going to see new techniques for drives. You’re going to see evolutions in machine design that will make them easier to work, easier to process. Software’s getting better, faster, more flexible.

All of these factors make it easier to think about laser processing as part of the big picture. Mazak Optonics can help companies find all the ways that using 3D lasers can save time and money via inventory reduction, faster lead times and better part designs. All are equally important and ready to be discovered by working in concert with Mazak Optonics.