Clever Interplay of Robot and Laser Processing Head

Instead of punching: Together with Bilstein, Fraunhofer ILT has developed a very fast cutting process for differentiated rolled strip with partially different properties. (Source: Fh. ILT)

At EuroBlech, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology scientists present groundbreaking developments on all major trends in contemporary sheet metal processing – from hybrid lightweight construction to multifunctional laser robots with an integrated digital twin.

There is a common denominator for all five processes: They stand for different approaches to agile, laser-based manufacturing, and balance flexibility and productivity. Such manufacturing processes are particularly in demand for hybrid lightweight construction and electromobility, two major trends in sheet metal working.

The lighthouse project MultiPROmobil fits in with this need: A robot and a multifunctional laser processing head will be designed to enable clever interaction and integrate cutting, welding, and generating of structures additively. They are to be supported by a digital twin as well as intelligent design and simulation software. With this, the Fraunhofer experts and their industrial partners want to reduce commissioning time by thirty percent and unit costs and resource consumption by at least twenty percent.

A multifunctional laser processing head plays a major role in the new NRW project MultiPROmobil; it enables innovative sheet metal assemblies through the integrated cutting, welding and manufacture of structures additively. (Source: Fh. ILT)

Dr. Dirk Petring, group leader for macro joining and cutting at Fraunhofer ILT. “In this way, process chains for the production of sheet metal assemblies can be made very flexible and scalable, especially with regard to the gradual introduction of e-mobility“. Currently, the project participants are working on further developing the combi-head so that it can be changed between cutting, welding, and now additive manufacturing processes as needed and without changing the optics and nozzles.

Another highlight is the flexible high-speed cutting of metal strips: With assistance from ILT, Honda has replaced the previous punching process – of sheet metal of up to 1.8 m by 4.0 m and a thickness of 0.5 to 2.3 mm – by an extremely fast laser cutting process, with a speed of up to 115 m/min at its plant in Yorii, Japan. Honda has achieved an output of 18,700 car body parts per day since introducing the laser blanking system in 2015. Dr. Petring: “We are currently developing this process together with the company Bilstein in Hagen, Germany. Decisive arguments for them are the tool-free production of variable cutting contours and maximum material savings in the manufacturing process as well as in terms of the subsequent component weight.“

Further exhibits demonstrate reliable joining of ultra high-strength steels, ­laser heat treatment with freeform mirrors, and finally the BMBF project HyBriLight, a laser-based joining process that connects plastic or even CFRP and metal with positive locking and adhesion, demonstrated on an original part of a vehicle – a roof bow from a BMW 7 that served as a model. The innovation reduces process times by seventy percent, halving raw material costs and integration several steps into one process. (Source: Fh. ILT)

Link: Laser Welding, Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, Aachen, Germany

Further reading: Focus section Automotive Applications, Laser Tech. J. 15(4), October 2018

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