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Cutting steel plate accurately

Multi-dimensionally moving energy supply systems for 3D plasma cutting heads

Each plasma cutter made by this system integrator is custom manufactured to meet each customer's requirements. The constantly changing challenges repeatedly result in customized designs. This also impacts the various energy supply systems, which are needed to assure a smooth cutting process even under the most adverse environmental conditions. Movable in all directions, 3D energy chains provide for continuously swivelling axes on the plasma cutting heads.

"Our plasma cutting machines cut sheets and plates from a few millimeters up to two meters" explains Wolfgang Saehsen, Manager at SATO Schneidsysteme Anton Hubert e. K. in Mönchengladbach. "In order to ensure that the equipment works reliably under heavy-duty operating conditions, which are characterized by heat, flying sparks and extreme dirt exposure, the individual components must be extraordinarily rugged. In addition, our highly complex equipment is designed in accordance with the latest state-of-the-art. This also means that the individual components must be technologically advanced. “

Energy supply systems made by igus® GmbH, Cologne provide the energy supplies for a cutting system with two 3D plasma cutting heads. The series E4.42, which can be opened from both sides, demonstrates its performance capabilities on an X-axis with travel of 42 m over the entire length of the cutting system. It is suited for high speeds and high acceleration, as well as long travels and significant additional loads. The primary feed for the entire cutting system runs through this chain.

3D plasma cutting head on a plasma cutter

 

Installed in three separate guides, three energy supplies each of the series 3400, which can be opened on the interior radius, are used to execute the transverse movements on the gantry to supply a 3D plasma cutting head with a travel of 8 m. Six energy supplies systems in a total of six guide troughs therefore supply the feed lines to the two cutting heads. These are easy to assemble and have a long service life. They are colored in black and violet to match the machine color, and therefore blend into the overall visual presentation. "Since the design of machine tools plays an increasingly important role, we are able to address nearly any color requirements our customers have", states Ansgar Endries, Technical Sales Consultant at igus® . In addition, heavy-duty clamp chains from this energy chain series demonstrate their versatility. Assembled overhead, they provide reliable movement for the entire cutting system.

The third-generation triflex® R product range, which supports movements in all directions, is proving its capabilities on the particularly compact 3D plasma cutting heads, the centerpieces of the machine. The chain was specifically developed for demanding 6 axes robot applications. It is able to address any requirements profile in rough industrial environments, ranging from large welding robots to small palletizing robots.

An appreciation for details

For 25 years, SATO Schneidsysteme has been a successful manufacturer of CNC controlled cutting equipment in gantry and cantilever designs. The "Satronik" type series addresses autogenous welding, plasma, laser and water jet cutting technologies. Customers are active in the steel processing industry; the machines are used world-wide. In each case, these machines are crucial for a smooth and continuous overall production process, and must therefore work reliably.

The company manager claims: "Customer requirements change all the time, which basically means that we have to repeatedly design the machines to meet specific needs. While we make a concerted effort to employ standard components, no two machines are alike. " Correspondingly, the machine tool manufacturer has high vertical integration. Ranging from steel fabrication to software development, all details are handled by a highly qualified team located on-site in Mönchengladbach. The company presently employs a staff of 57.

Customers are nowadays particularly concerned with topics such as effective multi-pallet processing, cutting and weld-seam preparation in a single setup, and the resulting reduced consumption of expensive energy. "Our considerable attention to detail and ingenious technical solutions ensure the highest possible performance in cutting operations", Wolfgang Saehsen emphasizes. One component among many is the innovative 3D plasma cutting head, which has proven itself for about two years in a host of customer applications. "This system component sets the gold standard with respect to dynamics, precision and energy efficiency. “

Lean, dynamic, effective

The programmable 3D plasma cutting head is used for weld-seam preparatory processes on construction and stainless steel. "We focused on a particularly compact design", explains the Manager, Reiner Schiffer. "The new design gives us a unique selling proposition for a particularly small machine footprint, as well as high dynamics for the actual cutting process. “

The profitability of the system is also demonstrated in the area of multi-plate processing, which can be cut in a single step without interruption. Yet another benefit is the minimized scrap. The low weight of the head facilitates its use in compact machine types. The height sensor equipped 3D plasma cutting heads, which continuously swivel without rotation limits, are in daily use as single and multi-cutter versions for bevel and trim cutting up to 45°. At a stroke speed of 6000 and 12000 mm/min, it can be used for metal cutting on all plasma equipment.

An example from the field

This "Satronik_HDS-8000" plasma cutter - in this case 8000 refers to a length of 8 m - is headed for a company that manufactures custom crane systems for longshore operations in the maritime field. It is equipped with two infinitely swiveling plasma heads for bevel machining in a single setup, and with two marking units. Two optional laser pointers are also included. The swivel head permits particularly profitable and fast sheet metal processing. Hundreds of parts can be cut in a single step, without the head having to rotate back to its home position.

The head can move in several axes. The various cables are suitably guided by igus® 3D energy supplies triflex® R, series TRC in an enclosed design, and TRE in the Easy design to simply press in the cables. Whereas all drive, control and data cables, including cooling lines are reliably guided by the TRC version, the TRE version guides all special-purpose lines that are for instance responsible for the initial firing of the plasma unit, or for malfunction monitoring. The signal cables are also included. And since these cables are equipped with connectors, the "Easy" principle (which involves fast and simple pressing in from the outside) is able to demonstrate its strength. Ultimately this reduces cost and assembly effort. The required cables do not need to be elaborately pulled through.

"The actual plasma technology, the compact plasma head, is an in-house development", explains Reiner Schiffer. "In contrast, the plasma system is supplied and directly installed by a supplier at the scheduled time as a complete unit, including the energy chain with the corresponding cables and the plasma tip. “

One clamped version of the energy supply system supplies each the two plasma heads. Each guides the entire system overhead to the cutting head, ensuring that all upward and downward movements are performed reliably over time. The clamps are directly assembled to the side plate, therefore implementing an ideal guide. The crossbars are so rigid that they provide a secure guide over the entire travel length without additional structural elements, even under load.

Plasma cutters are typically in use in 24-7 operations. "All components must work reliably in heavy-duty continuous use", Reiner Schiffer reiterates for emphasis. "The machining environment is not only subject to extreme heat and flying sparks, this is additionally aggravated by the heavy dirt load incurred during the cutting process. For instance, when forgings, which can weigh 200 t and more, come out of the oven ready for processing at 900 °C, it is easy to imagine the impact that dirt and heat have on the subsequent process steps. “

Focus on good teamwork

The length and the filling of the individual energy supplies are constantly changing. "This is because we do not build standard equipment. It is not uncommon for us to extend or shorten the chains during assembly. For instance, when we add an optional laser pointer at a later point in time, this must be connected with a separate cable. If the corresponding chains have already been permanently filled, we can simply open these and insert the additional cable. Changes after the fact present no problems for us", Reiner Schiffer elaborates. "Close teamwork is therefore crucial during the preliminary machine design stages. We do not need off-the-shelf energy supply systems, but instead use custom chain widths and chain lengths that meet our needs and stand up to heavy duty operational use. “

Reiner Schiffer, Wolfgang Saehsen (both Sato), Ansgar Endries (igus®).

 

The energy chain TRE in the "Easy" design is particularly easy to fill from the outside.

 

Heavy duty clamped energy supply systems guide the energy supplies above the plasma head, ensuring reliable movements.

 

The color coded energy supplies with their varying performance packages travel in three separate guide troughs.

 

3D plasma cutting head in a Satronik_HDS-8000. The plasma cutting machine will be supplied to a company that produces custom fabricated crane systems.

 

drylin® W linear technology on a plasma cutting machine, which was upgraded as part of a retrofit.

 

Ansgar Endries elaborates: "We not only supply an extensive product selection, but can also provide many special-purpose solutions from stock. When occasional problems come up, we can conduct corresponding tests in our in-house test lab under real-world conditions. Currently, we conduct about 10000 tests of all types annually." In addition to the energy supply systems, the plasma cutting machines also make use of various plastic plain bearings as well as drylin® W linear technology. Tests are currently being conducted especially for linear guides, which are designed to specifically address the dirt exposure during plasma cutting in an effort to continue reducing machine downtime.

"We have been working with the energy supplier for some number of years", Wolfgang Saehsen emphasizes in closing. "The advice is spot on; it is the only way that we can ensure the required quality, since our cutting equipment equipment must perform in daily use. " The machinery builder categorically produces in Germany. "We also make sure that our suppliers are located within the German-speaking region. Given the complexity of our equipment, we need local points of contact who can be promptly available in person when needed. And we have had nothing but the best experience with the energy chains. The machine up-time is where it needs to be; customer complaints are a thing of the past!"

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