There is plenty of technology inside the Trumpf TruLaser Center 7030—enough to fill an oversized living room. As a result, this Under the Hood episode will look at a few specific hardware and software items. The rest we’ll leave for future visits to the Hoffman Estates, IL-based Smart Factory, a real, working factory that shows off Trumpf’s latest products.
Before we get to our Under the Hood specifics, an introduction to the 7030 is in order. First, it’s a sizable laser cutting machine. It automatically loads material, removes and stacks parts (alternatively, small parts can go into bins under the cutting table), and moves skeletons out of play when it’s time for the next sheet.
Second, the laser head probably works differently than the laser you have in your shop. The head assembly only travels in the x-axis (even though from our vantage point in the videos it looks like the y-axis). The machine moves the sheet metal to handle y-axis motion. Meanwhile, the center of the head assembly closest to the nozzle has some independent motion in both axes. Combine the speed of the laser head with the speed of moving the sheet, and the speed of the limited x/y motion of the head, and you can make significant time gains when the laser and the material are going in opposite directions.
Third, there are no slats on this machine. Instead, there is a brush table, and a gap under the cutting head through which small parts can fall into the bins (see photo below). The line of bins can be pulled out for easy access. Other, larger parts are taken away by a suction-cup equipped SortMaster Speed device. The 7030 we saw was equipped with two fast-moving arms each equipped with three suction-cup heads, each of those bearing 462 suction cups, giving a grand total of 2,772 suction cups that can adapt to any shaped flat part (see opening photo).
Fourth, there is ample automation onboard the TruLaser Center 7030. Given today’s speeds in laser cutting, fabricators can make more gains between cuts as opposed to during them. One of the biggest time-sinks in fabrication is getting parts separated from the sheet, sorting them, and stacking them. This is the meat of the 7030. Trumpf has taken multiple processes, changed them, then reassembled the steps together into what looks like a single process—metal in, parts out.
Let’s get cutting
How exactly does this machine move parts around? Let’s take a closer look. The job at hand is a flat part, a very oblong rectangle with a few holes in one end. In the initial video, we’ll see many things: the SortMaster Speed moves in to grab a part, which it brings off-camera and stacks it onto a pallet. The cutting resumes and we see how the cutting head stays mostly in its x-axis, but we also see when it doesn’t (hint: it’s in the curves). Then after the next part is cut, a second SortMaster Speed swoops in to take the newly-cut part. It’s all here in this short video:
We now have an idea of the technology choreography inside the 7030. In this next video, we’re going to watch another part cut, picked up, and stacked. Then, we turn to our TruLaser Center 7030 guru, Anthony White, for another task. While the system is cutting the next part, White asks for a “test part” from the machine. Here’s what we’ll see thereafter: the first SortMaster Speed moves out of the way. The second unit picks up the part and delivers it to the 7030’s door, where White retrieves the part. Here it is in real time:
In the first two videos we saw the SortMaster Speed come in and take away parts. Now, you might notice that the suction cups seem to overlap the skeleton. Why doesn’t the SortMaster Speed lift the skeleton too? We wondered the same thing and went back for a closer view. What makes it possible to lift only the part is SmartLift, the crux of which is a set of pins that come up from under the brush table and lift the part ever so slightly ensure a good seal and good lift from the suction cups of the SortMaster Speed. SmartLift already knows the borders between part and skeleton, therefore if there is some overlap on the SortMaster Speed, the pins under the skeleton are automatically disabled. Only the pins under the part are activated.
Let’s take a zoomed-in look at a few seconds of that last video. Keep an eye on what’s happening with the pins underneath each SortMaster Speed suction unit. After a few seconds, the pins retract under the brush table:
Time to clean, and test
Because the SortMaster Speed units are so crucial to the success of the entire TruLaser Center 7030, it pays to keep them clean and test them on a regular basis. In fact, Trumpf notes that such a daily routine takes less than two minutes of time, say, at the end of the day. But one can, and Anthony White does, order up a clean/test cycle at any time. This is how it goes, as White narrates:
Regarding any information we receive from this clean and test exercise, we know exactly how to localize problems. In fact, you’re already qualified if you played Battleship when you were a kid. It’s an easy letter/number combination, and yes, the system tests each of the 2,772 suction cups during each system test.
Here’s a look at the numbering system corresponding to the suction cups. You might need to look closely at the sides of the unit to see the letters, numbers, and hash marks:
And finally, here is a short video to show us the results of the test. Anthony White walks us through steps again:
The key idea of combining SortMaster Speed and LiftMaster is to save time and money on part removal and stacking, and use other automation on skeleton removal and material loading. Part handling is a major piece of automation, and the SortMaster Speed works within a large range of part sizes: on the small side, 3.54 x 2.36 inches; and on the large side, 78.74 x 59 inches. In terms of weight, each SortMaster Speed arm (which has three suction pads amounting to 1,386 suction cups) can handle parts that are 132 pounds. Using both arms, the capacity doubles to 264 pounds.
Because the TruLaser Center 7030 is not just a laser cutter but a platform, it will continue to include technology advancements and integrate those new things. Its current iteration give us an idea of how it will continue in the future.