Sometimes technical and process changes occur and seem to spread throughout the industry overnight. The use of cameras inside a laser cutter debuted a few years ago and went across laser blanking like wildfire. Other things take a little while and involve an entire process, an entire approach to a problem. So it is with coil-fed lasers.
One of the largest laser manufacturers on the planet, TRUMPF, Inc., announced at the recent FABTECH 2023 event that its new TruLaser 8000 laser cutter now has a Coil Edition, suitable for any industry requiring flexible, high-volume cutting. We will get to that in a moment—but first, let’s understand what this product is all about.
While coil-fed blanking is not a new technology per se, it is newly marketed to a larger swath of the laser market. The idea is this: instead of ordering sheet steel from your favorite metal distributor, you instead buy coil of the type and thickness you need, and cut on the flattened coil coming through the laser blanking machine. Ordering coil costs less for the same amount of metal you get when you order sheets of 4 x 8 or 5 x 10 (or even more savings than if you order in custom sizes, which by the way you could cut to size from the coil if you needed them for another operation).
Coil feeding for a laser works best when the same type and thickness of metal is used for many operations. If your company does a lot of laser cutting where your jobs are very small, there is high changeover, and the metals vary, then maybe coil-fed laser is not for you. However, in applications that use a lot of the same steel, for example appliances, automotive, electrical, HVAC, and similar products like metal lockers and cabinets, there are great payoffs.
One of the great advantages to coil-fed laser blanking is that it brings with it automation and a potential for unattended operation. TRUMPF claims that the TruLaser 8000 Coil Edition can process up to 25 tons of coiled sheet metal from start to finish without any human intervention. Company execs point to savings of up to 1,700 tons of waste as well.
Additionally, and importantly, a company no longer is captive to the sheet size. If you make large parts, there is the possibility of high waste or recycling if the parts are so big that they cannot be nested efficiently. With the coil steel, a fabricator can “remove” two of the four edges, reconceptualize the limits, and make parts as large as can be physically handled at the shop.
TRUMPF’s partner in this North American debut (it was already available from TRUMPF’s German headquarters) is ARKU, another German company (ARKU’s U.S. headquarters is in Cincinnati, while TRUMPF’s is in Farmington, CT). ARKU makes flattening and deburring equipment, and has expertise in the coil feeding arena, for presses (such as stamping operations), for roll forming, and of course in coil-fed lasers.