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  1. #1

    Default I don't know what I don't know

    Hello everyone,
    I work for a company currently occupied in sound and light. We manufacture, fabricate and customize lamps, lighting fixtures and installation solutions. We are looking to automate our processes and will soon be purchasing a 6 axis industrial robot. Part of this is purchasing a fiber laser cutter to be installed on the robot. I should mention we have never done laser cutting ourselves, if ever we needed something cut automatically, we would outsource this.

    The task of making all this happen was given to me. Both my employer and I know full well that we don't know what we're doing, this is me trying to get into it. I know nothing, I don't even know what I don't know, this is me trying to find out. This isn't the first time we take on something completely new to us, we may know nothing about lasers specifically, but we are very professional in general and I'm confidant that given time we will become professionals in this area as well. I realize that hiring someone already knowledgeable in the field is an easy way out, the thing is, we want to become knowledgeable in the field ourselves.

    My question is about the purchasing of the laser system. I found a part that can be fitted onto a robot (I'm not sure of I'm allowed to post specific companies here? Please tell me if this is allowed so I may be more specific) and asked for a quote. I was given to understand that the tool is actually separate from the laser source? I need to purchase a laser source separately? I want to make cuts in 3D, purchasing a table system won't suit our needs.

    I need to acquire some general knowledge about fiber laser systems, I'm not interested in buying a user friendly product. If you have any free sources of information to recommend I'd love to look at them and educate myself - searching google mostly gave me results for payed courses with specific a curriculum, I need to be efficient with my time and exact in my studying, I'm looking to learn for a very specific task and I want to get a general sense of things before I purchase a course.

    Thank you all for your time



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    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    Hi dodkipod,

    The basic principle of operation is relatively simple. Think of the laser (the laser generator) as a very bright light. When the light is focused with a lens it produces a spot with very high temperature that can evaporate different materials, including metal.
    The laser generator and the optics are standard components. There are many options to choose from. The hardest part would be designing your own controller and writhing your own software. The software/controller will have to control the positioning of the laser beam but also the focal distance.
    I think what you are trying to do is feasible but it would require a very large R&D budget. Quite possibly exceeding the cost of 20 "typical" laser machines doing similar job.

    I don't want to discourage you if you have money to spent on something like this. It would be an awesome pice of equipment.

    Last edited by Storen; 06-17-2020 at 09:05 AM.


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    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    I read this post and was interested enough to do some research.

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    I work for a company currently occupied in sound and light.
    I'm curious, where approximately are you located. For example, which Country, State or Province? You don't have to be specific, but if you're in Ontario, Canada, I might come and pay you a visit to help out, just because I'm interested.

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    We are looking to automate our processes and will soon be purchasing a 6 axis industrial robot.
    I'd hold off on any purchases until you have a good plan and some more questions answered. Specifically, the robot controller that comes with the robot needs to be compatible with what you want to use it for.

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    Both my employer and I know full well that we don't know what we're doing, this is me trying to get into it.
    What is your experience level with CAD or CAM software in general? How about computer programming (in any language)? If you're already computer savvy, it might not be too bad, but if you're a two finger typer who has never drawn anything in CAD....then you should get someone else involved. No offense intended, I don't know anything about you.

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    I'm not sure of I'm allowed to post specific companies here?
    My understanding is that you can post links, pictures, videos, etc. if you're asking for opinions about a purchase, technical advise, or making a legitimate review or comment about your experiences with a company. Just not as an unsolicited advertisement for your own company (unless you pay to advertise).

    I have posted links, pics, etc., many times.

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    My question is about the purchasing of the laser system.
    I can't really help you with that one. Other to tell you that you will need an enclosure and safety features to make sure you don't blind anyone or yourself.

    There's a place not far from where I live that specializes in stainless steel tubing and has several CNC lasers with rotary axis to cut out patterns in the tubing for different customer requirements.

    I know you said that a straight table won't work for what you're doing but have you considered a rotary axis? X,Y,Z + Rotation?

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    I know nothing
    All CNC machines have some form of software and compatible hardware to make them run.

    Many routers on this forum use Mach3, Mach4, or UCCNC as the controlling software. A 3d printer might use Marlin firmware. They all run on G-Code, with some minor variations. This control software provides the user interface to load G-Code, run the G-Code, set zeros and starting points, and set parameters such as acceleration for each axis.

    CAD (Computer Assisted Design) software. Allows you to draw a part in 3D.

    CAM (Computer Assisted Machining) software. Allows you to generate G-Code to machine a part, mill, plasma, laser, EDM, etc.

    Sometimes CAD software has integrated CAM software with it. Like Fusion 360, for example.

    Looking at industrial 6 axis robots there appear to be two ways to program them.

    One is with a teach pendant, or computer interface. The other is by using specialized CAM software.

    Computer interface:



    The Epson RC180 controller is also used on their 6 axis robots. The point of the video is to show that it has it's own proprietary controlling software that supports their hardware (ie: Not Mach4 or UCCNC, it's specialized). This one allows a computer interface. I'm not sure how this would work for turning the laser on and off in addition to movement, but it seems logical that there would be an input to control whatever tool is used.

    Teach Pendant:



    For the ones above, it seems like those are for more simple applications, and you are programming your own code, or using features like manually moving the robot to where you want it to go during the programming.

    For 6 Axis Robot CAM software, I found one on Youtube that seems popular, although there may be many more options. RoboDK. I am guessing that you would need to go the 6 axis CAM software route for your application.

    RoboDK is available as a plugin for SolidWorks, Fusion 360, Mastercam, and other CAD software. You would need to use it to generate your cutting path, and then export that code for use with your Robot. To do this, you would need to input a CAD model of the robot and cutter, the piece you want to cut, and any work holding into the program, and then define where you want it to cut. RoboDK has CAD models you can download of popular industrial robots.

    It appears that these industrial robot controllers don't work on standard G-Code. They have proprietary code, and it could be significantly different from one manufacturer to another. To get your G-Code converted into a format that your robot controller can understand you need what's called a "Post Processor" in your CAM software. MasterCam, for example, makes you pay for each post processor separately.

    RoboDK has a number of built in post processors for popular industrial robots. I would ensure that you can get a robot that comes with a controller for which a post processor is readily available in the CAM software you choose to use.

    https://robodk.com/doc/en/search.html?q=post+processor



    That's just some general info. Really, I've never done it either, I just thought it would be fun to look into and share what I found. It would also be interesting to see how you do your work holding because some examples, like the one below use a separate robot to hold the workpiece.





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    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    I can really help ...
    as I did a lot of similar work for 25+ years.

    Provide details, or pm me.



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    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    Hi Dod - Personally I think it's a mistake to buy two bits of sophisticated machinery and think you can integrate them and get a good solution with no knowledge base or experience and get a commercial outcome. It is possible but expect to take years to get to a solution. I used to program robots many years ago and fibre lasers have come along way. It all sounds doable and it is but you can spend months sorting out one little glitch that comes down to proprietary info that the laser or robot supplier does not want to tell you about.

    I recommend finding a commercial solution, there's lots out there. If you can't justify the commercial solution then you certainly can't justify the R&D required to develop a solution. I design bespoke machinery and systems for a living and at the front end of a project costs are estimated and we regularly multiple these by 3x to estimate budget costs. Even if you don't go the commercial way it establishes some $$$ value for the project. There are two usual reasons to develop your own machine 1) it does not exist commercially and 2) It appears you can't afford the commercial solution. If you go with 2) it is often a very poor choice. They don't cost that amount because they are all driving gold plated BMW's they have to get their costs back and so will your company.

    Having said all of that there are robot control programs around that are free to low cost and doing what your saying/intending can be done. Good Luck finding out what you don't know you don't know and more stuff you don't know. I've been at it some 40 years and still come across more stuff I don't know. Keep us in the loop always interested in robot projects...

    Oh some advice - start as small scale as you can. Even if this is desktop type stuff. The learning is the same whether its desktop or massive and the software solutions and integration will be the same but the asset costs will be much less. The first decisions you make are more likely to be wrong than close. You actually should not buy anything until you think the solution(s) is fully costed and resolved on paper.

    Projects where you buy something in the hope it will work and buy something else then try to integrate them, then change it, then repair it etc. There are heaps of router threads for instance in this forum built that way and they take years to sort (and that's all been done before and well documented). Much better to keep it on paper for as long as possible. I think it was Einstein who said take 90% of the time to think about the solution and 10% to solve it...

    Scaling up is easy once you know the design space, the issues and solutions. The first specialised factory I set up took 3 years and $500kAUD. Then someone asked me to do it again and I did it better in 6 months and $200k and we made money as soon as the electricity was connected... I expect you'll do something similar...Peter



  6. #6

    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    Thank you everyone for your replies. I have included quotes and replies below. But It has been mentioned here that it is allowed to post specific products and companies so long as I am not advertising them (which I am not) so I will be more specific about the question.

    I was looking at a specific product by LaserMech, this one: https://www.lasermech.com/fibercut/#tab-id-2
    Upon asking for a quote It was made clear to me that they do not supply laser sources, and was given some rough guidelines for finding one. I did a small search and came upon this: https://www.rofin.com/en/products/fi...ers/fl-series/

    Now, this is only some preliminary research, the numbers may not add up, its possible these two products do not suit each other, this is not my question. My question is, did I understand correctly? I would need to (based of course on the specifics of the intended use) purchase a laser processing head to fit onto the robot arm, and then also purchase a laser source separately? Are there companies that sell both as a bundle? How did you guys learn to match these two products together, is there no online information source I can access?

    Another question, if I may, what are the tables called? In all the videos of laser cutting I have seen (robotic or otherwise) theres this table underneath with rows of upwards facing triangles. I tried all sorts of terms and couldn't find out what this type of table is called. Does it even have a specific name? Can I even buy one without having a laser system attached to it? The most I could find are "honeycomb" tops and they all seem to be consumer level. I wasn't able to find anything commercial (I need to be able to fit like a 6m long piece of sheet metal onto it) that wasn't part and parcel with a laser system, like, part of a product - a tabletop cutting machine and such. Any advice about this would be greatly appreciated.

    Quote Originally Posted by Storen View Post
    Hi dodkipod,

    ...I don't want to discourage you if you have money to spent on something like this. It would be an awesome pice of equipment.
    I'm not sure I need a controller and all that. The laser will be mounted on a robotic arm, the only controls would be an on/off command, given from the robots controller. I have yet yo research this thoroughly though, Im still in earlier stages I'm afraid.


    Quote Originally Posted by NIC 77 View Post
    ...

    ...That's just some general info. Really, I've never done it either, I just thought it would be fun to look into and share what I found. It would also be interesting to see how you do your work holding because some examples, like the one below use a separate robot to hold the workpiece.
    Thank you so much for the interest. If we were in Canada I promise you I would have jumped on your personal offer, unfortunately were based in a completely different continent.
    As for tech savvyness and robotics. I'm managing for the time being. My questions here are specifically about lasers. I have other sources for the rest, but thank you again for your help - thats really kind of you =]

    The workpiece would be held to a cutting table of some sorts with clamps. We will also be getting a rotating table similar to this one:

    for 3D milling - the 2nd task (other than laser cutting) that the robot will perform for us.

    We wont be doing anything too sophisticated at the beginning. the laser tool will be used mostly for cutting sheet metals to later be welded together (by hand) into light fixtures. The main reason for getting the robot is actually for 3D milling wood and foam into decoration pieces.

    The laser is still important to us though. Once we get everything up and running it will make our lives alot easier and enable us to be more efficient.


    Quote Originally Posted by hanermo View Post
    I can really help ...
    as I did a lot of similar work for 25+ years.

    Provide details, or pm me.
    Thank you, I will.

    Quote Originally Posted by peteeng View Post
    Hi Dod - Personally I think it's a mistake to buy two bits of sophisticated machinery and think you can integrate them and get a good solution with no knowledge base or experience and get a commercial outcome. It is possible but expect to take years to get to a solution. I used to program robots many years ago and fibre lasers have come along way. It all sounds doable and it is but you can spend months sorting out one little glitch that comes down to proprietary info that the laser or robot supplier does not want to tell you about.

    I recommend finding a commercial solution, there's lots out there. If you can't justify the commercial solution then you certainly can't justify the R&D required to develop a solution. I design bespoke machinery and systems for a living and at the front end of a project costs are estimated and we regularly multiple these by 3x to estimate budget costs. Even if you don't go the commercial way it establishes some $$$ value for the project. There are two usual reasons to develop your own machine 1) it does not exist commercially and 2) It appears you can't afford the commercial solution. If you go with 2) it is often a very poor choice. They don't cost that amount because they are all driving gold plated BMW's they have to get their costs back and so will your company.

    Having said all of that there are robot control programs around that are free to low cost and doing what your saying/intending can be done. Good Luck finding out what you don't know you don't know and more stuff you don't know. I've been at it some 40 years and still come across more stuff I don't know. Keep us in the loop always interested in robot projects...

    Oh some advice - start as small scale as you can. Even if this is desktop type stuff. The learning is the same whether its desktop or massive and the software solutions and integration will be the same but the asset costs will be much less. The first decisions you make are more likely to be wrong than close. You actually should not buy anything until you think the solution(s) is fully costed and resolved on paper.

    Projects where you buy something in the hope it will work and buy something else then try to integrate them, then change it, then repair it etc. There are heaps of router threads for instance in this forum built that way and they take years to sort (and that's all been done before and well documented). Much better to keep it on paper for as long as possible. I think it was Einstein who said take 90% of the time to think about the solution and 10% to solve it...

    Scaling up is easy once you know the design space, the issues and solutions. The first specialised factory I set up took 3 years and $500kAUD. Then someone asked me to do it again and I did it better in 6 months and $200k and we made money as soon as the electricity was connected... I expect you'll do something similar...Peter
    This is all very sound advise. I have already spoken to my employer myself and have suggested to him that he "cools down" and lets us learn up before we make an actual purchase, but he insists the R&D costs will be worth it in the end and that he is willing to invest them. The idea is that we make a purchase before the end of this fiscal year. I actually have advised against this, but I will do as my employer asks - its his money at the end of the day. I have expressed my concerns and have a clean conscious.
    I do want to mention that we have jumped in the deep end on other things (specifically 3D printing) and have come out the other end on-top. 3D printers are obviously less expensive and less complicated, but we have the ability to educate ourselves and reach results. This isn't a hobby based business or anything, everyone here is tech inclined and able.

    We are looking for technicians and engineers who know about robots/lasers/milling/all of the above, but the idea is also to become knowledgeable ourselves, as mentioned earlier. I seriously just want to learn about lasers and how to choose the correct products. Forums are an incredible source of information, but I'm really looking for a place I can learn from on my own, I don't mean to ask people questions for the rest of my carrier



  7. #7

    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    I understand there are many parameters to be considered. kW from the source, various parameters of the head (nozzles, apertures, lenses focus...), different fibers... I want to understand what each of the parameters mean, I want to understand how to assemble a system, I want to learn what commands need to be integrated into the controls... I don't expect to learn all this from you guys (although I have no doubt you know these things. Where did you learn how to do this? Where did you learn? There must be somewhere online with this information. I don't mind paying for it either



  8. #8

    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    Hello, fiber laser cutter main parts: fiber laser source, working table, cooling system, fiber laser head, controlling system...
    Yes, it needs consider many aspects to decide which is suitable.
    You need know which material(stainless steel, aluminum, brass, galvanized sheet) to cut and how much thickness, then you will know how much power suitable.
    The cooling system depends on the power of laser source.
    Fiber laser cutting head and software depends on what functions you need.
    So in conclusion, before assembling the machine, you need figure out what exact fiber laser cutter you need and your application.
    Welcome PM to me. I can share more videos and details with you.



  9. #9

    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    I would love to pm you, but it seems you have this function disabled =/

    I know what materials I will be cutting. I know what functions I am looking for, I don't know how to use this knowledge to choose the correct products



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    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    I was looking at a specific product by LaserMech, this one: https://www.lasermech.com/fibercut/#tab-id-2
    Upon asking for a quote It was made clear to me that they do not supply laser sources, and was given some rough guidelines for finding one. I did a small search and came upon this: https://www.rofin.com/en/products/fi...ers/fl-series/
    I did a little bit of searching in regards to the links you posted.

    Laser Mech appears to be a fairly large company, with buildings in the USA, Europe, and China. Are all of their products manufactured in China?

    Rofin appears to be a German company. I've never seen an industrial product, made in Germany, that isn't very high quality, although I've never heard of this company before.

    IMO, the Laser Mech salesperson should be able to tell you directly if the Rofin laser source will work, and what other pieces of equipment you will need, even if they don't supply them.

    They should have said, we don't supply the laser source, but we know the following laser sources from these suppliers work well...X, Y, and Z, plus you will need these additional components, A, B, and C, and we have customers using this system on robots 1, 2, and 3.

    They advertise these systems specifically for what you're talking about, and they're not a small company, so it should be simple to get an answer. If they won't give you one, just rough guidelines, it's a very bad indication, IMO. And it might be time to look for a different supplier. Some suppliers will play a game where they don't give you this information, you have to choose what other components to integrate, and then if it doesn't work, it's somehow your fault, or at least, not theirs. Even if they preface the statement with, we're not responsible for the quality of another party's laser source, BUT, we know from experience that the following laser sources have worked well for our customers and are compatible with the fiber laser you want to buy from us, well, at least that's something to go on, and it's the very least they could do.

    Sorry about the rant there. LOL.

    I'd contact Rofin sales and ask them if their laser source is compatible with the Laser Mech or what they recommend.

    I sometimes buy surplus parts which can be legacy models, etc. and have difficulty finding information on them. Currently I have some Tamagawa Seiki TBL-S 300W A/C servos that I can't seem to find a manual or any literature on, because even though they are unused, they are a legacy model that I purchased from EBay. But if I was buying new and paying full price from the manufacturer, I expect that the salesperson could answer my questions. Hmmm...you know, I may just go ahead and e-mail Tamagawa Seiki, and see if they'll throw me some info anyway.

    Most of the people on these forums have zero experience with six axis robots (I'm not saying that there aren't a couple people who might, I'm saying most people). Mostly we're just a bunch of people making DIY routers or mills. But occasionally you get someone who's really smart about something outside of that niche who's willing to answer a post.

    I did a search for "Fiber Laser Facebook Group" and there were many results for different groups. And even though I hate Facebook, I think that's where you're going to find more people who can give better feedback.

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    I do want to mention that we have jumped in the deep end on other things (specifically 3D printing) and have come out the other end on-top. 3D printers are obviously less expensive and less complicated, but we have the ability to educate ourselves and reach results.
    That's really interesting. Is this something that you custom made or something that you purchased? Pellet extrusion?

    I ask because I am in the process of working on an industrial quality 3D printer, and am having some design dilemmas.

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post

    We wont be doing anything too sophisticated at the beginning. the laser tool will be used mostly for cutting sheet metals to later be welded together (by hand) into light fixtures. The main reason for getting the robot is actually for 3D milling wood and foam into decoration pieces.

    The laser is still important to us though. Once we get everything up and running it will make our lives alot easier and enable us to be more efficient.
    CNC lasers often have really good acceleration rates. This means they can cut fast. If you're looking to cut mostly sheet metal in 2D, a good laser will outperform your 6 axis robot.

    If speed isn't important to you or you need angled cuts then that is a different story.

    The good ones can do 6G acceleration.





    This one's around 2G



    What is the planar acceleration of a good 6 axis robot? Also what is the stock size of your sheet and reach of your robot? Just things to consider.



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    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    Hi Dod - have a look at Fiber Laser Cutting Machine Manufacturer | HSG Laser they do cutting and welding fibre lasers. Peter



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    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by dodkipod View Post
    I'm not sure I need a controller and all that. The laser will be mounted on a robotic arm, the only controls would be an on/off command, given from the robots controller. I have yet yo research this thoroughly though, Im still in earlier stages I'm afraid.
    I am afraid you do You need to control the laser generator and synchronize it with the controller of the arm. Depending on the type of controller the arm uses it may be actually easier to design a new controller that can run both rather than retrofit an existing controller. I don't know if the robot's controller runs g-code or something more exotic. In any case you will need software that generates the 3D machine code including the laser commands.

    I would suggest to look for a company that specializes in that and offers the software/controller/arm(s) in a package. Doing it on your own would very likely be more expensive and may take years to develop. If you are really determined to try I would suggest to start by hiring a team of software and hardware engineers with background in this field. It is not something you will be able to do without qualified help.



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    Default Re: I don't know what I don't know

    Hi Dod - You will be doing much more than switching a laser on and off. Its power needs to be controlled continuously, even at a corner where the arm slows down you will have to lower the laser power. I expect you will have to have an internal control that proportions power to velocity. All robot manufacturers have control software that will generate 3D paths and machine commands (laser on/off adjust power etc) some are propriety and others are 3rd party and there are open ones like FreeCAD. I think your first task is to decide which robot company you are going to deal with. This will be chosen because of proximity, service and support capabilities and technical depth in the areas you require. The last thing is cost. Do not discount too much of the prior values to cut costs. Costs down the track can be very large vs trying to save a few $$$ up front in the hope that a technical hurdle can be leapt. Many years ago I worked with ASEA, ESAB and KUKA and these would do this sort of thing very easily. I'm sure the other companies are on par. Peter



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