You’ll find this content as part of our page on Laser Blanking, but this month, we want to highlight it in our AHSS Insights blog. We thank Schuler North America for contributing this insightful case study.
Production of Class A quality and structural parts without a blanking die is possible, even for high-volume serial production. Laser blanking enables flexible, cost-effective, and sustainable manufacturing and is capable of reaching 45 parts per minute. DynamicFlow Technology (DFT) from Schuler provides highly productive, die-free blanking with lasers—directly from a continuously running steel coil. DFT combines the advantages of flexible laser cutting with the speed of conventional blanking.
Laser blanking technology addresses market challenges such as frequent die changes, the need to increase capacity, and improving plant floor utilization, material utilization, and downstream processes.
LASER BLANKING ELIMINATES FREQUENT DIE CHANGES
It is important to remember that there are no dies with laser blanking technology, and no dies mean no die changes. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) of up to 80% can be achieved with laser blanking technology. In fact, 4 to 6 million parts per year of various materials are produced with the help of DFT—including mild steel, high-strength steel, and advanced high-strength steel. Even processing press-hardening steels with an aluminum-silicon coating is possible with laser blanking. Surface and cutting quality can be maintained over this spectrum of steel grades. Laser blanking technology can even achieve effective small batch production of Class A outer body panels and structural parts typically up to 3mm thick.
LASER BLANKING INCREASES PLANT OUTPUT
Competitive high-speed and high-output results can be achieved in multiple ways with laser blanking technology. The above-ground coil-fed line, optimized for short setup time, can handle coils with material widths up to 2,150 mm, weighing up to 30 tons. The material transport is smooth and controlled, simplifying setup and leading to uninterrupted processing within the laser cell.
There are three highly dynamic and simultaneously moving laser cutting heads within the laser cell of these lines. These laser cutting heads cut the programmed blank contour from a continuously moving material coil. Cutting speeds can exceed 100 meters per minute. The material is protected against any process contamination throughout the cutting process by custom-designed cutting clearance and material transport.
Figure 2 reveals the high-speed and high-output results for outer body parts. Each part is measured by improved output per minute and hour to achieve an OEE of 80%. Laser blanking lines can achieve up to 45 parts per minute and reduce costs per blank.
LASER BLANKING IMPROVES MATERIAL UTILIZATION
Up to 90% of blank costs are determined by the material price. The most significant leverage would be to reduce scrap and save on materials. Schuler conducted research based on the production of 300,000 cars per year, at 350 kg per car and $1,000 USD per ton of steel to provide a realistic inside look at how much cost savings can be achieved with laser blanking. The result was $1 Million USD saved with just 1% of material savings. This is extremely significant as material costs keep increasing.
Laser blanking is the digital way to cut blanks. All that’s needed to create a blanking program is a drawing to be loaded and a material to be selected. The part-specific program can be created offline and modified at any time. It is designed to create optimal combinations of material utilization and output—resulting in a high level of flexibility that significantly reduces development time for optimal blanks while also allowing for need-based production. This makes production planning easier, and it also opens the door to continuous contour optimizations for the forming process. Additionally, laser cutting does not require any gaps between individual parts due to smart nesting capabilities that cannot be achieved in comparison to die nesting or flatbed laser nesting. The combined smart, flexible nesting functions unlock new potential for material savings. Manufacturers can optimize individual blanks and eliminate the separating strip or connection bridges. Scrap savings in the forming process can also be achieved as there are no geometric restrictions due to cutting dies, and manufacturers can continuously optimize or adapt parts.
Figure 3 showcases the comparison of die nesting (the two graphics on the left) versus a laser-optimized blank contour and material savings via smart, laser blanking line nesting (the two images on the right).
Overall, laser blanking lines can have an equivalent throughput to conventional blanking lines, but laser blanking lines can achieve up to 10% greater material utilization.
You can read the full Case Study, including how laser blanking reduces infrastructure costs and improves downstream processes here: Laser Blanking Case Study
Schuler will present laser blanking technology, along with a variety of digital tools that create the “Press Shop of the Future” at FABTECH Chicago 2023 (booth # D41306). Tiago Vasconcellos, Sales Director at Schuler North America, will present “How Smart is Your Press Shop?” during FABTECH’s Educational Conference. The presentation will use The Smart Press Shop, a newly formed joint venture between Porsche and Schuler, as an exemplary case study for smart manufacturing standards. Attendees will discover innovative and practical ways to incorporate digitalization into production and become a state-of-the-art stamping facility directly from Schuler.
About Schuler Group
Schuler offers customized cutting-edge technology in all areas of forming—from the networked press to press shop planning. In addition to presses, Schuler’s products include automation, dies, process know-how, and service for the entire metalworking industry. Schuler’s Digital Suite brings together solutions for networking forming technology and is continuously being developed to further improve line productivity and availability. Schuler customers include automotive manufacturers and suppliers, as well as companies in the forging, household appliance, and electrical industries. Schuler presses are minting coins for more than 180 countries. Founded in 1839 at the Göppingen, Germany headquarters, Schuler has approximately 5,000 employees at production sites in Europe, China and the Americas, as well as service companies in more than 40 countries. The company is part of the international technology group ANDRITZ.
Schuler’s global portfolio of world-renowned brands include BCN (Bliss Clearing Niagara) Technical Services, Müller Weingarten, Beutler, Umformtechnik Erfurt, SMG Pressen, Hydrap Pressen, Wilkins & Mitchell, Bêché, Spiertz Presses, Farina Presse, Liebergeld, Peltzer & Ehlers, Schleicher, and Sovema Group.
About Schuler North America
Schuler North America (Schuler), headquartered in Canton, Michigan, is the North American subsidiary of Schuler Group. Schuler provides new equipment, spare parts, and a portfolio of lifecycle services for all press systems—including preventative maintenance, press shop design and optimization, turnkey installations, retrofits for existing systems, and localized production and service. Schuler’s best-in-class position in the metalworking and materials industry serves automotive manufacturers and tier suppliers, as well as home appliance, electronics, forging, and other industries.