Decomecc relies on Schuler's Laser Blanking Line

    Belgian family-owned company is cutting customized blanks flexibly from aluminum coils

    At the latest Decomecc machine, the strip runs continuously from the coil into the laser cell. The growth-oriented and family-owned company based in Genk, Belgium, is specialized in customer specific blanking of aluminum strip and has been producing shaped blanks on a Schuler Laser Blanking Line since the beginning of 2019.

    Decomecc explains that for them, as a service center, the flexibility of the line has played a major role for the investment decision. Within one day, new blank shapes can be programmed and integrated for production. Also the product change can be done with a few clicks without time-consuming changing of heavy dies. Decomecc also appreciates the material savings that can be achieved by an optimal nesting of the blanks. This way, significantly more parts can be produced per aluminum coil.

    Neither elaborate press foundation nor loop pit required

    Blanking without dies is particularly useful for service centers such as Decomecc because the number of variants and thus the number of orders does not depend on the available storage capacities for the dies. Also, the laser blanking line does not require any extraordinary building infrastructure for the handling of the dies or special foundations for a press, which significantly reduces investment costs and facilitates installations in existing buildings. The continuous flow of the strip while cutting makes a loop pit superfluous.

    The so-called DynamicFlow Technology is the heart of the system and ensures not only the continuous material flow but also an optimal material support in the blanking process. "This technologyenables the production of blanks in outer body quality at a speed of up to 60 meters per minute," explains Georgios Dermentzakis, the responsible sales manager at Schuler. "For example, a premium car manufacturer that commissioned two Schuler laser blanking lines in 2016 produces more than 40 hoods per minute." Since then, the customer has invested in two more lines.

    Although laser blanking lines cannot cover the full capacity of a conventional blanking line with a blanking press, in some cases, thanks to the DynamicFlow Technology, they can already reach 60 to 70 percent of the output depending on the contour. In addition, they have an Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) of approximately 80 percent: "In many cases, new laser blanking lines offer a higher net output rate than existing conventional equipment," says Dermentzakis.

    The Decomecc system was the first Schuler laser blanking line to be installed in 2013 in Dormagen, Germany, and has been significantly optimized over a period of five years in terms of output rate and blank quality. At the end of 2018 the line moved from Dormagen to Genk. It consists of a conveyor system, a laser cell with three laser cutting heads and a robot for stacking the parts.

    The laser cell consists of two laser portals in which the three lasers can move independently of each other. The continuous strip material is transported on telescopic conveyor belts through the cell and thereby supported over the entire surface. Directly beneath the 4 kW laser cutting heads, a mobile gap in the conveyor system allows the cutting slag to be discharged into the underlying separation system.

    Homogeneous blank edges as a result

    Schuler relies on high-performance and high-precision ytterbium fiber lasers, which, in contrast to the CO2 lasers used in the past, only cause minimal edge hardening in the material. "In fact, you can see that the blank edges are homogeneous with laser blanking, while the edges with conventional blanking have a combination of compressed, cut and broken material areas," says Dermentzakis. "In the laser blanking process, the material is melted in order to avoid burr, which can lead to increased cleaning effort in the following processes, especially with aluminum," he continues. In this way, the laser blanking process increases the plant availability of the following forming processes.

    Back to Decomecc: With just a few clicks in the visualization, the blanking program of a laser is readjusted. Immediately afterwards, the result can be examined at the blanks, which are stacked accurately at the end of the system. The simple adjustment of the laser parameters offline or directly on line enables a good and fast process optimization. Combined with the simple implementation of new laser programs, laser blanking is clearly recommended by Decomecc, for companies that produce a large variety of small batch sizes and need to change frequently.

    Other companies have recognized this, too. Beside Europe, Schuler also has got references in China, the USA and South Africa. "The new technology opens up completely new possibilities in the blanking process," says Dermentzakis. "With our laser blanking technology, we offer our customers significant added value and support them in securing their long-term competitiveness."

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