PROGRAMMING FOR 3D LASER CUTTING

(featured in MetalForming – 4/16; written by Chris Baur)

Processing 3D parts, as compared to 2D parts, becomes more complex. Thankfully, by following a simple process programmers can make a fluid transition from 2D to 3D programming. A key task:  Identifying and avoiding possible collisions. 

The laser is a fascinating tool that has been used in manufacturing for decades. Whether the application is cutting, welding, marking or metal deposition, all laser processing requires delivery of the beam to the part. Depending on the part and application, there are various ways to achieve this. For laser cutting, the shape of the part impacts how the beam is delivered. The part might be a simple 2D shape will all of its features in a single plane, or it might be a complex 3D form with angled surfaces and directional changes to its surfaces.

While the laser-cutting process differs little during 2D or 3D cutting, the motion systems used to deliver the beam differ considerably. When cutting simple 2D shapes in flat sheet metal using a 2D cutting machine, a two-, 2.5-, or three-axis motion system gets the call. When laser cutting 3D parts, the motion system must include an additional two or three axes – a five-axis gantry machine or a six-axis robot gain favor.

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