All photos courtesy of Schuler

Aluminum use in cars and commercial vehicles increases annually as the lightweight material improves performance and reduces fuel consumption and emissions. However, the surface-sensitive material requires gentle handling during blanking and tends to produce burrs on the lower cutting edge.

Schuler’s DynamicFlow technology (DFT) laser blanking system addresses those problems while improving productivity and reducing material costs.

Already in place in many European auto plants, DFT supports stamping lines for several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and tier suppliers, allowing manufacturers to replace complete sets of physical blanking dies with laser-cutting technology. With about a dozen blanking dies per vehicle, that improvement alone can save manufacturers millions of dollars. And, downstream improvements in metal forming can further improve operations.

Quality

Burrs that detach and remain as flitter in the forming die lead to marks on the material surface – visible even after painting – and to scrap parts. Avoiding marks requires extra equipment such as burr vacuum cleaners or blank cleaning systems, as well as regular line stops for cleaning the forming dies. Depending on the parts, this can result in a 5- to 10- minute production interruption after only a few hundred strokes.

Laser-processed blanks have few, if any, burrs, meeting automotive quality requirements. Eliminating regular cleaning with laser-cut blanks increases press line productivity.

Tryout process optimization

Flow-produced laser blanks offer easy contour adaptation during the press tryout process. Depending on need, engineers can easily adapt laser cutting programs and customize blanks in small batches without dies. Unlike flatbed lasers, which cut from a rectangle, DFT blanking lines cut directly from the continuously running strip material of the coil.

Manufacturers can run small tryout batches on laser blanking lines between series production or purchase trials parts from a supplier with a laser blanking line. Production can be carried out faster, and upstream cut-to-length processes can be saved.

Compared to a flatbed laser, DirectFlow technology enables more efficient use of material.

Series production

Shifting to a material with different flow behavior can be done during series production. While adjustments to forming or cutting dies require pre-production and tooling work, laser-cut blank contours can be easily modified, simplifying the changeover to new material.

Without the need to produce expensive dies, users can experiment with process optimization trials and immediately go back to the original process at any time. Even 1% or 2% material savings can be significant – with an assumed production per blanking line of approximately 30,000 tons steel and 10,000 tons aluminum – saving up to 600 tons steel and 200 tons aluminum per year.

A laser blanking line makes material savings possible, even during series production and – in the event of change – reduces time required for die work.

Schuler Group https://laserblanking.schulergroup.com