Latest Advancements in Material Cutting Robotics

Nov 1, 2023

Read about the latest technological advancements in robotic material cutting.

Auto­mat­ed fin­ish­ing tools have advanced in pre­ci­sion and flex­i­bil­i­ty over the last ten years. Because of the accu­ra­cy and speed offered by robot­ic cut­ting tools, com­pa­nies are rely­ing on automa­tion for process­es that tra­di­tion­al­ly use CNC machin­ing or man­u­al meth­ods. Pop­u­lar tool­ing includes laser cut­ting, water­jet cut­ting, and rout­ing. All these tools per­form cut­ting tasks using dif­fer­ent tech­niques and are tai­lored for cut­ting spe­cif­ic mate­ri­als. Indus­tries inter­est­ed in mate­r­i­al cut­ting appli­ca­tions usu­al­ly man­u­fac­ture parts that demand accu­ra­cy or out­put beyond what is capa­ble of man­u­al process­es. Research and invest­ments using arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and 3D vision lead to advance­ments in these tech­niques, allow­ing bet­ter pre­ci­sion, flex­i­bil­i­ty, and output. 

Advance­ments in Laser Cut­ting Tooling

Laser-cut­ting robots have evolved con­sid­er­ably since their intro­duc­tion in the 1960s. This equip­ment offers greater per­for­mance that comes close to match­ing the pre­ci­sion offered by CNC machines at a high­er pro­duc­tion speed. Laser cut­ting is used for trim­ming steel struc­tures, die-cast alu­minum, auto­mo­tive pan­els, and more. 

Laser cut­ting can be achieved using var­i­ous meth­ods such as vapor­iza­tion cut­ting, melt and blow, ther­mal stress crack­ing, and reac­tive cut­ting. All these meth­ods use a high-pow­er laser to slice through the mate­r­i­al in a small spot, caus­ing a smooth cut through the piece. Attached to a six-axis robot, the tool can cut along any desired edge, cre­at­ing a fin­ished-shaped part. Some com­pa­nies are cre­at­ing an even more flex­i­ble pro­duc­tion line by com­bin­ing weld­ing robots with laser-cut­ting tool­ing, specif­i­cal­ly, the auto­mo­tive industry. 

Man­u­fac­tur­ers look­ing to speed up the sec­ondary and fin­ished-cut­ting process for parts with­out com­pro­mis­ing pre­ci­sion should con­sid­er laser-cut­ting robot­ics. They offer a faster out­put than man­u­al cut­ting and CNC. With new tech­nol­o­gy, laser cut­ting offers a high­er lev­el of flex­i­bil­i­ty and pre­ci­sion. Com­pa­nies are tak­ing advan­tage of auto­mat­ed laser cut­ting equip­ment to elim­i­nate prod­uct waste and max­i­mize the out­put of prod­uct-cut­ting processes. 

Advance­ments in Water­jet Cut­ting Technology

Robot­ic water­jet cut­ting has been used in manufacturing 

appli­ca­tions for almost 70 years. Water­jet cut­ting uses a high-veloc­i­ty stream of water to cut or drill through the mate­r­i­al, and unlike laser cut­ting, it involves no ther­mal process. Man­u­fac­tur­ers opt to use water­jet cut­ting to elim­i­nate the need for grind­ing or smooth­ing down cut edges and appli­ca­tions that can­not use heat­ed cut­ting tech­niques such as food, paper, and cer­tain fabrics. 

Abra­sive water­jet cut­ting is a new­er tech­nique that mix­es gar­net par­ti­cles into the water stream to erode hard­er mate­ri­als. Com­pa­nies use this cut­ting tech­nique to work with dense mate­ri­als such as stone, met­al, and ceram­ics. The ver­sa­tile use of water­jet cut­ting allows it to be extreme­ly flex­i­ble in pro­duc­tion. A man­u­fac­tur­er can choose to switch from a soft­er mate­r­i­al such as paper to some­thing as hard as tita­ni­um with no problem. 

This cut­ting tech­nique can be used with a wide vari­ety of mate­ri­als; how­ev­er, it is not suit­ed for every­thing. Cer­tain mate­ri­als, like tem­pered glass, risk shat­ter­ing when cut with a water­jet. Before choos­ing a cut­ting process, it is ide­al for com­pa­nies to invest in research and devel­op­ment to select the appli­ca­tion best suit­ed for their task. 

Advance­ments in Rout­ing Technology

Auto­mat­ed rout­ing is used in man­u­fac­tur­ing for mate­r­i­al removal and trim­ming of parts. It is used with tasks that require pre­ci­sion beyond what is capa­ble of man­u­al process­es. The repeata­bil­i­ty of a robot arm allows the parts to be drilled and trimmed the same way each time, improv­ing the final prod­uct and increas­ing prod­uct out­put. These robots are usu­al­ly found in the auto­mo­tive, aero­space, marine, and pro­to­type indus­tries. Learn more about mate­r­i­al removal robots.

Rout­ing robots use a six-axis robot­ic arm with a spin­dle and rout­ing bit attached as the end effec­tor. It then uses pro­gram­ming and visu­al soft­ware to drill through mate­r­i­al or trim around the edges of the prod­uct. One com­pa­ny uses its auto­mat­ed rout­ing sys­tem to drill fiber­glass boat parts, cut­ting their pro­duc­tion time by half. The parts pro­duced by the com­pa­ny must be drilled and cut in an exact way. The process was pre­vi­ous­ly done by hand, tak­ing a lot of time to make sure the job was done cor­rect­ly. With the new auto­mat­ed tool­ing, work­ers can direct their time to more valu­able tasks, and parts are fin­ished faster. 


When it comes to mate­r­i­al cut­ting appli­ca­tions, there are mul­ti­ple options with automa­tion. How­ev­er, to suc­cess­ful­ly improve the cut­ting task, options must be weighed care­ful­ly. A com­pa­ny should always research which cut­ting tech­nique would fit their task best; con­sid­er­ing the size, mate­r­i­al, and thick­ness of the prod­uct and the flex­i­bil­i­ty and fix­tures need­ed to cut it. When inte­grat­ed prop­er­ly, auto­mat­ed mate­r­i­al cut­ting offers incred­i­ble ben­e­fits such as high­er pro­duc­tion out­put, few­er prod­uct errors, and more flex­i­bil­i­ty in oper­a­tions. With new tech­nol­o­gy like arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and net­work con­nec­tion on the hori­zon, the pos­si­bil­i­ties of robot­ic mate­r­i­al cut­ting are bound to expand into new territory. 

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