Breaking the limitations of conventional cutting methods, robotic automation has opened the door to innovative high-speed trimming, chamfering and deflashing solutions. Furthermore, as industry’s push for sustainability continues, the need for robust yet eco-friendly robotic technology has grown. While some have turned to waterjet cutting as a viable solution, ultrasonic systems are proving to be highly advantageous and worth the investment.
Differing greatly over other robotic cutting methods, ultrasonic cutting uses robots integrated with cutting tools that use ultrasonic energy to separate excess material from a molded or formed part. It is during this process that microscopic vibrations are created within the blade via an electric pulse that is then sent through the cutting tool. Highly powerful, the force of energy that is created allows the blade to cut through the workpiece with ease, providing manufacturers with multiple benefits:
During the ultrasonic process, the blade oscillates at 40 kHz, reducing typical cutting friction by up to 70%. Not only does this provide cleaner cuts on most materials, it also enables the sealing of edges created in the same process step, making it highly efficient as well.
Ultrasonic cutting is well-suited for a variety of non-metallic materials such as plastics, film, carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFPR) and non-woven fabrics (less than 6-8 mm in thickness). This makes the process ideal for automotive interior components like door trim, floor carpet, instrument panels, consoles and HVAC molded components, as well as most injected, vacuum, rotational or blow molded parts for general industry.
As mentioned, ultrasonic trimming is extremely energy efficient: <1 kWh per trim tool verses >20 kWh for waterjet. The fact that a robot equipped with an ultrasonic tool can make highly precise and clean cuts with little pressure saves energy for greater productivity gains. This trimming process also allows for part management where shrinkage is concerned, as parts can be trimmed directly from the mold. Trimming of perimeter flash and route holes/slots can also take place with just one tool.
Part-to-part finish consistency is improved with built-in compliance. Uniquely designed and field-tested trim tools, offered through select robotic integrators and OEMs, feature active compliance to follow shrinking or imprecise part contours.
The use of a robotic ultrasonic trimming system provides the flexibility needed to adapt to a variety of cutting methods. Whether top layer only (kiss cuts) or perforated line cuts are used, or whether compression of foam or other thick materials is required, an ultrasonic trimming workcell is ideal.
Lower Consumable Costs
Compared to waterjet cutting, ultrasonic consumables are more affordable. With waterjet, manufacturers will find that coils and orifices will often need switched out, and items such as tubing, fittings, valves, seals and other pump parts will need a moderate amount of replacement. Not only does this contribute to higher consumable costs, but also it can increase robot downtime which ultimately impacts the bottom line. “Ultrasonic trimming is a highly efficient, eco-friendly and cost effective way to trim a variety of components,” states Steven Cranston of Alliance Automation, LLC. “With only moderate blade changeout and rare oscillator cable replacement required, this process is ideal for manufacturers looking to save on costs and optimize operational throughput.”
(L: Waterjet head; R: Ultrasonic head)
For example, a standard waterjet system with one intensifier and two robots can cost an average of $23k-$25k per year to operate. High maintenance costs, energy usage and water consumption/disposal are the drivers of this cost. In contrast, this is approximately six times greater than the cost to operate a two robot ultrasonic knife system.
Optimize Your Trimming Operations
Reduction of worker injury, quiet workcell operation, no water hazards and no work-in-progress (WIP) drying time for post trim assembly operations are also key benefits. To harness the energy-sipping technology of ultrasonic trimming, learn more about Yaskawa’s EcoTrim™ cutting systems. Available in two standard models (EcoTrim 1000 and EcoTrim 6200), or as a custom turnkey solution that can be configured to your specific production requirements, these space-efficient solutions are designed for maximum flexibility and uptime for greater reduction of operating costs.
Roger Christian is a Division Leader, New Business Development at Yaskawa America, Inc.– Motoman Robotics Division