Some technologies are loved. For other technologies, there’s no love lost. Like your cable provider, waterjet cutting fills a need, but it’s an uneasy (if long-standing) alliance. Since the 1990s, top automotive interior trimmers have relied on waterjet cutting to remove flash from instrument panels, carpets and headliners. However, our surveys show many trimmers would be happy to do without the energy consumption, noise and occasional product mishap that comes from relying on a laser-like stream of water compressed to 40,000 psi for cutting and trimming.
An automotive interior trimmer we know of recently heard complaints from customers who saw stains coming out of the instrument panels on their high-end cars. The cause: During the waterjet cutting process, water was trapped in the foam behind the instrument panels. As the temperature climbed in the vehicle, water leeched out creating a stain on the paneling.
The trimmer might have turned to ultrasonic cutting if the technology were better understood. The general sentiment about ultrasonic cutting for carpets, headliners and plastics has been that it’s ineffective. Part of the frustration with ultrasonic cutting stems from the fact that some solutions rely on ineffective trimming knives causing products like carpet to bunch up during cutting. In other cases, a less than rigorous design process for the tool head has been the culprit.
It’s time to give ultrasonic cutting a second look. Here’s why: New technology and design enhancements have had unbridled success in Japan with cutting materials such as plastics, film, fiberglass and non-woven fabrics. New robot-guided ultrasonic trimming and routing tools are just now rolling out to other parts of the globe. Enhanced processing and advanced tool design make cleaner cuts to carpets, headliners, instrument panels and a variety of non-automotive parts.
Because of years of field testing with automotive suppliers in Japan, the engineering that goes into how a customer can apply ultrasonic cutting has evolved. The improved tool head’s blade angles can perform any number of feats. For example, one solution, which has been deployed hundreds of times in Japan, can flow along a shrinking blow-molded part while cutting via a compliant device. Combined with industrial robots, ultrasonic cutting technology can apply perforations along a carpet or “kiss cut” material, leaving the bottom layer untouched.
Through our partnership with NSK, we’re excited about being the first to introduce this technology in America. The robotic system is ideal for cutting, trimming, deburring and chamfering applications. One of our new cutting system’s advantages is that it makes a precise cut, eliminating the fibers that would result from a lesser blade or process. That said, we’ll temper all this just a bit by stating that we can’t cut everything. For example, when the foam padding behind a carpet is more than three-fourths of an inch thick, as it is with some luxury vehicles, then waterjet cutting would make more sense.
Going forward, we’ll be testing additional applications with some of the auto industry’s top interior trim providers to create perforations behind an instrument panel to enable deployment of air bags. We'll also be testing trimming headliners and door trim.
Our facility in Rochester Hills, Michigan is prepared to show off this new technology and demonstrate that ultrasonic cutting is ideal for not only automotive interior trim, but also the general plastics market (i.e., everything from trash cans to blow-molded kayaks).
Take a look at robotic ultrasonic cutting and ask about our standard solution, EcoTrim, which includes an MH24 robot, part positioner, ultrasonic cutting tool and a total safety environment that is compliant with the ANSI-RIA R15.06-2012 safety standard.
If you’re stuck waterjet cutting, laser cutting, hard tooling or manually trimming, Yaskawa’s ultrasonic cutting could be a great way to “cut the cord.”
Roger Christian is a Division Leader, New Business Development at Yaskawa America, Inc.– Motoman Robotics Division