CO2 laser from Kuka for flexible production of plastic back-molded textile components

In passenger car production, textile components back-molded with plastic are indispensable for interior trim. Lasaco was commissioned with the installation of ten laser booths with which such trim parts can be cut precisely and quickly. Due to the wide variety of shapes and formats for different types of vehicles, the customer needed a flexible solution that would allow the heavy laser fixtures to be changed quickly and without great effort. For this purpose, Lasaco developed a simple but reliable system for changing the laser molds within a few minutes. The Kuka robot can automatically select the respective sequence program for the cutting process based on a tool coding.

The reduction of cycle times was a decisive factor in the project

High volumes that can be produced on demand in the shortest possible time are a matter of course in the automotive industry. The time and quality pressure that weighs on suppliers requires an economical and at the same time reliable technical solution. The customer therefore wanted not only automation of the work processes through the use of a Kuka CO2 laser robot, but also a reduction in cycle times. Lasaco was able to achieve this goal of increasing productivity by repeatedly optimizing programs and processes. For example, the Kuka robot's mere internal beam guidance resulted in significantly higher dynamics during laser cutting. Path speeds of over 1000 mm per second could thus be realized.

Kuka CO2 laser with 300 to 400 watts

The technology originally developed by Reis Robotics will continue to be professionally maintained and optimized by us after the takeover of Kuka. The lasers installed in the Kuka CO2 laser cutting robot are still distributed by the company Coherent. This solution has proven to be very reliable for many years. The Rofin SCX30 or SCX35 CO2 lasers, which we are also using in this project and which have an output of 300 to 400 watts, work together with the Kuka robot in 24-hour operation without any problems. They have a very low susceptibility to malfunctions. In addition, there is an extremely low cost for maintenance and repairs, which is particularly important for a system in continuous operation.

Precision and endurance in laser cutting

The load in 24-hour continuous operation is generally very high for industrial robots. Accordingly, all system components must be coordinated with each other. Every project is different because all customers in the industry have their own specifications and make individual demands on materials, cutting speed and precision. In the production of passenger car interior trim, material quality is crucial in addition to the exact fit. If the results deviate from the car manufacturer's specifications, suppliers risk high contractual penalties and vast amounts of scrap. It was therefore particularly important to adhere precisely to all specifications in this project and to keep optimizing the systems.

Complete control through integrated camera system

The Kuka CO2 laser robot for laser cutting has integrated camera systems that allow operators to keep an eye on the robot and the components at all times. This benefits product quality and process reliability, as malfunctions can be identified and eliminated immediately before long downtimes occur.

Flexibility due to free programmability of the fixture control system

As already mentioned, the laser cabs of the Kuka robot must be able to be quickly adapted to different vehicle types. This requirement was particularly important to our customer. In order to make the resulting necessary exchange of the many different laser holders fast and smooth, a flexible programmability of the entire fixture control was implemented. The settings for the Kuka CO2 laser fixtures can be adapted to the pneumatic and vacuum clamping circuits currently in use by selecting the components matching the respective laser fixture via the HMI. New configurations can also be saved there at any time. As a result, this means the laser mold can be changed in less than thirty minutes, after which it is already fully integrated into the robot controller. The customer also has Lasaco's technicians carry out the precise programming of the fixture control.

Highlights of the project at a glance:

  • 300W to 400W CO2 laser

  • 2 station operation optimized for series production, as the laser cell is integrated into the production line.

  • Shuttle table for loading and unloading of the cutting devices

  • Camera system in the cabin to monitor the robot and display on industrial monitor

  • suction system with automatic lime feed of the suction filters to prevent sticking

  • the laser fixtures are connected to the robot system by quick couplings (electric, pneumatic, vacuum).

  • Freely programmable clamping circuits and tool coding

Project gallery: Take a detailed look at the Kuka industrial robot system with CO2 laser