The success of modern product development and manufacturing efforts depends increasingly on the ability to iterate quickly, test innovative ideas, and shorten time to market. Products must be designed, materials evaluated, prototypes
tested, and parts manufactured faster than ever. With access
to the right technology, agile teams can quickly go from design
to production, using fewer resources and meeting customer
demand more quickly. A comprehensive rapid prototyping and
manufacturing strategy offers an obvious advantage to businesses looking to keep their products and services competitive.
Although sophisticated and highly capable, additive manufacturing technologies are actually just one segment of rapid
prototyping and manufacturing. Digital subtractive systems
increase capability by offering complementary functionality
FROM THE COVER
By Universal Laser Systems
Selecting a subtractive laser technology with flexibility, precision, and speed will deliver excellent processing
results on a wide range of materials.
with similar flexibility and speed. It is also worth noting that a large percentage of manufactured parts are made
from flat raw materials.
When selecting a subtractive technology to work alongside additive manufacturing systems, it is essential
that the system chosen is capable of matching the quality and performance of the 3D technology, working
flexibly, accurately, and efficiently. Investing in a technology that can be used on a wide range of materials and
can quickly produce high quality parts offers greater capability and speed within product development and
Advanced laser systems are a great example of a technology that fulfills these requirements. These systems
can be used for precise machining (cutting, drilling, scoring, marking, etc.) almost any material in just seconds
or minutes. David Richter of Universal Laser Systems summarizes the reasons why digital laser technology is
an ideal complement to additive methods: “As product lifecycles get shorter, manufacturers in many industries
are turning toward rapid subtractive technologies like laser cutting and marking systems. Traditional subtractive
equipment is often associated with long lead times, due to the fixturing, programming or skilled labor required to
operate each machine. This not only drives up cost for mid to low volume production runs, but also slows down
prototype builds and testing. By comparison, these digitally-based, rapid-deployment tools can dramatically shorten
time to market and decrease costs associated with design revisions.”
It is important to understand however, that not all laser systems are equal. Some will claim multiple capabil-
ities, but deliver lower overall performance levels, as they are not particularly optimized for any specific task.
Therefore, the benefits highlighted
here will only be fully realized if the
laser system selected exhibits the
characteristics of a truly advanced
system capable of high performance
and multiple processes.
Functionality, Precision and
Speed: Essential Attributes
Investing in the right digital laser
technology not only streamlines
workflow, but also increases manufacturing flexibility. Advanced laser systems are able to process a
wide range of materials by allowing
users to select the ideal combination of power and wavelength for
each application. The best choice
or combination of CO2 or fiber laser
source, power and wavelength(s) will
PET optical absorbance of laser energy is higher using a 9. 3 µm wavelength
over 10. 6 and 1.06 µm. PET optical absorbance of laser energy is higher
using a 9. 3 µm wavelength over 10. 6 and 1.06 µm.