Mastering robot Laser Cutting: What you need to know before implementing a Laser Cutting robot

August 17, 2023
Standard Bots robot visualizer

What is a Laser Cutting robot and how does it work?

A Laser Cutting robot is an automated system that uses high-powered lasers to cut materials with extreme precision. It works by directing an intense beam of light onto the material you want to cut. The concentrated heat from the laser melts, vaporizes, or burns the material along the cut line, separating the pieces. The robot arm precisely guides the laser over the cutting path at high speeds to make clean cuts in sheet metal, plastics, wood, glass, and more. 

Manufacturers seeking laser engraving capabilities should explore alternative options. Specific applications may require dedicated laser engraving machines that offer specialized features, higher precision, and tailored software for optimal results. It’s essential to consider the specific requirements of your engraving projects and evaluate whether a dedicated laser engraving machine aligns better with your needs for intricate designs, material compatibility, and production volume.

With the right precautions taken, a Laser Cutting robot can revolutionize your production. Faster cycle times, less waste, higher cut quality, and lower operating costs are just a few of the benefits these automated systems provide. While the initial investment may be substantial, the long-term rewards of increased productivity and efficiency make Laser Cutting robots a smart choice for manufacturers.

Developing a defined Laser Cutting process

Creating a well-defined laser cutting process is a pivotal step towards harnessing the full potential of Industrial Laser Cutting robots. A structured and efficient process not only ensures consistent and high-quality results but also maximizes the benefits that automation brings to the fabrication floor.

Leveraging robots for repetitive, simple, and hazardous cuts

Robotic systems excel in executing repetitive, straightforward, and even hazardous laser cutting tasks with unwavering precision and efficiency. The reliability and consistency of robots make them ideal candidates for routine operations that require identical cuts across numerous workpieces. This is particularly advantageous in mass production scenarios, where maintaining uniformity is essential for the final product’s quality and integrity. 

Moreover, robots exhibit exceptional prowess in handling hazardous materials or conditions. By delegating dangerous cutting operations to robots, human workers are spared from exposure to risks, enhancing workplace safety. 

The precision advantage and human touch

The unparalleled precision offered by Industrial Laser Cutting robots is undeniable. Yet, there’s a realm of intricacy that demands humans. Bespoke or intricate cuts, characterized by artistic or highly detailed designs, often require the intuition, adaptability, and creativity that human operators bring to the table. Humans can seamlessly respond to nuanced changes and deviations, adjusting their approach to achieve the desired artistic or functional outcome.

Finding the balance: Where robots shine and humans excel

In essence, having a defined laser cutting process involves recognizing the strengths of both robots and humans and strategically assigning tasks to each based on their respective capabilities. This synergy between automation and human expertise is the key to achieving the perfect balance between efficiency, precision, and creativity in the world of laser cutting.

Conducting a risk assessment for your Laser Cutting robot

Before bringing your Laser Cutting robot online, it’s critical to conduct a thorough risk assessment. This will identify any hazards and ensure the safety of your workers and equipment.

Assess the work area

Look at the layout of your shop and the space where the robot will operate. Are there any obstacles or debris in the way? Will the robot have a dedicated, restricted area that only authorized personnel can access during operation? You’ll need ample room for the robot to maneuver and for material loading and unloading. The inherent risks associated with laser cutting highlight the significant clearance that employees must maintain from a laser-wielding robot in motion.

Cooling elements

Considering the elevated temperatures in play, it’s essential to verify that your robot possesses the necessary heat-resistant capabilities. Additionally, ensuring effective cooling measures are in position is crucial to guarantee the safety of both employees and equipment. 

Train your workers

Even with the proper safeguards, human error is still possible. Provide comprehensive training for anyone operating or working near the Laser Cutting robot. Review general safety practices, proper loading/unloading procedures, how to start and stop the robot in an emergency, and how to avoid common mistakes. It’s critical to think through possible risks and have a plan in place to avoid injury. Once trained, have workers shadow experienced operators at first to gain on-the-job experience in a controlled setting.

Conducting a thorough risk assessment and implementing the necessary safeguards will allow you to take full advantage of your Laser Cutting robot while avoiding costly mistakes, accidents, and downtime.

Standard Bots routine editor

Programming your Laser Cutting robot: Tips and pitfalls

Once your Laser Cutting robot is installed, it’s time to start programming it. Here are a few things you should know to make sure it’s operating safely.

Start simple and begin by programming the robot to perform basic cuts on sample materials. Have it trace shapes such as squares, circles, and triangles before moving on to more complex cuts. This allows you and your team to get comfortable with the robot's movements and make sure its laser is calibrated properly before putting it into full production. Focus on basic functions and simple cutting jobs to build confidence and comfort. As skills improve, workers can progress to more complex operations and programming. 

Use simulation software to virtually program and test your robot’s operations before its deployment on the shop floor. This invaluable tool enables the early detection of programming concerns and potential collisions, effectively preventing wasting time, materials, or any potential harm to your robot. It's much easier to fix an issue in the programming stage rather than after the robot has started cutting. 

Provide oversight even after the robot is up and running, provide oversight and periodic checks to ensure optimal, safe performance. Take time each week to inspect the robot, re-check safety measures, and provide any software updates. Your Laser Cutting robot is a powerful tool, but it still needs human guidance to work at its best. Slight miscalibrations in the robot’s programming or the end-effector can lead to hundreds of defective parts without human oversight and adjustment.

Top maintenance tips for a Laser Cutting robot

Although you may already be adept at maintaining laser cutting equipment, the implementation of robotic laser cutting introduces distinctive and novel requisites. To keep your Laser Cutting robot in working order and prevent costly downtime, follow these best practices.

  • Perform routine inspections: Conduct regular visual checks of the robot’s arms, joints, actuators, and end-effector for signs of wear or damage, and always lubricate according to the manufacturer's guidelines. Seemingly-small issues or incorrect lubrication can throw cycle times off without the robot noticing, resulting in hours or days of defective part creation before your team notices.
  • Calibrate and test the laser: Ensure the laser is properly aligned and calibrated. Run test cuts at least once per week or if you notice the cut quality decreasing. The laser is the heart of the system, so it’s critical it remains in peak operating condition. Keep in mind that challenges can originate from factors such as the end-effector, robot arm, or minor programming glitches. 
  • Clean and purge: Built-up debris and fumes can damage the laser optics and reduce cut quality. Run an air purge cycle at the end of each day to clear out any remaining particles. For stubborn debris, you may need to manually wipe down mirrors and lenses.
  • Update software: Laser cutting software is continually improving, so install the latest updates to take advantage of enhanced features, fixed bugs, and improved security patches. Software updates also ensure compatibility with the latest file types.

Following these best practices will help ensure your Laser Cutting robot operates safely, efficiently, and productively for years to come. Be sure to also reference your robot's manual for any additional maintenance tasks or schedules specific to your model.

Next steps

Before bringing an industrial Laser Cutting robot into your fab shop do your research, plan well, get buy-in from your team, and invest in proper training. A Laser Cutting robot can revolutionize your production, reduce waste, and increase productivity if implemented strategically. 

Interested in bringing a Laser Cutting robot to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is a great choice for machine shops large and small:

  1. Affordable: RO1 is the most affordable robotic arm in its class, starting at almost half the price of incumbent competitors. 
  2. Powerful: RO1 is faster and more precise than competitors, despite having the highest payload capacity in its class at 18 kg.
  3. Integrated: RO1 comes equipped with built-in relays to control almost any machine on the market, including plug-and-play support for Haas CNC milling machines.

Speak to our solutions team today to organize a free, 30-day onsite trial and get expert advice on everything you need to deploy your first robot.

Standard Bots equipment manager
Standard Bots camera vision
Press contacts