When Mitsubishi Electric Corporation announced the acquisition of ASTES4 SA (ASTES4), a Switzerland-based manufacturer of automated laser sorting solutions, we saw the potential immediately.
And quickly, the industry is catching on. In a recent Fab Shop Direct Magazine article, editor Jimmy Myers dives deep into the technology, providing detail on how and why ASTES4 technology can help shops stay a cut above. We’ve even coined a new word for the process: Lasorting.
As the article explains, the typical laser cutting production process involves the manual and time-consuming process of removing parts from the metal sheet skeleton by hand and sorting them. In addition to the bottleneck, this creates, it’s also ripe for human error.
This is an obvious problem, but Jason LeGrand, automation specialist at MC Machinery, explains why it’s even more pressing as cutting technologies advance: Shops that invest in newer, faster lasers are experiencing more frequent pileups in the production process. He even references “de-nesting parties” in which shops have to shut down lasers several times a day and pull operators into the task of removing and sorting parts. Essentially, any efficiencies realized through faster lasers become null and void.
“A lot of job shops run different parts every single day, every single shift, every single hour,” LeGrand says in the article. “The operator removing the parts from the skeleton has to know what those parts are and where they go. That leads to a lot of errors on the shop floor.”
Safety is another big concern of manually removing parts: “Every aspect of that part removal process is another opportunity for somebody to lose a finger on a heavy 1-in. part,” LeGrand says.
The ASTES4 system completely alleviates these challenges, helping shops find real efficiencies while eliminating error and injury. Some key features and benefits include:
- Two gantries, each with two gripper heads, can use a vacuum or magnet, depending on the nature of the piece/cuts; combined capacity is 4,400 lbs for the traditional system and more than 10,000 lbs for the heavy-duty version.
- The system can be equipped with a printing head for easy labeling and sorting.
- Patented SortCAM software (included with the system) provides seamless communication between the laser and the sorting mechanism. As LeGrand explains, “It knows where the part is on the sheet with reference to the origin and it knows where to grip the parts.”
- The software also provides tools to help users program laser cuts for easier removal or sorting—on parts with jagged edges that are hard to extract, for instance.
- MC Machinery has plans to integrate the ASTES4 with its Remote 360—a remote laser monitoring application—so operators have 24/7 visibility from anywhere.
To read the full article, click here.