Laser cutting has been an integral part of the design and manufacture of agricultural machinery for many years. Machines both big and small have experienced incredible benefits from the precision of laser cut equipment and machinery parts.
Italy was one of the first countries to truly investigate the application of laser technology to the industrial and manufacturing sectors as early as the 1970s. Not only did they experiment with 2D and 3d metal structures, but those innovative systems are also still present in today’s world of mechanical laser applications. With the growth of agricultural land and products growing at a compounding 8% each year, any advances in the manufacturing process are welcomed.
Traditionally parts created for agricultural machinery were made by moulding the exact shape from sheets of steel plate or punching through the metal. This process not only was expensive, but it also it time-consuming with the process costing manufacturers and machinery constructors later down the supply chain.
Laser cutting techniques, however, make use of modern CAD/CAM software and can achieve any shape, even the complex geometries demanded by manufacturers. Manufacturing these parts with laser cutting machines, reduces both the waste and time involved in the process.
In the agricultural manufacturing industry, operating costs often tend to blow out at the parts level. This was primarily down to two reasons, the complicated nature of certain part shapes, and the size of the orders produced.
To reduce the per-part cost, companies often make and order large batches of parts, much more than needed. While decreasing the material and manufacturing machinery costs, it would instead generate increased storage and handling costs for the leftover parts.
As for the design of the parts, in manufacturing everything that is built relies on precision within the parts themselves and how accurate their reproduction is. Traditional operations used tools like band saws, drills, punching equipment, shears, forming and grinding machines. However, the problem with these machines was precision and reliability. Any part with slight variations typically caused further complications downstream in welding and assembly.
This could be as simple as the location of a hole in relation to the design, or debris formed from the cutting process preventing the plate from being accurately referenced. The debris, which can be slag created by plasma cutting or metal filings from drilling tools, can quickly add up and causes many parts to become useless. Because of these problems, engineering staff avoided designs that contained complex and tight tolerances, deliberately over sizing holes to guarantee parts would fit together.
Laser cutting techniques however have been revolutionising the manufacturing industry, especially those like the agricultural manufacturing industry which relies on complicated and precise designs. Lasers are more precise and reliable when creating complicated designs, enabling more confidence in the produced product. They also involve less setup with traditional techniques often requiring five different stages or tools on average.
Due to their precision, lasers also allow faster processing speeds, shortened production and more efficient manufacturing stages. All these elements enable cost savings for both manufacturers and suppliers, which is then passed down to the buyers of the machinery.
From the large crop harvesting machinery, to stump grinding or tree removal equipment, many different industries benefit from more efficient manufacturing procedures.
This does not mean there are any disadvantages, the initial capital required alone prevents many companies from investing in the new technology. The additional formalised training required is also a barrier for both companies and employees. How the raw material itself is treated can sometimes require change as the lasers need a perfectly clean surface to cut.