ABB Robotics, which has been active in the recent advances of robotic programming for the more complex, integrated actions needed in welding and handling, is introducing two “seamlessly integrated laser cutting software products” it said will make ABB robots more accurate and flexible, and easier to program and operate.

The new RobotStudio Cutting PowerPac is an add-on to RobotStudio, ABB’s 3D offline simulation programming tool that allows operators to generate and modify program cutting paths according to part geometry and data drawn from CAD models.

The second new software, RobotWare Cutting, is a robot controller add-on that features sophisticated tools for the integration of peripheral equipment, robot tuning and calibration, and the programming of complex paths and shapes.

Laser cutting is gaining wider acceptance as an effective way to cut and trim hot stamped steel, the high-strength material increasingly specified in automotive design as an effective choice for the cost, weight, and safety consideration in passenger vehicles. The technology also is used at an increasing rate to cut many hydro-formed, electronic, and plastic parts in a variety of industries.

Laser cutting is a non-contact process, so the laser equipment does not wear and no trim presses or trim dies are required. It is exceptionally precise, and trim lines and feature sizes and locations can be adjusted easily to address different part dimensions or profiles.

Proponents say robotic laser cutting offers several advantages over traditional 5-axis laser cutting machines, including lower initial investment cost (up to a 35%, by some estimates), lower operating costs, and a smaller footprint that allows easier integration into existing manufacturing systems.

“The Cutting PowerPac takes robotic laser cutting to the next level, greatly simplifying the programming of parts all shapes, even those requiring the most complex paths,” according to Erwin DiMalanta, senior manager, ABB Robotics. “And, users can create and test advanced cutting programs offline, in an office environment, maximizing production uptime and resource efficiency.”

The Cutting PowerPac supports optimization of cutting programs, setup of interface signals and management of cutting process data, ABB Robotics noted. RobotWare Cutting is compatible with most common laser cutting equipment brands, and its intuitive graphical user interface makes it easy to use. The interface provides the flexibility to switch automatically and quickly between different product series allowing even the shortest cutting runs to be efficient and of the highest quality.

“RobotWare Cutting also features an advanced Iterative Learning Control (ILC) algorithm that allows the robot to essentially learn by doing, where it continually improves its cutting performance and accuracy over time,” DiMalanta said.

Users of ABB Robotics' laser cutting systems also have access to ABB’s Remote Service, a system that provides remote access to the system for production monitoring, diagnostics, and predictive maintenance.