LASER 4000 5Ax advances GF AgieCharmilles’ legacy

2.7.2012 21:00

Sixty years after GF AgieCharmilles opened its first electric discharge machining (EDM) research and development (R & D) labs in Geneva, the company’s legacy of innovation continues with the world premier of the market’s largest Laser texturing machine. The LASER 4000 5Ax, engineered and built in Geneva, is a direct response to the needs of the automotive color and trim studios and interior designers.

GF AgieCharmilles’ leading role in the machine tools industry goes back to 1952. That’s when a Russian scientist connected to the inventors of electric discharge machining (EDM), convinced the management of Geneva’s Ateliers des Charmilles to begin developing machine tools using the new EDM process. Over the past 60 years, GF AgieCharmilles has expanded its portfolio, which today includes Milling, die-sinking, wire-cutting and hole-drilling EDM, Automation, and Customer Services.

Laser texturing is the most recent addition to GF AgieCharmilles’ legacy of customer-centric products, solutions and services. The Group’s latest innovation – the LASER 4000 5Ax – will be center stage during special launch activities beginning at 9 a.m., July 2-6 and July 9-12, 2012, at GF AgieCharmilles’ R & D labs in Geneva. The event will bring together automotive industry representatives from across Europe, North and South America, and Asia for seven days of plenary sessions with application demonstrations and “Meet the Expert” modules.

The LASER 4000 5Ax features completely new mechanical design in which the workpiece remains stationary on the floor to enable the flawless texturing of oversize molds as heavy as 18 tons. That means automotive color and trim studios and interior design departments can easily add their unique and differentiating textures to big molds for a wide range of components and features: bumpers, instrument panels, door panels, central consoles, airbag covers and front lights, for example.

Market-driven innovation
GF AgieCharmilles’ deep application expertise and thorough understanding of manufacturing processes are assets directly transferable to the Group’s Laser customers, said Jean-José Paccaud, Head of GF AgieCharmilles New Technologies. The technology unit screens new technologies in line with the Group’s markets like mold and die and precision parts production.

“Our LASER 4000 5Ax is a good example of the strength we bring to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the automotive industry and how our innovations support our customers from the very earliest design stages all the way through to mold production,” Paccaud explained. “It demonstrates that innovation is not only mastering very complex processes, but also making the best of what we have in house to properly respond to customers’ needs.”

Paccaud said the challenges of Laser technology are very close to those of EDM, the technology that GF AgieCharmilles’ pioneered 60 years ago and continues to innovate today. He said surface integrity, precision and homogeneity are crucial in both EDM and Laser.

GF AgieCharmilles Laser historically used the company’s well-known five-axis platform as the basis of its LASER line. The New Technologies R & D team adapted the Group’s five-axis know-how to Laser specifications like limited torque. The result is the LASER 4000 5Ax – the world’s largest and most affordable Laser texturing solution, boasting an innovative mechanical design with the part on a fixed table.

Jean-Paul Nicolet, Head of Marketing and Sales Support with GF AgieCharmilles New Technologies, said the new machine opens new design possibilities for auto manufacturers’ color and trim studios and interior designers.

“This machine addresses the needs of global market players who must provide the same quality standards worldwide. It brings a process repeatability that ensures exactly that,” Nicolet said.

Among the major advantages of the LASER 4000 5Ax is that it can manage 3D distortion of texture and masters texture directions related to part shape even for larger automotive workpieces, Nicolet said. Prior to the presentation of the LASER 4000 5Ax, he pointed out,
there was no Laser solution – for example – for texturing a 16-18 ton truck bumper.

“A truck bumper is close to 2.5 meters wide, and the mold is about 3.5 meters long by 1.5 meters wide. Our innovation is that the mold stays on the floor and the axes of the LASER 4000 5Ax move around it, expertly texturing the mold on all sides. That’s because the fourth and fifth axes are attached to the head of the Z axes,” Nicolet explained. “That’s pretty revolutionary in terms of Laser texturing.”

Fully digitized process
GF AgieCharmilles Laser technology fulfills a promise of “what you see is what you get.” The LASER products’ fully digitized process allows manufacturers to envision a design, preview it onscreen, and perfectly reproduce it on a workpiece.

Nicolet said process control is central to Laser texturing, and the LASER 4000 5Ax includes on-board machining strategies to ensure optimal machine performance, best material removal rate, and accurate reproduction of the intended texture. He said the machining strategies embedded in the machine allow GF AgieCharmilles to take Laser texturing technology to a wider audience and a higher level. That’s because the LASER 4000 5Ax can be easily used by designers with little machining experience and machinists with little design background.

“Those strategies enable more perfect texturing of the end product and make it easy to transfer a digital design to a mold without guesswork our distortion,” said Nicolet, adding that the Group’s LASER machines feature a software package that easily manages all required 2D and 3D files.

“Our texturing process begins with a digital bitmap/grayscale file created in Photoshop or derived from a natural surface through reverse engineering by 3D scanner,” he explained. “Our software package allows the user to merge a virtual workpiece with a virtual texture and preview the final design. Guesswork is eliminated. What you see onscreen is what you get on the workpiece. Our smart mapping software solution provides for random overlapping of texture for perfect continuity when the texture is applied to the end product. Plus, distortion is easily managed. This is the perfect solution to answer the needs of both product and mold engineering designers.”

For the end user, the innovation built into GF AgieCharmilles LASER products means unlimited possibility from start to finish, and continues the GF AgieCharmilles innovation legacy that began 60 years ago in Geneva.

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Further information

Paul Thickett
Head of Design & Brand Communications
GF Machining Solutions
Rue du Pré-de-la-fontaine 8
1217 Meyrin
Switzerland

paul dot thickett #at# georgfischer dot com