A system for laser hardening drawing punches and other forming tools was developed for a major German automotive manufacturer by CENIT AG (cenit.de), a consultancy with specialization in software. According to Dr. Andreas Kach, the challenges are assuring that the rectangular laser beam is aligned along any contours, that an area that has been hardened is not covered again, and that there is no prolonged dwelling of the beam in any one area.
The system developed for the task is based on a six-axis portal laser system, a PEDILAS from Schuler Group (schulergroup.com), and a 840D controller from Siemens (siemens.com). Because there was no standard product for offline programming the components, CENIT developed a system, utilizing its FASTTRIM off-line programming system that is readily integrated with the CATIA V5 system (3DS.com) used by the automaker.
The toolpaths for hardening were generated utilizing parameters including the effective area of the laser and the safety margin between adjacent guide paths. While much of the programming is done automatically, there is manual functionality for making corrections or adjustments. To assure that the hardening is done as efficiently as possible, a look-ahead function determines what compensations will need to be made to the axes to accommodate features, thereby minimizing the required adjustments for faster processing.