An offline programming software has been developed. This program was named "proLAS". ProLAS is used by all project partners to generate NC codes.
Main features of proLAS are:
- Import and export CAD files;
- Supported CAD formats: IGES, STEP, DXF;
- Visualize the CAD model;
- Transform CAD model (translate, rotate, scale);
- Definition of tool paths;
- Set technology and machining parameter;
- Build and modify parameter database;
- Modify tool paths (re-order machining sequence, set start point, set direction, modify parameter, modify initial cutting paths, etc);
- Store and load tool path definitions;
- Simulate machining;
- Generate NC codes for 5-axis gantry systems and 6-axis robots.
The general market situation is nowadays one of decreasing lot sizes and increasing product variety, combined with a short product life cycle and intense competition. It forces small and medium enterprises (SME's) to base their production on flexibility. This is why the laser tool with its inherent flexibility in machining complex geometries and in unifying several processes (cutting, welding, surface treatment, material removal) becomes increasingly important, especially for SME's. To make optimal use of such a flexible tool and to be able to machine complex geometries, the laser tool must be carefully integrated into the production process but overall in the information flow. This makes the use of powerful offline programming systems inevitable, especially in 3D processing. Laser machining is a special process which requires machining strategies that are different from other contour-machining processes. Normal postprocessors for contour machining such as used for rnilling do not answer to the special demands made by the laser machining process on the generated NC code. Next to the fact that these postprocessors are not sufficiently laser technology oriented, they are mostly part of complex 3D CAD/CAM or robot offline programming systems which ask for extensive investments in soft- and hardware. These systems furthermore need high educated and expensive operators. There is therefore at the moment a strong need for low-cost of fline programming systems specialised in laser machining. In the field of two dimensional (2D) sheet cutting, the automatic generation of the NC codes is supported by an increasing amount of powerful, low cost, technology-oriented, 2D CAD/CAM systems and post-processors. For three-dimensional (3D) laser machining however, there are at the moment no commercial systems available that enable proper, technology oriented, offline programming of laser machining that satisfy the needs for SME's. This is why laser job shops throughout Europe have asked the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. one of Europe's largest research and development institutes in the field of laser machining, to develop a low cost technology oriented offline programming system for multidimensional laser machining. The system will be based on a 3D, STEP based, geometry toolkit and will be capable of generating laser technology optimised NC codes for both 2D and 3D machining. A following simulation will ensure that the generated NC code can directly be used for rnachining without further adjustments by the operator. The TOPLAS system will incorporate extensive knowledge of the laser machining process and will therefore overclass existing contour rnachining postprocessors (which are limited to pure geometrical post processing). It will be tailor made for SME's with respect to investment costs, level of automation and operating complexity. The TOPLAS system will therefore open the 3D laser machining market for SME's and will lead to an increase in machining quality and production flexibility. The programming times and costs will reduce, the production rate will increase and the international competitiveness of the European jobshops will be strengthened drastically.
Funding SchemeCRS - Cooperative research contracts
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