CNC LASER CUTTING MACHINE SERVICES
INTRICATE AND PRECISE, CNC LASER TUBE MACHINING FOR MEDICAL DEVICE COMPONENTS
For medical device components and implantables, our CNC laser tube cutting machines are capable of holding extremely tight tolerances. CNC laser tube machining is highly repeatable and suited for medium to high volume quantities.
LASER TUBE MACHINING SERVICES FROM MARSHALL MANUFACTURING COMPANY
Laser tube cutting is a process in which a laser beam is focused on the outside surface of a metal tube to perform a cutting operation. The tube is fed in various patterns beneath the focused laser beam, where the tube wall is melted through. In medical applications with smaller tube diameters, the laser’s beam width is approximately .10 mm (.004”). Our machines are equipped with fiber lasers.
In the case of most laser machines, the laser is stationary and aimed directly toward the center of the tube. The tube that is being cut is fed through a stationary guide bushing—a “slip-fit” mechanism which stabilizes the tube while keeping it aligned and at a proper distance under the focused laser beam. Behind the guide bushing, the tube is held firmly by a programmable 360-degree indexing collet. This device can rotate the tube and has the ability to simultaneously push and pull the tube axially through the guide bushing. The CNC controller delivers the programmed instructions to these mechanisms, which cut out the desired shapes and configurations from the tube.
2 + 2 AXIS LASER CUTTING
Marshall’s laser tube cutting machines offer 2 + 2 axis. Two axis rotate the tube and axially move the tube. The additional two axis can be programmed to move side to side, and up and down.
This video link (starting at 0:34 seconds to 00:52 seconds) demonstrates the laser tube cutting operation using only three of the four axis available. The laser remains stationary in the video, continually focused at the center of the part. The raw tube length is 3,660 mm (10 feet), and after the cutting process is completed, the finished part is severed from the initial tube. As each part is manufactured, the raw tube becomes shorter, until a new tube is loaded into the machine. The guide bushing is pictured immediately to the right of the laser beam, and the indexing collet system is on the far right of the picture.
In this example, the material diameter is 2 mm in diameter (.78”), and the finished part is approximately 11mm (.433”) in length. The wall thickness of the part is .10 mm (.004”). As you can see from the video, the tube has a multitude of cut features. Lasers can run wet or dry, and in the accompanying video, water is forced through the end of the tube. This prevents slag from building up on the through-cut-edges of the part—as well as eliminating slag on the wall opposite of the cut.
MINIMAL “HEAT AFFECTED ZONE” (HAZ)
The heat affected zone is the area of the tube which doesn’t melt, but is affected by the heat of the laser, which alters the microstructure and mechanical properties of the tube. The heat affected zone is minimal when considering the following:
- The very small laser beam-width of .10 mm (.004”)
- The thin wall of the medical hypo tube
- The feed rate of the material
- The forcing of water through the tube.
Marshall can accommodate tube diameters ranging from .5 mm to 8 mm (.020” to .315”). Maximum wall thickness is approximately .5 mm (.020”) with most materials.
ADVANTAGES OF LASER TUBE CUTTING
Laser tube cutting offers a range of unique advantages compared to other manufacturing processes. For example, laser tube cutting tools do not apply mechanical force to the cut, unlike CNC punch or cutting machines. This unique feature helps ensure that minimal stress is applied to surrounding material, which protects and keeps the tube strong at the point of the cut.
Another reason to choose a laser tube cutting machine over conventional cutting tools is efficiency. When tubes are cut by traditional physical tools, they often leave small imperfections that must be smoothed out later. Most tube cutting solutions also require secondary action to produce more complex features in the piece (such as cutout designs). Laser tube cutting machines reduce these inefficiencies by cutting the piece to length and adding holes or other required features in a single step, driving more productive and cost-effective operations.
Along with eliminating manual and secondary processes, laser cutting tools can reduce maintenance steps and costs to enhance productivity. Fiber laser machines require minimal cleanings and checks, and beyond the need for routine air filter replacements, these solutions require very little preventative maintenance. The modules of fiber lasers also allow for redundancy, meaning that the resonator can remain functional until the down module is identified and repaired.
Laser cutting machines are even more efficient when compared to physical cutting tools. Because their tooling runs out relatively quickly, physical cutting machines require constant service and repair—which directly stunts productivity and throughput. Compare that to laser cutting tools, which can operate with little maintenance for many hours, and it’s clear why many companies are leveraging this exciting technology today.
DISADVANTAGES OF LASER TUBE CUTTING
Despite their strengths, laser tube cutting machines are not ideal for every type of project and manufacturer. This is especially true for solutions with a traditional CO2 resonator. Creating a CO2 laser requires significant amounts of power compared to a fiber laser, resulting in lower power efficiency. CO2 laser machines also feature poor wall plug efficiency compared to fiber lasers, which means they require additional (and highly valuable) floor space.
There are also limitations in regards to laser tube cutting materials. Laser cutting is not suitable for every type of material—and can even damage the machine’s cutting lens when used with incompatible metals. This risk can be offset by researching and confirming compatibility to ensure you choose the proper machine for all cutting operations.
Laser tube cutting is a complex technology by nature, particularly when compared to conventional CNC tools. As a result, deploying this solution for your project requires careful consideration and planning. Be sure to contact Marshall if you have questions or concerns about whether laser tube cutting is the right choice for your upcoming project. Our experts can walk you through our unique approach—and the value we can provide as your manufacturing partner.
CORE APPLICATIONS FOR LASER TUBE CUTTING
Because tubes are used across a wide variety of products and applications, laser tube cutting is in high demand for many industries. It’s also important to note that these systems can be used to cut more than just tubing, including pipe, flat stock and extrusions. Some of the most popular markets for this technology include:
- Healthcare/Medical Device Manufacturing
- Automotive/Vehicle Construction
- Chemical/Petrochemical Tubing
Unlike traditional laser cutters, laser tube cutting machines are optimized for processing cylindrical pieces and objects. Beyond basic vertical cuts, these tools can be used to produce slots, etchings, bevel cuts, angle cuts and more with excellent consistency and repeatability.
Laser tube cutting machines are flexible enough to produce almost any cutout shape in a piece, giving manufacturers more design freedom than ever before. They can be used to cut round, oval, and even square tubing with remarkable accuracy. Thanks to its precision and efficiency, laser tube cutting is ideal for producing custom-shaped tubes for a host of applications.
LASER TUBE CUTTING MATERIALS
Fiber laser tube cutting machines are compatible with a wide variety of materials, including copper and brass. The small wavelength of fiber lasers allows these solutions to create a beam that can easily be absorbed by these reflective materials. Some laser tube cutting tools can even alter their beam’s width to process thinner vs. thicker materials, allowing different-sized materials to be processed on a single machine.
LASER TUBE CUTTING SERVICES: PROVIDING REPEATABILITY & ACCURACY
At Marshall, our laser tube cutting machines can generally hold tolerances of +/- .013 mm (.0005”), at very high repeatability levels. These machines are set up at Marshall to manufacture medium to high volumes with faster cycle times—and lower to medium volumes with slower cycle times. Be sure to connect with us for more insight into our full capabilities for laser tube cutting.
Close-up of Laser Tube Cutting Process
Additional Details of Laser Tube Cutting Process
Photo of finished “laser cut” part from above examples
2+2 Axis Diagram: When Y-Axis is utilized and the tube is not rotated, the laser beam cuts an off-center rectangle through the wall of a tube—and a vertical cut is produced on the longitudinal edge of the cut.
3 Axis Diagram: When there isn’t an active Y-Axis and the tube is rotated—and the laser beam is directed towards the center of the part when cutting a rectangle through the wall of a tube—a bevel (trapezoid) is produced on the longitudinal edge of the cut.
MEDICAL DEVICE COMPONENTS FROM TUBING
Many of Marshall’s customers have extremely tight tolerance requirements on their medical tube components. We offer unique capabilities within our CNC 2 + 2 axis laser tube machining technology for medical device components. Two axis are used to rotate the tube and axially move the tube, and two additional axis can be programmed to move the laser side to side, and up and down. CNC laser tube machining is highly effective when manufacturing moderate- to high-quantity production runs.
Fine-tuned for the medical and biomedical device communities we serve, CNC laser tube machining is a fast, precise and highly-repeatable solution for many customers. This process is extremely reliable—and a strong force supporting Marshall’s medical device contract manufacturing services.
One of the primary benefits of using the laser machining process is a minimal “heat-affected zone” (HAZ). The heat-affected zone is the area of the tube which doesn’t melt, but is affected by the heat of the laser, which alters the microstructure and mechanical properties of the tube. The heat-affected zone is minimal when considering the very small beam-width, the thin wall of the hypo tube, the feed rate of the material and the water-cooled tube.
By minimizing the heat-affected zone, Marshall’s laser tube cutting machines prevent surface cracking, corrosion and other structural changes in the metal that may weaken the part. As a result, components crafted by this process are more uniform, durable and dependable.
CNC Laser Tube Machining at Marshall Manufacturing
As a leading medical device contract manufacturer, Marshall offers a variety of CNC machining services. Through these capabilities, we provide customers with a host of machined components and assemblies to match their unique production needs. Our team serves as a premier partner for laser tube cutting in Minnesota—supporting the development of precision medical device components and implantables across and beyond the USA and Europe.
Marshall’s CNC laser tube cutting machines feature exceptional speed, precision and repeatability, making them ideal for medium- to high-volume runs. Customers use this service to produce small surgical instruments and various device components with tight tolerances. Our laser tube cutting services are ideal for the production of the following solutions:
- Endoscopic components
- Surgical instruments
Marshall can accommodate tube diameters ranging from .5 mm to 8 mm (.020″ to .315″). Maximum wall thickness is approximately .5 mm (.020″) with most materials. At Marshall, our laser tube cutting machines can generally hold tolerances of +/- .013 mm (+/- .0005″).
Supporting Capabilities for CNC Laser Tube Machining
At Marshall, we’re proud to support our medical customers with innovative manufacturing solutions across every step of their journey. Our team offers a range of additional services to improve quality, create shorter lead times and further reduce costs for our customers.
CNC Laser Welding
Many medical device components that begin their process in our CNC laser tube machining cell proceed to a secondary operation, such as a CNC laser welding process. In the welding process, the laser-cut tube can be assembled to another tube or component. In many cases, CNC laser welding is the preferred method of assembly because no new material is introduced into the process.
At its core, CNC laser welding creates an efficient and reliable method for joining multiple medical device components—including laser-cut tube parts. Together, these CNC-driven processes offer highly accurate and repeatable parts for a wealth of medical applications.
CNC 3D Bending
CNC 3D bending of finished laser machining is also a proficiency of Marshall’s. It’s common for us to bend a laser-cut tube component in both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional configurations – often orienting off of a laser-cut feature – resulting in that feature landing consistently in place within the 3D bend.
Together, our CNC 3D bending and laser tube cutting services provide remarkable flexibility and control for medical customers, producing cost savings, more consistent quality and faster prototypes in the process.
2+2 Axis Diagram: When the Y-Axis is utilized during the cutting process (and the tube is not rotated), the cut edges of the tube remain parallel thoughout the cut.
2 Axis Cutting: When the tube is rotated during the cutting process (and the Y axis is stationary), the outer cut edges are at an angle from each other, because the laser always remains pointed to the center of the part.