Cutting Edge Metal Processing (CEMP) and Bender Shipbuilding and Repair have teamed forces with Alabama Laser and BOC Gases in a National Shipbuilding Research Program (USA) project that is changing the view of what can be cut on a laser table. Until recently, the higher powered lasers of more than 6kW were limited to accurate, consistent cutting of around 1-inch (25mm) mild steel plate. The LASOX process has already proven that 4” (100mm) plate can be cut with a laser, however, only under controlled conditions in a laboratory. That process is now being moved out of the lab and onto the shop floor. This is the only production LASOX system in the world.
The LASOX process is an exothermic burning reaction in which the heat of the laser beam is used to bring the steel to ignition temperature, and a specially designed nozzle is used to deliver a supersonic stream of oxygen to the heated spot, resulting in ignition and then sustained burning. LASOX extends the thickness range of laser cutting, provides a viable alternative to conventional thick section cutting processes, and revolutionizes capabilities of low power laser system operators. Additionally, because of the cut edge surface quality, minimal heat-affected zone and ability to hold very tight tolerances, many post-cutting machining operations can be eliminated.
After 10 months of research and development a modified 6kW laser cut 1-1/2 inch (38mm), using 1.5kW of laser power, plate with excellent results. Not only were the edge cuts of good commercial quality, but several ½” holes were cut in the heavy plate that could easily have been used for bolt ups. Some 2-1/2 inch (64mm) plate was also cut during the demonstration. Bender began using the new system for production cuts in late November, which has resulted in significant time savings. For example, a 1” plate that requires 60 pierces would normally take 1 hour to process, 1 minute per pierce. Using the LASOX system, the processing time is reduced to 20 minutes, 5 seconds per pierce plus 15 minutes for system set-up, saving 40 minutes per plate