Universal Laser Systems is the only laser system manufacturer that offers Rapid Reconfiguration™. This patented technology allows users to adapt their laser materials processing solution to match their ever-changing business needs – no tools or special training required. At its core, Rapid Reconfiguration allows users to very simply install and reinstall any ULS laser source onto any ULS laser system. On other laser systems, the task of changing laser sources can be complicated and dangerous and can cause several days of downtime. Rapid Reconfiguration has a multitude of benefits to customers, each of which are described in detail below:
Laser cutting, engraving, and marking systems are extraordinarily versatile instruments. A single ULS system can cut, mark, and engrave hundreds of thousands of materials. However, there are many instances in which optimal material processing is achieved only with appropriately-selected laser sources. Three major considerations drive selection of a laser source for a particular application: Rate of Energy Delivery, Rated Power and Laser Wavelength. Each of these considerations is leveraged by Rapid Reconfiguration technology.
Rate of Energy Delivery
As CO2 laser sources are turned on and off, they generate pulses of laser energy. Within each pulse is a specific amount of energy that is equal to the area underneath the power curve. High- and low-power lasers are capable of delivering pulses with a specified amount of energy but do so at their rated power. High-power lasers can dispense large amounts of energy very quickly. During this short time, the intense energy of the laser causes materials to ablate or vaporize. This is perfect for some material processes. In other cases, however, ideal results can be obtained from a slower trickle of energy created by a low-power laser source.
A schematic illustration showing pulses of the same energy produced by both 25 watt and 50 watt laser sources. In order to maintain the same energy, the 25 watt laser must be on for a longer period of time.
Rapid Reconfiguration allows the user to quickly switch lasers to achieve the ideal pulse energy delivery rate for each application. This maximizes processing flexibility for materials that have different behavior based on the rate of energy delivery. Wood, for example, tends to create more carbonization as it burns under lower power, producing a high-contrast mark. If a higher-power laser is used, there is less charring and less contrast. Both high- and low-contrast results are useful when laser cutting, engraving, and marking wood.
Cherry wood engraved with both a 75 watt (above) and 10 watt (below) laser source. The 10 watt laser creates a higher contrast mark due to the amount of carbonization during processing.
A common misconception in laser processing is that high-power lasers are only useful for increasing processing speed in cutting applications. Although throughput is a major factor when selecting a laser source, there are several other points to consider.
With increased processing speeds, the laser energy moves along the material much more quickly, with most of the heat energy being dissipated by ablation or vaporization. This minimizes the amount of energy absorbed into the remaining material through conduction, generally resulting in a smaller heat-affected zone. Because the heat-affected zone can cause melting, discoloration, warping, or numerous other undesirable effects, minimizing its size is preferable in most materials.
The ABS Plastic was cut with both a 75 watt (left) and 10 watt (right) laser source. The 10 watt laser source is capable of cutting the ABS but excessive heat buildup causes negative visual changes from the slower power delivery.
Low-power lasers deliver energy more slowly, which can be advantageous in many applications. Commonly encountered when processing thinner materials such as laminates and films, these materials are notoriously difficult to process because the power required to cut through them is very near the power that will cause burning, carbonization, or other undesirable effects. Low-power lasers are therefore ideal for processing some thin materials because they are capable of delivering energy much more slowly. Rapid Reconfiguration allows users to easily switch to the ideal laser source for processing each unique material.
Controlled layer cutting of a two-layer material with a 75 watt laser source (left) and a 10 watt laser source (right). The 10 watt source is able to deliver laser energy at a slower rate, reducing the heat-affected zone and increasing the cut consistency when compared to the 75 watt source.
On most systems, ULS offers two different wavelengths of CO2 laser sources: 10.6µm and 9.3µm. While both have broad applications, there are some cases where one is highly-preferable to the other. A good example of this effect is laser marking on PET plastic (a form of polyester). The 10.6µm wavelength is ideal for laser cutting this material but has difficulty producing high-contrast marks. However, the 9.3µm wavelength produces marks that are very easy to read on the surface of the material. This is a complex effect based on the spectral absorption of the material being processed.
Laser marking PET with 10.6µm (left) and 9.3µm (right) laser sources. The 10. 6µm exhibits poor contrast relative to the 9.3µm mark.
Another illustration of a 9.3µm wavelength producing a better result can be seen when laser cutting polyimide film. Cuts made with the 10.6µm laser tend to leave carbonized residue, while cuts with the 9.3µm are much cleaner. Rapid Reconfiguration allows systems to quickly be converted to the appropriate wavelength for each application.
Laser cutting polyimide film with a 10.6µm (left) and a 9.3µm (right) laser source. The 9.3µm source reduces the amount of carbonization at the cut interface, leaving a cleaner, more uniform edge.
In addition to the 10.6µm and 9.3µm CO2 lasers, some ULS systems can be configured to use a 1.06µm fiber laser. This wavelength opens up entire families of materials including metals, ceramics, and other inorganics. Rapid Reconfiguration gives these systems the ability to switch between these wavelengths with ease.
Enhances Flexibility and Productivity
In addition to numerous materials processing benefits, Rapid Reconfiguration allows users to become more productive with their equipment no matter the scale of their operation. Even operations with one laser system can have incredible flexibility, as they can quickly adapt to any laser processing task by reconfiguring laser sources. Other laser systems cannot attain this level of agility because reconfiguring them may take longer than the processing task itself.
With Rapid Reconfiguration, a growing business has the built-in capability to reconfigure its solution for optimal efficiency and system utilization. On the manufacturing floor, Rapid Reconfiguration enables flexible, scalable solutions by switching out laser sources, optics, and accessories to satisfy changing customer demand. Benefits include, tool-less prototype development, fast and accurate job estimation and seamless re-allocation of laser systems based on production demand.
In multiple laser system configurations, users can match system size and laser power to particular processes, such as laser cutting, engraving, or marking. For example, an ILS12.150D is a large system which may be required for marking large panels. In this instance, a low-power laser with a larger field size is all that is required, meaning that the high-power lasers can be paired with smaller-sized laser systems to process more power-intensive but smaller parts. This maximizes Return On Investment (ROI) by ensuring that the most efficient combination of lasers and systems is always in use.
Protects and Optimizes Investment
Many customers start with a single laser system and a single laser source. As time goes by and their business grows, they may purchase a second laser source to expand their range of material processing capabilities and/or increase productivity.
With other laser systems, each new laser system purchase diminishes the benefit of the laser sources that the customer already owns, because the original laser sources cannot easily be reinstalled onto their new system. However, this is not true with Rapid Reconfiguration. A vast majority of laser sources purchased from ULS in the past maintain compatibility with ULS systems, meaning that a past investment in laser sources impacts the future by providing both long-term laser compatibility and virtually limitless possibilities for future system configurations.
Rapid Reconfiguration also affords customers a high level of flexibility with their investment. For example, a customer can choose to purchase lasers of the same wattage, or instead decide on mixed wattages, depending on the needs of their specific applications. With Rapid Reconfiguration, they can choose the less costly option now, with full knowledge that a future upgrade is extremely easy and that the upgrade will not only provide a throughput advantage, but will also yield all of the processing advantages associated with having two laser sources.
Requires Minimal Downtime for Service and Repair
ULS manufactures high-quality laser sources that operate reliably for many years. However, all laser sources eventually require service. Rapid Reconfiguration essentially eliminates downtime. For example, users with multiple laser sources can pull from their own stock to maintain manufacturing capability while the laser source requiring service is sent back to the factory. Alternatively, refurbished laser sources can be requested for exchange from ULS. When the new laser arrives, the old laser is sent back to ULS. Both of these scenarios result in virtually zero system downtime.
In the unlikely event that a laser source requires service before scheduled maintenance can be performed, ULS can ship refurbished lasers overnight to many locations around the world. Once the new laser source arrives, it takes only minutes to install.
Safety and Ease of Use
On other laser systems, it can take hours to remove, replace, and realign a new laser onto a system. This process requires extensive training and customers often hire an expensive technician and must shut their laser cutting, engraving, and marking machine down for an extended period of time to perform the task. Once the laser is installed, the processing settings, such as power and speed, may require adjustment. Testing and re-aligning the laser also creates scrap material, adding to the already-protracted downtime.
Conversely, Rapid Reconfiguration requires no tooling or specialized training. ULS pre-aligns all laser sources to a common reference standard at the factory, dramatically simplifying the installation process. Typically, it takes about one minute to reconfigure a ULS system. The laser system then internally communicates which laser is installed and adjusts for any processing changes automatically. If a user is cutting 3/8” plastic with a 40 watt laser, but then adds a 75 watt laser to increase productivity, the ULS software computes the required processing settings to accommodate the additional laser source. This means that the user does not need to spend time re-establishing parameters on the system each time a laser is interchanged – it all just works.
Enables other Unique Universal Features
Rapid Reconfiguration allows customers to maximize the utility of several other Unique Universal features and technologies such as: SuperSpeed™, Multi-Wavelength™ and MultiWave Hybrid™ technologies, along with several features within the ULS software. This technological ecosystem is indicative of the high degree of consideration that goes into the design and construction of all ULS products, with the goal of maximizing customer capability, flexibility and profitability.
Rapid Reconfiguration has many benefits, but most of all it maximizes the customer’s ROI through increased flexibility, capability, and throughput. Customers can adapt their laser system for nearly any application – reconfiguring their laser cutting, engraving, and marking equipment to accommodate day to day demands. Their investment evolves with them to support the needs of their business as it grows and/or changes. When service is required, it’s a fast and painless process, resulting in practically zero downtime. Customers also have the assurance that ULS will provide support and help to ensure their continued success.